Employers often hire part-time or temporary workers to help with increased work demands or seasonal industry fluctuations that sometimes occur in certain industries. Most states define part-time employees as those who work less than 35 hours per week, compared to full-time employees who typically work for 40 hours or more.
Part-time employees are typically paid on an hourly basis, and must comply with company rules, policies, and obligations, such as performance goals, safety rules, and company business practices. Even so, part-time employees generally have limited or no company benefits, such as health benefits, vacation and sick time, paid holidays, and unemployment compensation, among others, unless required by state labor laws and/or company policies.
Under federal laws, part-time employees are treated the same as full-time employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) concerning minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and child labor. In addition, part-time employees are covered under OSHA's safety and health policies concerning work-related injuries, illnesses, and occupational fatalities. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), part-time employees who work 1,000 hours or more during a calendar year may be eligible for retirement benefits.
Temporary employees, often referred to as "temps", are typically hired to cover for absent employees (such as those who are on maternity or disability leave) and temporary vacancies, or to fill gaps in a company's workforce. Temporary employees may be hired directly or through a temporary staffing agency -- in which case the temp is on lease with the staffing company, but not an employee of the client company that uses its services. Temporary agencies typically charge clients 15 to 30% more than the amount of compensation given to the temp employee, though some temp employees may wish to negotiate their hourly rate.
Temporary employees may be hired to perform work in a range of industries, such as clerical, labor, education, information technology and healthcare. Some temporary jobs may lead to permanent employment where appropriate-- in which case the temp agency may charge a fee if the worker is hired permanently. More often, however, companies hire temporary employees for a specific business purpose while avoiding the cost of hiring regular employees.
Temporary employees may work full or part-time, and may work for more than one agency at a time. Although not typically eligible for company benefits, some temporary agencies offer health care and other benefits to their temp employees. In an economic downturn, temporary employees are often the first to go, making it less of an ideal job for job security.
Finally, in some states, companies which hire temporary employees may be subject to federal discrimination and harassment challenges, and other claims. In addition, the circumstances in which temporary employees may claim rights under the Family Medical Leave Act -- which provides the right to take leave while taking care of a child, sick spouse, or elderly parent -- depends on whether the company exercised some control over the selection, hiring, and working conditions of the employee, thereby creating an employee/employer relationship.
Generally, seasonal employees are hired to work on a part-time basis by companies that need extra help during a particular season, typically the Christmas season. For example, large retailers, such as Wal-Mart, Toys R' Us, and Best Buy, hire thousands of seasonal employees each year to account for the increased shopping demands of the season. Seasonal employees may be hired within several industries, such as retail, hospitality, customer service, shipping/handling, and sales, and are entitled to minimum wage and overtime.
Seasonal jobs can offer out-of-work employees the opportunity to earn income to pay down bills, for example, or earn money for holiday gift giving. In addition, since many seasonal jobs can be performed on evenings and weekend, regular employees can earn a second income for a certain period of time as a seasonal employee.
Laws concerning employee treatment, benefits, and policies of part-time, temporary, or seasonal employees are covered by both Federal and state laws. To learn more about employee rights, benefits and policies as they may apply to your specific case, check your state's employment laws. Otherwise, if you have an employment dispute, or believe that your rights have been violated, you should speak with a knowledgeable employment law lawyer in your area.