There are different types of employees companies can hire to meet their business needs—full time, part time, seasonal, temporary, and more. Which type you choose will depend on the job roles, responsibilities, and structure of the company.
Learn more about the types of staff you can hire, how to stay in compliance, and other factors to consider when hiring for specific employee categories.
A full-time employee is defined as meeting or exceeding a specific threshold of working hours. This threshold, while fully up to the employer, is typically 40 hours per week. However, some companies classify as few as 30 hours per week to be full time.
Full-time workers will be classified as either exempt or nonexempt and can be paid at an hourly or salaried rate. They are also typically eligible for company benefits—such as health insurance, retirement plans, and paid time off (PTO)—that may be unavailable for other classifications.
Exempt vs Nonexempt
There are two classifications of full-time employees: exempt and nonexempt. These classifications determine how an employee is paid and whether they are eligible for overtime pay.
- Exempt Employee: Salaried employee who receives the same pay no matter how many hours they work in a week; not eligible for overtime pay
- Nonexempt Employee: May be salaried or hourly; eligible for overtime pay
Part-time staff can also be either exempt or nonexempt. Typically speaking, seasonal employees will be considered nonexempt; however, this distinction is ultimately determined by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).
Compliance Tip: Under federal law, any nonexempt full-time employee who works more than 40 hours in a consecutive seven-day period must be paid overtime at a minimum rate of 1.5x their hourly rate for every hour over 40.
Hourly vs Salaried
Related to the exempt/nonexempt designation is compensation type. Hourly employees’ pay is tied directly to the hours they work, while salaried employees’ pay is based on compensation that was agreed upon during hiring.
For example, a salaried employee with a base pay of $2,000 per pay period will receive $2,000 no matter if they work 10 hours or 40 hours. An hourly employee making $50 per hour earns anywhere from $500 to $2,000 using the same hour range.
Salaried employees are usually eligible for items such as paid vacation, while hourly employees are not. Learn more about this in our article on salary vs hourly employees.
A part-time employee is defined as working fewer hours than the threshold for full-time employment. As noted above, that threshold can vary. Anything less than 40 hours per week can be considered part-time, but for some companies, total weekly work hours must be as low as 29 for employees to be part time. These workers are normally paid at an hourly rate, but employers may offer them a salaried rate. Part-time employees may also have fewer company benefits than full-time employees.
Two things to note regarding compliance with employing part-time workers:
- If you meet the employer requirement of the Affordable Care Act (at least 50 full-time equivalent employees), you must offer health insurance for employees working more than 30 hours per week or more than 130 hours per month (even if you consider them part-time employees). See our guide to full-time equivalent calculations for more information.
- If you offer a retirement plan to your full-time employees, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) states that you must allow all staff to participate—including part-time workers—if they have worked more than 1,000 hours over a period of one year.
Seasonal & Temporary Employees
Seasonal and temporary employees are typically hired for brief periods based on company need. They do not normally receive the same benefits as full-time employees; however, they usually remain eligible for benefits like unemployment and Social Security.
There is one major difference between seasonal and temporary employees. Seasonal employees are hired during recurring periods, whereas temporary employees are hired more sporadically (this includes hiring workers for one-time projects).
Common examples of seasonal employees are retail cashiers and delivery drivers during the holiday season. Temporary employees, on the other hand, may include replacement employees for workers who are on leave and consultants for specific projects. Seasonal and temporary staff can work on a full-time or part-time basis—and they can be hired directly or through a staffing agency.
Most federal employment laws that apply to permanent employees will apply to seasonal workers—with one notable exception. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires covered businesses to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to workers with qualified medical and family reasons, will not apply to seasonal workers due to the 1,250 working hours in a 12-month period requirement.
We recommend employers have a mix of regular and seasonal workers to prevent staffing shortages, primarily because it makes it easier to handle increased demand and unexpected events without committing to hiring employees for longer than you need them. It’s also beneficial in light of predictive scheduling laws to prevent employers from requiring employees to work shifts at the last minute.
Interns are a subset of seasonal and temporary employees who can also work on a full-time or part-time basis. The defining characteristic of interns is the purpose of their work, which is to gain knowledge about working for a specific company or position. In exchange, the company receives temporary assistance and gets an opportunity to see if they would like the intern to work in another capacity.
Interns can be paid or unpaid. If it’s the latter and you are a for-profit company, then you must meet certain criteria set forth by the Department of Labor. Learn more in our guide on hiring an intern.
Other Considerations When Hiring Different Types of Employees
As you are determining what type of employee will best serve your needs, or even contemplating eschewing full-time employees in favor of other worker types, keep these points in mind.
Direct vs Contract vs Freelance
There are three ways to bring workers into your business. You can hire staff directly, find contractors, and enlist freelancers.
- Direct workers are employees of your company. They are offered an employment letter and are paid through the company’s payroll. They also will receive a W-2 at the end of the year.
- Contract or leased workers are employees of another company leased to your company for a period. They are typically hired through a third party (e.g., a staffing agency). You pay the staffing agency, which then pays the employee; legally, they’re not your employee.
- Freelancers (sometimes called independent contractors) are also not your employees, but self-employed workers who work with you for a period. They are typically offered a contract and provided a 1099 at the end of the year. Additionally, you will pay these workers differently than you do your hired employees.
Fit Small Business has a wide variety of articles on hiring different employee types, as well as other employee categories (such as remote or international employees) and even specific job roles (including administrative assistant, sales rep, and HR manager). Select a “How to Hire” article below for more information.
- How to Hire Employees
- How to Hire an Administrative Assistant
- How to Hire a Bookkeeper
- How to Hire Construction Workers
- How to Hire a Delivery Driver
- How to Hire For Diversity
- How to Hire an Employee in California
- How to Hire Employees in China
- How to Hire Employees in India
- How to Hire an Engineer
- How to Hire Farm Workers
- How to Hire Felons
- How to Hire a Freelance Writer
- How to Hire a Graphic Designer
- How to Hire an HR Manager
- How to Hire an Intern
- How to Hire International Contractors
- How to Hire International Employees
- How to Hire an IT Professional
- How to Hire a Manager
- How to Hire a Marketing Assistant
- How to Hire a Nail Technician
- How to Hire a Nanny
- How to Hire a Payroll Specialist
- How to Hire a Receptionist
- How to Hire a Recruiter
- How to Hire Remote Employees
- How to Hire a Sales Representative
- How to Hire Seasonal Employees
- How to Hire a Social Media Manager
- How to Hire Using a Temp Agency
- How to Hire Truck Drivers
- How to Hire Veterans
Each business is different, so which types of workers to hire (and how many) will vary. But, when you have the right types of employment and fully understand the differences between various workers, you can optimize company efficiency, protect yourself from labor complaints, and more smoothly navigate changes in your company’s needs and strategy and the broader labor market.