Choice Stories

April 4, 2022

How Many Hours Can a Part-time Employee Work Without Earning Benefits?

Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “full time employees” were generally defined as those working a 40-hour workweek. Those working fewer hours – whether 10, 25, or another number – were part-time.

However, under the ACA, full-time workers are those working an average of at least 30 hours per week, or at least 130 hours per month. That discrepancy has prompted many employees to ask, “What is full-time? Does my employer have to offer benefits to me if I work 30 or more hours?”

The answer is, “It depends.”

Employers with 50 or more full-time or full-time equivalent (FTE) employees – are required to offer health care benefits to those working at least 30 hours a week or at least 130 hours a month. If an employer does not offer employee benefits, the business is subject to a tax penalty.

For small employers – those with fewer than 50 full-time employees – offering employee benefits is discretionary. There’s no requirement to offer benefits. The decision is left up to the employer.

Seasonal workers do not have to be included in the employer’s full-time equivalent employee calculation.

If a smaller employee not subject to the ACA employer mandate does choose to offer health coverage to its employees, that coverage must meet certain ACA specifications.

If you have a workforce of full-time and part-time employees, and you are unsure about how to calculate your group size, visit or to use the ACA calculators offered on those sites.

Employer Discretion

While many employers with fewer than 50 FTE equivalent workers choose to offer employee benefits, there’s no requirement that they do so. The only requirement is that employers be equitable in their treatment of employees. The same standards apply to all employees when determining benefits eligibility. If the employer sets a 30-, 35-, or 40-hour requirement, it applies to all workers. Offering benefits to one employee who works 36 hours, and requiring others to work 40 hours to be benefit-eligible could trigger a discrimination lawsuit.

In a competitive talent marketplace, many smaller employers choose to offer employee benefits because it helps them attract and retain their top employees. Workers appreciate those benefits, too – especially health insurance. In the 2021 MetLife Annual Benefit Trends Study, 85% of employees put health insurance at the top of their “must have” list – and another 10% say health insurance is “nice to have.”

Talk With a Broker to Learn More

If you want to find out if you’re getting the most value for your benefit dollars – or if you want to add employee benefits for your employees – talking with a broker is a great place to start. Most brokers offer their services at no cost to you. If you don’t have a broker, you can search for one on the MyCalChoice website.

Your Beginner's Guide to Choosing a Small Business Employee Benefits Program

Do you need help choosing the right health benefits for your employees?
This guide can help!