Working Full-time or Part-time - Which is Best?

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An increasing amount of South Africans are abandoning the traditional 9-5 workday model in favor of a more flexible part-time position. Both options have their pros and cons, so the decision is often unique to the employee’s situation. 

Serr Synergy states that a full-time employee is “an employee who is remunerated wholly or partly by reference to the time that the employee works and who is identifiable as a full-time employee in terms of the customs and practice of the employer of that employee.

By comparison, a part-time employee “will work fewer hours than a full-time employee and will be remunerated wholly or partly for the number of hours worked”. 

To clarify, whereas a full-time employee typically works an average of 30-40 hours a week and typically receives a steady income, a part-time employee will work a minimum of 20 hours a week and may not be entitled to the same benefits as their full-time coworkers.

Here is how the two positions differ -

Full-time workers -

  • Receive a steady income
  • Often receive health benefits and a retirement plan
  • Receive more Paid Time Off (PTO) in the form of sick leave, maternity and paternity leave, family responsibility, and annual leave.
  • Are more likely to be promoted
  • Follow a fixed schedule
  • Are protected by South Africa's Labour Relations Act (LRA) - Section 198C

Part-time workers -

  • Have more free time
  • Have flexible workloads
  • Improved management skills
  • Also protected by South Africa's Labour Relations Act (LRA) - Section 198C
  • Usually has access to the same training, development, and employment opportunities as their full-time coworkers.
  • Enjoy fewer workplace responsibilities

Part-time employment falls into these four categories:

Substantial part-time: 21 - 34 hours per week

Short part-time: 20 hours of less

Marginal part-time: less than 15 hours per week

On-call work: work hours vary and are often unpredictable


Deciding between a Full-time and Part-time position

Choosing between a full-time and part-time position shouldn’t be taken lightly. Both options call for a very specific set of skills and self-discipline. 

Here’s how you can choose the most suitable option.

Work Full-time if - 

  • You need a steady income
  • You have someone who takes care of the household tasks
  • You have monthly expenses such as rent, school fees, utilities, etc.
  • You can manage your time well
  • You have high-stress tolerance levels
  • You are able to commute to an office every day

Work part-time if -

  • You’re a student looking for an additional income
  • Your current income doesn’t cover all your monthly expenses
  • You want more free time
  • You can afford a decrease in income
  • You have personal responsibilities
  • You want a better work-family balance
  • You are a college graduate looking for relevant work experience
  • You want to learn a new skill

Wedged between these two positions is the freelancer and the temporary worker. Temporary employees are hired for a predetermined amount of time. These workers usually act as temporary replacements for absent full-time employees and are employed for a maximum of 3 months. 

Freelance workers are considered “self-employed” and aren’t limited to one ‘employer’; freelancers work for multiple clients and receive payment from each.

In the end, when choosing between a full-time and part-time position, the decision should be made based on the individual’s personal preferences, responsibilities, availability, financial situation.

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