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Part Time Work: Advantages and disadvantages for employers

7 min Published on 22 April 2022
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According to statistics, around 28% of all employees in Germany worked part-time in the third quarter of 2022 (source: statista.de), putting the Germany in fourth place in a European comparison.

The interest in part-time jobs is not only among workers with children or family members in need of care. Particularly among Generation Z, the various part-time work models are popular because they meet their need for a more balanced work-life relationship. As early as 2001, the state created a uniform basis for the labour law of this employee group with the Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act.

What are the framework conditions and are there other advantages and disadvantages for employers arising from part-time work?

Definition: What is part-time work?

The Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act of 2001 speaks of part-time work when an employee's working hours are reduced in relation to a comparable full-time job. In the first step, the law considers the regular weekly working hours. If the parties to the contract do not specify the working hours on a weekly basis, the law uses a longer comparative period. This definition also includes mini-jobs and midi-jobs. To ensure that a part-time job does not put employees at a disadvantage, the law effectively puts part-time employees in a company on an equal footing with full-time employees and also formulates a legal entitlement to reduced working hours under certain conditions:

Every employee who has been employed in a company for longer than six months has the right to an unlimited reduction of his or her working hours. The condition for this is that the company has more than 15 employees and that there are no important operational reasons against it. The employee must submit his or her request in writing at least three months before the desired start date and include information on the distribution of working hours.

Working time models for part-time work

1. The classic

Employer and employee agree on the weekly working hours as a percentage of full-time employment. There are no fixed rules for the distribution of working hours. Examples are:

  • Equal reduction: The employee is there every day of the week, but works a reduced number of hours.

  • Four-day week: in this variant, the part-time employee is available for four full working days and has one day off per week in return.

  • Combinations: Of course, it is possible to combine hourly work and full working days and to set a fixed work schedule or even flexitime.

This model of part-time work has advantages for both employer and employee. It increases motivation, promises more free time and at the same time effectively adapts to company needs.

2. Job sharing

As an alternative to full-time employment, the employer splits a job between two or more part-time employees. In this case, the employees organise the distribution of tasks and even the working hours partly on their own. This working time model is therefore also suitable for positions of responsibility or for jobs where employees have to be available for long periods of time.

3. On-call work

The most flexible form of part-time is not a model in the true sense of the word, because the employer calls the employee in when needed. In this case, the parties involved are allowed to vary both the working hours and the scope within certain limits. The Part-Time and Fixed-Term Work Act devotes a separate paragraph to work on call in order to limit disadvantages for employees in this type of part-time work.

4. Seasonal part-time work

Companies with a high seasonal workload benefit from this part-time model. Employees work full-time during peak periods, but receive a part-time salary. When the order situation is weak, the employer continues to pay the salary, but the part-time workers have time off. In this way, these companies save on hiring and training employees for each subsequent season and create a permanent workforce.

5. Part-time for retirement or part-time for sabbatical

Here, employees save up working time on an hourly account: For the full-time work they have done, they receive a reduced salary over an agreed period of time. Afterwards, they take the accumulated time off for the same payment as a sabbatical or for early retirement. This means that part-time work has advantages for employees, because they are covered by social security during the sabbatical period and have a reduced tax burden for the entire period.

Excursus mini-job: The extra short part-time job with advantages and disadvantages for employers

The mini-job scores with a lot of flexibility in connection with peak workloads, temporary work and seasonal work. Nevertheless, this form of part-time work offers disadvantages for employers:

  • Minimum wage? Not for all: as soon as a mini-jobber has qualifications like comparable full-time employees, they are entitled to the same hourly wage.

  • Social security contributions: The employer pays non-wage labour costs of around 30% for mini-jobbers, which is higher than the employer's share for other employees subject to social security contributions.

  • Equal rights: A company must treat mini-jobbers the same as full-time employees with regard to holiday entitlement, sick pay and the like.

 Employee looking at his schedule
 

Employees' rights - does part-time work disadvantage them?

