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Which benefits are associated with full-time hours?

How do employers define full-time hours?

How do exempt employees define full-time?


What are full-time hours

Full-time hours in the United States typically consist of a 40-hour workweek, spread over five 8-hour days. However, definitions can vary: some employers count 37.5 hours as full-time, factoring in 30-minute daily unpaid lunch breaks, while others may define full-time as 35 hours a week, including an hour-long lunch break each day. Despite these variations, any job requiring at least 35 hours of work per week is generally considered full-time.

Understanding full-time employment involves delving into key aspects such as eligibility for benefits, how full-time hours are defined, and the classification of exempt employees.

  • Full-time benefits eligibility: Full-time employment typically qualifies employees for benefits like vacation time, sick pay, and health insurance, but employers have flexibility in setting their own criteria beyond federal mandates.
  • Defining full-time hours: While most U.S. employers view 40 hours per week as full-time, the IRS considers employees working at least 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month as full-time, offering two methods to determine this status.
  • Exempt employee classification: The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn't specify full-time hours for salaried (exempt) employees, allowing employers to define full-time status based on their operational needs, which may affect benefit eligibility.

Which benefits are associated with full-time hours?

Full-time employment is often used as the determining factor in considering whether employees are eligible for the following benefits: 

  • Vacation time
  • Sick Pay
  • Health insurance
  • Dental insurance 
  • Retirement Match
  • Stock Ownership Program

Besides what is mandated under federal law, employers have a great deal of flexibility when designing their benefits plans and what employees qualify.

How do employers define full-time hours?

Most employers in the United States consider full-time employment to be working at least 40 hours per week. Although some employers may define full-time employment as working fewer than 40 hours per week, and rather determine it by the number of shifts worked, this is generally less common.

Using the IRS methodology employers can determine full-time employees by the hours worked.

For purposes of the employer shared responsibility provisions, a full-time employee is, for a calendar month, an employee employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week, or 130 hours of service per month.

There are two methods for determining full-time employee status: 

  • The monthly measurement method, and 
  • The look-back measurement method. 

Under the monthly measurement method, the employer determines if an employee is a full-time employee on a month-by-month basis by looking at whether the employee has at least 130 hours of service for each month.

Under the look-back measurement method, an employer may determine the status of an employee as a full-time employee during what is referred to as the stability period, based upon the hours of service of the employee in the preceding period, which is referred to as the measurement period.

How do exempt employees define full-time?

Full-time employees are typically those who work at least 40 hours per week. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not define what full-time employment is for salaried employees. This means that employers can define full-time employment as they see fit for their business.

Some exempt employees are excluded from overtime regulations under the Fair Labor Standards Act, and salaried employees must exercise independent judgment as they typically perform knowledge-based tasks which are difficult to track on an hour-by-hour basis.


It’s important to note that, even if an employer considers an employee to be full-time, the employee may not be entitled to the same benefits as other full-time employees. For example, an employee who works 35 hours per week may not be eligible for health insurance benefits if the employer only offers health insurance to employees who work 40 hours or more per week.

If you’re not sure whether you’re considered a full-time employee, it’s best to ask your employer.

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