We all know that 40 hours is the standard full-time week, but with that considerable time investment comes benefits like health insurance, paid time off, and other perks that sweeten the deal. Still, as helpful as they may be for working parents, these benefits can’t compensate for the time you have to sacrifice with your kids to get them. Even with the most flexible work arrangement, devoting 40 hours weekly to a job is incredibly difficult for a parent.
Unfortunately, most part-time jobs don’t come with the same benefits package as a full-time job (in fact, a lot of them don’t come with any benefits at all), so most parents aren’t left with much choice but to work full-time – particularly if they’re responsible for carrying their family’s insurance. However, nothing stops you from applying for a job with a 20-hour workweek and then negotiating better benefits once you’re offered the job. Even better, thanks to a little loophole, you may be able to apply for a full-time position and then advocate for a reduced work week without having to sacrifice your benefits or your full-time status.
Of course, not every company will be willing to negotiate benefits and hours, but if you’re determined to find a job that offers balance and benefits, you can’t hesitate to ask for it. And the more you know about how to advocate for this setup, the more likely you will be to get it.
How Is This Possible?
While we’ve all come to accept that a full-time schedule is 40 hours a week, that’s not entirely accurate. Individual states may have definitions of what a full-time employee is that businesses must adhere to, but there is no hard rule at the federal level. However, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which is a federal law, has its definition of what a full-time employee is. That definition is significant to small organizations hoping to benefit from the program and large employers who want to avoid penalties.
How does all of this tie into your schedule as a full-time employee? To help businesses count how many full-time employees they have within their organization, the ACA had to define a full-time employee. According to the ACA and the IRS, a full-time employee is anyone who works an average of 30 hours per week (or 130 hours) in a given month. So, if your employer offers health insurance to full-time employees, you can work as little as 30 hours a week and still qualify.
What Does This Mean for Moms?
Sure, 30 hours a week is still a lot of time spent away from your family, however, that takes your 8:00 to 5:00 workday down to 9:00 to 4:00 or 8:00 to 3:00 (or even 9:00 to 3:00, depending on your state’s lunch break laws) and that daily schedule is significantly better for most parents with school-aged kids. Ending your day at 3:00 or 4:00 instead of 5:00 means a less messy commute home, more time to prepare dinner and or help with homework, more flexibility for after-school activities, and less money spent on childcare.
Basically, because of this ACA definition, you can have a better work-life balance and still ensure your family has health insurance. Plus, since they’re already offering health insurance, many companies will also provide the complete benefits package (including vision insurance, dental insurance, short-term disability, etc.) to employees working 30 hours a week.
Tips for Negotiation
It’s amazing how much working parents can benefit from this little definition in the ACA. However, just because the IRS considers a 30-hour work week to be full-time doesn’t mean your employer agrees. Companies are under no obligation to reduce full-time employees’ hours because of this definition – so if you want to take advantage of this little loophole, you will have to advocate for it.
Negotiation tips if you want to change your schedule with your current employer:
Go into the negotiation knowing you’ll have to compromise; offer to reduce your salary and or PTO accrual based on your new schedule
Let them know you’re willing to be flexible, too; offer to be available by phone or to sign back on later in the evening when something urgent comes up
Assure them that you can still get your job done in this amount of time by suggesting a trial period
Tips for negotiating a reduced schedule into a job offer:
Bring up the topic of flex schedules during the interview process; if they seem open, then you have a better chance of securing a reduced schedule
Mention your need for balance and flexibility throughout the interview process so that your request won’t come as a shock (you may even want to bring up the idea of this kind of schedule early on to avoid wasting time)
Offer to negotiate your salary based on hours worked rather than a traditional 40-hour week
What If You Want to Work Less Than 30 Hours?
If you want to work less than 30 hours a week, you may need to fight harder to get an employer to agree to full-time benefits. If it’s health insurance that you’re after, compromise by not asking for PTO (or vice-versa if you want PTO and not health insurance). In this case, your negotiation strategy should focus less on needing flexibility since you aren’t a full-time employee and more on what you’re willing to give them in return (such as taking on more work or adding a few more hours to your schedule).
There’s nothing wrong with being content working a part-time job without benefits or working 40 hours a week – primarily if you work for an employer that treats you well. However, if you’re determined to find a little more balance and aren’t in a rush to find a new job, then take your time searching for the right offer. Don’t settle for a job that doesn’t give you what you need, even if it’s a relatively good opportunity, because it probably won’t be long before you’re unhappy in the role and start the job search again.
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