Content prepared by the Sloan Center on Aging & Work at Boston College

Part-time Work refers to a situation in which an employee works less than a full workweek with compensation adjusted accordingly. A part-time employee may work fewer hours each day of the workweek or fewer days per week. Part-time work would not be considered a flexible work option if an employee wants full-time work but the employer can only offer part-time work.

Permanent Part-Time Work/Reduced Hours Schedule: workers whose normal work schedule is based on fewer than 35 hours per week.

  • A worker works a three-day per week Monday/Wednesday/Friday schedule on a regular basis.
  • A worker works 20 hours per week and determines her own schedule on a weekly basis.
  • A worker reduces a full-time schedule to 30 hours per week as she phases into retirement.
Transition Period Part-Time Schedule: workers who gradually return to work after a major life event (e.g., birth or adoption of a child) by working part-time for a set period and eventually returning to full-time work.

  • Following a six-week maternity leave, a worker returns to work three days a week for six months, four days a week for the next six months, and then returns to full-time work.
  • A worker's spouse dies unexpectedly and the worker takes off a full month from work with a gradual return. The employee works part-time work for two years and then returns to working full-time when her children have adjusted to the changed circumstances. (41)


A small communications firm has doubled its revenues during each of its first three years, and has grown by 30% in the last two. What drives so much success? [The founder] credits her strategy of offering flexibility to her staff members, mainly young mothers able to unfurl their considerable communications skills as they return to the workforce at their own pace. (34)

Benefits to EmployeeBenefits to EmployerChallenges for EmployeeChallenges for Employer
  • Fully 61% of younger people and 87% of older people find part-time work preferable. (66)
  • Part-time workers may have lower role overload and fewer work-family conflicts. (57)
  • There is greater flexibility in scheduling.
  • Part-time work offers retention of employees who might otherwise leave
  • Part-time workers are less likely to have access to health insurance(36) retirement accounts, and other employer benefits. (87)
  • "Nearly four-in-ten (37%) of all part-time employees younger than 65 years would prefer to be working full-time, compared with 13% of part-timers" aged 65+, (66)
  • Part-time work may lack regularity and predictability of hours. (18)
  • There is higher turnover among part-time workers and less continuity in workflow. (57)
  • Coordinating team meeting times may be difficult when workers have different part-time schedules.