According to the regulations of the Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act, employers may neither disadvantage nor discriminate against their part-time employees. This extends to all areas of the employer-employee relationship. For example, a company must pay part-time employees the same hourly wage as full-time employees in a comparable position and provide them with the same training and further education. Gratuities and annual bonuses are paid to employees in proportion to their working hours. The time recording obligation, which the BAG confirmed in its ruling of 13 September 2022, also extends to part-time employees and gives them the same rights in dealing with overtime as full-time employees. All parties involved must also take into account the statutory break times. Finally, the employer must correctly calculate holiday entitlement, which may differ depending on the working time model: Part-time employees who have a regular, daily reduction in hours receive the same number of holiday days as their full-time colleagues. However, if the working hours are reduced by weekdays, the holiday entitlement is calculated in proportion to the number of working days.

 Two colleagues walking through the company
 

What do employers have to consider when employing part-time workers?

As soon as a company advertises a job, the law requires it to consider the possibility of part-time employment. In addition, the company must inform its employees who are interested in reduced working hours about these part-time positions. If an employee asks for a reduction of his or her working hours in accordance with the requirements of the Part-Time and Fixed-Term Employment Act, the employer may only object for urgent operational reasons such as:

  • The costs of implementation are disproportionate.

  • Operational safety is jeopardised.

  • Part-time work disrupts the workflow or the organisation of the company.

And a company must communicate the decision for or against the reduced working time to the employee in writing one month before the reduction begins. If the employee wishes to increase his or her working hours again, there is no obligation for his or her employer to comply with this wish. However, as soon as the company has a comparable full-time position to fill, it must give preference to the employee in question when filling it.

Bridge part-time - backup for the return to full-time work

Since 01.01.2019, there is a special regulation for a temporary reduction of working time. The so-called bridge part-time obliges companies with more than 45 employees to grant part-time to their employees for a period of one to five years and then provide a full-time position again. The prerequisite for employees to receive these benefits for part-time work is that they have been with the company for at least six months.

At a glance: Part-time work advantages and disadvantages for employers

For companies, part-time employees represent both a challenge and an opportunity. The flexible use of time does make the working time model a must-have in sectors with high workload peaks or seasonal fluctuations such as the catering industry. However, not all companies opt for part-time work for operational reasons, but often comply with the wishes of their employees. What factors should employers be aware of?

Part-time work advantages for employers

  1. Employer branding: A good reputation is worth its weight in gold for companies - also when it comes to employee retention and successful recruiting. Since part-time work is also in demand among skilled and talented workers, offering part-time positions contributes to employer branding.

  2. Workload: off-peak hours, extended service hours and peak workloads are efficiently balanced by employers with part-time staff.

  3. Increased productivity: Studies suggest that employees with shorter working hours are more motivated to work. There is less absenteeism and sick leave. (Source: EnconStor/ZBW Leibnitz Information Centre for Economics)

  4. Company organisation: By offering part-time jobs, companies cleverly counteract cyclical fluctuations and make full use of their human resources.

Part-time work and its disadvantages

  1. Incidental costs: The operational incidental costs for two part-time employees are somewhat higher than for one full-time employee. This starts with the double payment of monthly salary and social security contributions. In addition, there are additional workplace equipment or a higher number of further training courses.

  2. Administrative burden: The workload for hiring and supervising staff is per capita and therefore increases when part-time employees share full-time positions.

  3. Communication: In order for teams and departments to maintain internal communication and tackle projects together, communication is essential. However, if team members have different working hours, this makes agreements, meetings and processes more difficult. Precise timing is required from all parties involved so that this does not have a negative impact on the process and deadlines in the case of part-time work.

Conclusion

Shortened working hours have not only become a topic of discussion since the hotly debated four-day week. Part-time work has been a popular working model for decades - and the trend is rising. For employees, a reduced working week means more time for their private lives and less stress. But they accept a lower salary and a smaller pension in return. Companies use part-time workers to better match human resources to the workload and improve their working atmosphere. At the same time, part-time work has disadvantages for employers, as they face higher ancillary costs and more difficult communication.

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