Some Retail Workers Prefer a Part-Time Status—But 30% Work Full-Time Hours

By Dottie Chong

Scheduling is a common struggle, especially in retail. A lean schedule with many part-time workers can lead to a frantic scramble to cover shifts when workers call in sick. But a fuller-staffed schedule can lead to unnecessary hours on the clock if days slow down.


And as seasonal fluctuations impact business, your full-time employees might reach out with concerns about lighter schedules. Meanwhile, part-time employees might feel the opposite during peak periods. It can certainly be a challenge to successfully manage it all without negatively impacting employee morale.

To learn more about how much time retail workers spend on the clock, TSheets by QuickBooks analyzed self-reported timesheet data from over 60,000 companies. In drilling down on the hours worked by retail workers between 2013 and 2019, the data found:

  • Employees clocked about 30 hours per week.
  • 30% of retail employees tracked overtime.
  • Those who worked overtime clocked an average of eight hours per week.

But what is the retail worker persona, and how are employees categorized in the industry?

The retail industry tends to get a bad rap, but these employee-reported industry benchmarks can be enlightening for employees and employers.


The make-up of the retail workforce and the lack of universal standards

Historically and statistically, the retail workforce has been comprised of female workers in roles like salesperson, cashier, stock clerk, supervisor, and manager. Overall, the median age in the retail trade is 37. In general, the Pew Research Center analyzed labor force data and found:

  • Millennials are now the largest generation in the U.S. labor force.
  • Fewer teens are working during summer breaks.
  • A greater number of older Americans (29% of those 65 and older) are in the workforce.


In the U.S., there is no absolute definition for what constitutes a part-time employee. The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not address or define a part-time employee, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have both given it a go. The BLS says part-time employees work fewer than 35 hours per week. Full-time workers clock more than 35 hours a week. The IRS says part-time employees work fewer than 30 hours a week or 130 hours per month. Full-time employees work at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month.

What stands out in the TSheets analysis is how retail employees average 30 hours a week, suggesting a part-time employment status. Yet 30% are also averaging eight hours of overtime per week. The data doesn’t reveal the exact roles of those who clock overtime. But that’s enough time worked in a week to qualify those retail workers for full-time status—and benefits.


An industry with a bad rap is moving in the right direction

Hiring is always tricky in retail. Employing part-time workers can reduce labor costs and the cost of employee benefits. However, hiring or scheduling successfully means navigating the priorities of workers with disparate schedules: students working around classes, parents working multiple jobs, and retirees filling in their time and staying active.

But things are looking up. In 2018, local governments across the country began passing predictive scheduling ordinances. These laws subject employers to fines if they change employee schedules after certain time frames. 29 states and the District of Columbia now require employers to pay more than the federal minimum wage. Retailers like CVS, Costco, and Target have all announced their successive pay increase planning.


Benchmarks reveal part-time work is the norm, even preferred

Employers know the economy has rebounded. But they may not know how working habits have lingered. Employees who could only get part-time jobs are now choosing to keep their flexible workweeks. In 2016, 64% of Americans who work part-time said they preferred it that way, and 1 in 5 full-time workers in the same survey wished they could do the same. By sharing their status quo, employees help employers standardize expectations and executions. Together, this sets both the workforce and business up for success.


Contributed by Dottie Chong, marketing copywriter at TSheets by QuickBooks, a time tracking and scheduling solution for small businesses. Dottie Chong spent 15 years in marketing communications and content management, focused on driving engagement and brand affinity.

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