How Many Hours is Part Time?

The number of hours that constitutes a part-time job versus full-time employment is a common question for workers and employers alike. Part-time roles are increasingly popular across many industries in the UK for offering greater flexibility and work-life balance. But what exactly is the threshold for classifying part-time work?

In the UK, part-time generally refers to working less than 30-35 hours per week on average. However, the specific hourly definition can vary substantially depending on factors like:

  • Industry
  • Employer
  • Employee contracts
  • Regional norms

This article provides an in-depth overview of how part time is defined in the UK, contrasted with full-time employment. It analyzes the variations across different sectors, job types and worker agreements. Read on for a comprehensive guide to understanding part-time work hours in a UK context.

What is Considered Part-Time in the UK?

The government of the United Kingdom defines part-time work as:

“A part-time worker is someone who works fewer than 30 hours per week”

Similarly, the European Union, which shapes UK labor regulations along with the Working Time Directive, defines part time as fewer than 35 hours per week.

As such, when analyzing part-time jobs in the UK, the typical threshold is:

  • Full-Time: 35+ hours
  • Part-Time: Under 30-35 hours

However, specific employers can set their own definition of part-time as it suits their business needs, as long as it meets minimum statutory employment rights.

For example, retailer John Lewis states in its employee handbook that it defines part time roles as less than 25 hours per week. So definitions can vary even within the same country and industry depending on the company.

Variation By UK Industry

Digging deeper, there are certain UK industries where what constitutes a part time or full-time workload can differ substantially from the 30-35 hour baseline:

UK Teaching Jobs

TypeHours / Week
Full-time25+ teaching hours
Part-timeLess than 25 teaching hours

For teachers and other school staff, hours are measured differently – by teaching hours with students rather than aggregate workload. So a teacher timetabled for only 20 hours of classroom instruction would be classified as part-time in most UK schools.

UK Healthcare Jobs (NHS)

Another variation comes within National Health Service (NHS) roles, especially clinical staff like nurses and doctors. Due to shift work schedules, an NHS professional is likely to still be considered full-time even if working less than 35 hours per week on paper.

For example, a nurse working 3 twelve-hour shifts per week may well be called a full-time employee in UK healthcare contexts.

Contrast With Full-Time and Overtime

Given the above, how do part-time working hours compare to full-time and overtime thresholds in the UK?

  • Full-Time: Usually classified as 35+ hours per week
  • Part-Time: Less than 30-35 hours on average
  • Overtime: Additional pay required for over 48 hours/week

However, workers classified as managers or in other professional roles may be exempt from the 48 hour overtime rule if they can control their own schedules.

And as explored earlier, definitions vary beyond these norms across industries like education and healthcare.

Benefits of Part-Time Jobs in the UK

Beyond the better work-life balance, there are a number of potential benefits of part-time jobs compared to full-time roles:

  • Gradually transitioning to retirement
  • Attending university or earning a qualification
  • Caring for children or family members
  • Gaining experience in a new field or career

Part-time openings also provide opportunities for taking on side jobs or “gig work” with the flexibility to set one’s own hours.

And during economic recessions such as during the COVID-19 pandemic, switching from full-time to part-time may increase job stability when companies need to cut labor costs.

Read More: Where Does The Word Mortgage Come From?

How does 4 day week work for part-time workers?

The concept of a 4 day workweek is typically centered around a 32 or 35 hour full-time schedule condensed into 4 days instead of 5. But how does this apply for employees already working reduced part-time hours?

For part-time workers, a 4 day schedule would simply involve condensing their allotted weekly hours into 4 days rather than spreading over 5. For example:

  • A 20 hour/week part-time employee could work 5 hour days
  • A 25 hour/week part-timer could do 6-7 hour shifts
  • A 30 hour employee could work 4 longer 7-8 hour days

The flexibility and condensed schedule can still benefit part-time staff. And it would allow managers to have more coverage on those 4 workdays.

The challenge is that part-timers are less likely to get 3 day weekends. But they would still get at least 1 extra day off per week to run errands, etc. This can aid work-life balance.

Rights and Protections for Part-Time Workers

Though often lacking the same benefits as full-time staff, part-time employees in the UK do still retain many legal rights and protections including:

  • Minimum wage eligibility
  • Paid annual leave entitlement
  • Rest break entitlement
  • Statutory Sick Pay (if eligible)
  • Protection against discrimination
  • Pension auto-enrollment (if over 22 and earning £10k+ annually)
  • Parental leave rights

However, part-time workers lose eligibility for some protections if working less than 16 hours a week on average. And access to employer benefits schemes may be limited for part-timers.

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Is 25 hours a week part-time?

In the vast majority of cases, working 25 weekly hours would be classified as a part-time job rather than full-time in the UK.

As stated earlier, full-time roles tend to start at around 35+ hours. And the government defines part-time as less than 30 hours.

So at 25 hours, an employee would typically be considered part-time. However, some employers may set custom limits below 30 hours for their own definition of part-time work. But 25 would still qualify under most standard definitions.

The one exception would be teaching roles, where hours are measured differently. Teachers could be full-time by teaching hours but only work 25 total hours.

Challenges of UK Part-Time Work

However, part-time roles also pose a number of downsides and challenges in the UK labor market:

  • Reduced pay – Part-time workers earn lower total salary and hourly wages on average
  • Fewer benefits – Less access to bonuses, healthcare, paid vacation time
  • Lower job stability – Easier for employers to cut part time staff
  • Harder to advance – Less opportunity for promotions into leadership roles
  • Variable shifts – Irregular schedules can complicate childcare, education, etc.

This makes it harder for some employees to switch to part-time work even when desired, particularly the primary earner in a household.

Finding Part-Time Work in the UK

For those actively seeking UK part-time jobs, where are the best places to search and which industries offer the most options?

In many customer service, sales, hospitality and retail jobs, part-time workers make up a substantial percentage of staff. For example:

  • Supermarkets – Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda
  • Restaurants and cafes
  • Hotels
  • Department stores – John Lewis, Marks and Spencer
  • Call centers

Roles like administrative assistants, personal assistants, consultants, tutors, lecturers and delivery drivers also frequently hire part time workers as well.

The best resources for sourcing and applying to open local and remote UK part-time jobs include:

  • LinkedIn
  • Indeed
  • TotalJobs
  • Reed
  • CV-Library
  • Find a Job


In summary, while part-time work in the UK is generally defined as less than 30-35 hours per week, the specific threshold can vary substantially across industries, employers, contracts and regions. Teachers may be part-time by teaching hours, healthcare staff by shifts worked, and companies like John Lewis set custom limits.

Those considering switching to part-time work should carefully weigh the pros and cons in respect to their profession, experience level and financial needs. While part-time offers more flexibility and work-life balance, it may also mean fewer benefits, lower pay, career stagnation, and instability in recessions.

But with careful planning, diligent searching on jobs boards, and by focusing applications in part-time friendly sectors like retail and hospitality, landing a quality part-time job in the UK is an achievable goal for most workers.