Five Things You Should Know About Part-Time Workers

Close-up on a server working in a restuarant and holding a notepad

Today, Representative Jan Schakowsky and Senator Elizabeth Warren introduced a new bill to strengthen protections for part-time workers. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights addresses some of the structural disadvantages faced by part-time workers and would extend new benefits and protections to people in the workforce who are often overlooked.
So why should you care? Maybe your first job was as a part-time worker—waiting tables or stocking shelves—and it’s something you look back on fondly. But we’ve crunched the numbers and part-time workers may not be who you think. Most people who work part-time in this country aren’t kids looking to make a few bucks after school—they’re breadwinners working to support themselves and their families. Unfortunately, there’s also new research to show that these workers face structural disadvantages in workplaces that undervalue part-time employees.
In honor of the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights, here are five things you may not know about part-time workers:

  1. More than 60 percent of part-time workers are women and 23 percent are women of color.
    • There are 33 million people working part-time today. That’s about 1 in 5 working people. Women make up 63 percent of the part-time workforce, making them almost twice as likely to work part-time as men. And women of color make up 23 percent of the part-time workforce, compared to 18 percent of all workers. This means that every additional hurdle or unfair policy directed at part-time workers creates an acute harm for women of color. Part-time workers are also probably older than you imagine. Almost 70 percent are over 25 and about a quarter of them are working to support children under 18.
  2. Many of them don’t want to work part time.
    • In survey after survey, researchers have found that large shares of part-time workers, especially in hourly service sector jobs, want to work more hours a week than they’re given. So why are these people kept in part-time schedules? Employers often spread out shifts among a large reserve of part-time workers as a method to avoid providing benefits and higher wages. To combat these tactics used by employers, the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights contains an access to hours requirement, which would have employers offer available hours to current workers before going out and hiring new employees, temps, or contractors.
  3. Employer-provided benefits often exclude part-time workers.
    • One reason employers might be more comfortable with a large part-time workforce is that existing laws often exclude part-time workers from valuable workplace benefits. For example, part-time workers aren’t covered by many employer pension plans and they aren’t entitled to unpaid leave under the FMLA. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights would change both of those things, improving coverage and benefits for part-time workers.
  4. They are more likely to have volatile and unpredictable work schedules.
    • People who work part-time are far more likely to have unstable work schedules. Unpredictable schedules mean unpredictable wages, and last minute scheduling practices lead to housing and food insecurity, and can seriously harm children’s well-being. The Part Time Worker Bill of Rights would work hand-in-hand with the Schedules That Work Act—introduced recently by Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Elizabeth Warren—to combat unfair scheduling practices.
  5. Part-time workers make less than their full-time counterparts.
    • Part-time workers don’t just make less annually than full-time workers; they make less per hour than full-time employees working the same jobs. And because women are more likely to work part-time than men, the part-time pay penalty contributes to the overall wage gap. The Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights would prohibit this discriminatory pay, as well as making sure that qualified workers aren’t passed over for promotions or job opportunities just because they are part-time.

Together, the Part-Time Worker Bill of Rights and the Schedules That Work Act will pave the way for a more equitable workplace.