If you feel like your employer is making too many demands on your time, you might wonder if there is a law that determines how many hours per week is considered to be full time. Full-time employment is not legally defined, however. What is considered to be full-time is up to your employer and your company’s policies. The Affordable Care Act does define full-time work, but the definition is only for purposes of health coverage.
Most employers regard full-time employment as something ranging from 30 to 50 hours per week. The standard is 40 hours per week. Businesses that use the 50-hour work week normally only apply it to exempt employees.
If you work at a startup company, you might be working as many as 80 hours per week. Startups might not have set numbers of hours per week that they expect of their employees, and the informal expectations can vary greatly. Here are some things that Swartz Swidler thinks that are important for you to know.
Learn what the expectations are during your interview
If you are interviewing for a new job, it is a good idea to ask for clarification of what the work schedule will be if it has not been clarified by the interviewer. It is important for you to obtain this information so that you can make decisions that will work with your work and life balance. If you are worried about asking questions about the schedule during your interview, you should at least ask them when a job offer is extended to you before you accept it.
IRS and the ACA
There are guidelines from the IRS and under the ACA for full-time employment. Under IRS rules, employees are full-time workers if they work a minimum of 130 hours in a month or average at least 30 hours per week. The ACA employs the same criteria for determining who is a full-time worker.
What is the standard work week?
The standard work week in the U.S. is considered to be 40-hour, five-day work weeks. Some employers use 37.5-hour full-time work weeks and give 30-minute lunch breaks each day. Many companies ask their employees to work longer shifts that might extend the regular work week, including the following:
Industries such as health care and trucking industries have limits on the maximum number of hours per week that people can work so that accidents can be prevented.
Under federal law, employers are allowed to change a worker’s schedule without notice or consent unless the worker is younger than age 16.
Why it matters
Employers can get into trouble if they misclassify workers such as in cases in which the workers’ part- or full-time statuses determine their eligibility for benefits. Businesses that offer benefits such as pensions, 401(k) plans, health care, and paid time off must be careful in how they determine eligibility for the benefits. If they are arbitrary in how they decide who can access these benefits, they might be accused of unfair labor practices and may face thousands of dollars in fines and penalties.
If you believe that you have been misclassified as a part-time worker by your employer, you might have legal rights. Contact the law firm of Swartz Swidler to schedule a free consultation.