All in a day’s work: Part-time versus full-time

September 25, 2023 | 6:20 pm

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) Part-Time Work Convention, 1994 (No. 175), defines a part-time worker as an employee whose normal hours of work are less than those of comparable full-time workers.

Part-time is normally defined using the specific number of working hours, usually 30–35 working hours per week. Part-time can take the form of days worked in a week or job sharing, which entails splitting a full-time job into two or more parts.

Old workers nearing retirement and parents, especially women who take care of young children, mostly prefer part-time work.

Part-time work is predominant in most industrialised countries because of low levels of unemployment. Thus, workers opt to allocate different working hours to two or more different works and/or employers.

In The Netherlands, for example, a third of all workers are employed on a part-time basis. However, in most developing countries that are predominantly characterised by high levels of unemployment, most workers prefer full-time work, since it is hard to secure even one job. Furthermore, working in shifts has not been institutionalised.

In developed countries, the proportion of part-time workers is especially high among women, since most women are caregivers to their young children. Generally, in many countries, the share of part-time workers is high in the service sector, and among low-skilled employees.

Several countries define part-time work based on the number of working hours. In Kenya, it is less than 40 working hours per week, while in USA, it is less than 35 working hours per week. It is less than 36 working hours per week in Germany, and less than 30 working hours per week in UK and Canada. In France, it is at least 20 per cent below the statutory level of working hours.

The ILO Convention requires equal treatment of part-time and full-time workers, particularly in regard to: participation in the workplace; occupation safety and health; statutory social security schemes; maternity leave; paid annual leave; paid public holidays; and sick leave.

The pay structure for part-time employees should be similar to that of comparable full-time employees. However, the quantum of pay for a part-time employee should be a fraction of the pay for comparable full-time employee, based on the actual number of working hours a part-time employee devotes to do the part-time work.

According to Section 27(2) of the Employment Act, a full-time employee is eligible for at least one rest day in a period of seven days, thus a full-time employee, legally, works for a maximum of 48 hours per week, given that full-timers work for 8 hours per day.

According to Section J(2) of the Public Service Commission Human Resource Policy Manual, public officers are required to work 40 hours spread over 5 days in a week, from Monday to Friday, 8:00am to 1:00pm, a lunch break from 1:00pm to 2:00pm, then from 2:00pm to 5:00pm.

Therefore, based on global best practices, a part-time employee in Kenya should work at least 3 days and 6 hours a week, equivalent to at least 30 working hours per week.

Contemporary global practices on part-time employment

  1. Employers use part-time employment to retain certain workers by responding to their expressed working time preferences.
  2. Governments promote part-time work as a tool to mobilise labour-market groups with lower participation rates. For example, women with young children, older people, and people with rare and scarce skills that are widely sought by employers.
  3. Self-employed workers look for part-time employment to supplement their pay.
  4. In developing counties, most of the part-time work is involuntary. Part-time workers in these economies prefer to work full-time because of low wages associated with the low-developed economies.
  5. In many developing economies, part-time employment is associated with the informal sector.
  6. Part-time workers do not generally have an opportunity for progression.
  7. Part-time workers incur a penalty in terms of inferior job security, average earnings, and opportunity for training and promotion.

In Kenya, the majority of public service employees work full-time. A few public service employees, usually at the policy level are employed part-time.

Several broad categories of employees in public service work part-time. These are: members of Commissions, Committees, and Tribunals (CBTs); board members of State corporations, cities, municipalities, and towns; and members of county public service boards and county assembly service boards.

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