This post examines the pros and cons of deciding whether to work part-time or full-time. The job market and other factors quite often make the decision for us; factors such as family responsibilities, household income or extenuating circumstances. However, most people will have to make the decision between part-time and full-time work at some point. This article doesn’t discuss the advantages for employers hiring part-time or full-time workers; this will be discussed in a later post.
The pros and cons of part-time employment will be outlined first, then the pros of full-time employment. To conclude, I will provide some sound advice that will target specific living situations.
Flexibility: If you’re not working eight hours a day then you have more time to do other things. If you are married and both of you work, the one who works part-time could be the one to run necessary errands such as banking and grocery shopping so that by the time the weekend comes both individuals can relax.
Extra income: A part-time worker as a secondary earner in a household can use their income for extras like savings and holidays while also contributing more to the actual running of the household than the main breadwinner. It is sometimes necessary for both individuals to work full-time when there are high outgoings such as credit cards and car finance. However, if this isn’t the case, part-time work is definitely the way to go. Decisions like these are often based on the assumption that there are two working adults in a household; obviously, if you are a single adult with or without children your options become much more limited.
Contractual Instability: This single point is the biggest disadvantage to someone undertaking part-time work. Most companies don’t offer part-time workers a contract with a set amount of hours on it. Therefore, there is a strong possibility that your hours and income will be erratic. Also, you will find that it is more difficult to plan ahead when working part-time. Scheduling in most places is done week to week, not month to month. Therefore, you will find that a part-time worker who is working on a Friday hoping to go to a christening on the Sunday finds out on Saturday that they’re working 9-2. This general instability and living week-to-week does not bode well for people who like to have a bit more control over their life.
No progression: Part-time workers don’t get the respect, benefits or promotional possibilities of full-time workers. Quite often, they are perceived by employers and other employees as less essential to the running of the business than their full-time colleagues. As a result, they may be given the annoying tasks to do or be talked down to by workers on more stable contracts. My advice here is to work somewhere which has a lot of part-time workers so you can feel more at ease when there are others in your situation too. Paid holidays are not a big problem as long as you work for a chain company that abides by contractual rules; most of these provide paid holidays for both part-time and full-time employees.
Better Benefits: Employers often provide various benefits to full-time workers including paid sick leave and maternity leave. As well as this, the more hours you work, the better your social security contributions will be. In the long run, a full-time worker will get a much higher pension than a part-time worker when they retire.
More Structure and Stability: A full-time employee enjoys the stability of knowing that their job is secure, relatively speaking. Today’s financial downturn has made full-time workers more worried about job security of course, but at the very least they can expect to get a redundancy package if their company has to let them go, whereas part-time workers are just laid off without any financial compensation. Full-time work may not be easy, but at least you know your schedule and can plan the other things in your life around it. Companies offer as many as four paid holiday weeks a year so full-time workers do get the benefit of recuperating at regular intervals throughout the year as long as they book their holiday weeks well in advance.
Stress: Work-related stress is much higher amongst full-time workers. An obvious point, but one to bear in mind nonetheless. Working full-time can often make an individual feel like they are living to work instead of the other way round.
Time Management: Eight hour work days during the week leave little time for anything else. Assuming you get eight hours sleep, there are eight hours left in your day. However, this does not take into account the fact that many people commute up to four hours (two hours each way) to their workplace. Moreover, once you get home, there are often other things that need to be attended to. Full-time employees need to organise themselves efficiently in order to be able to balance their work with their personal life.
Evidently, there are substantial advantages and disadvantages to both modes of employment, and the specific circumstances of an individual will ultimately be the deciding factor. For example, a single mother can’t afford childcare to free her up to work full-time, but living on benefits alone isn’t an option. A single mother would probably opt for part-time work and leave the children with friends or family while at work so she can earn extra income without having to hand it all back to professional babysitters. A retired lady whose children are now fully adult and independent will probably only opt for part-time work to supplement her pension. If she is married and she and her husband both have good pensions, she will probably not work at all and choose instead to volunteer somewhere or take up a hobby. The reality is that everyone is different and people often have very complicated lives, so money and time are usually not the factors which impact the final decision. It is usually something personal which acts as the deciding factors on most occasions. I hope you have found some sound advice in this article; until next month.
by Gillian Rixey
(Gillian is a PhD qualified freelance writer and scholar born in Ireland but currently residing in the United States.)