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New Benefits Boosting the Appeal of Part-Time Jobs

Companies increasingly offering health coverage, stock options and disability insurance

a person holds a health insurance card

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En español | It’s long been recognized that part-time jobs can offer older workers an attractive combination of free time and income. But recently, this type of work is featuring another appealing perk: benefits.

The nation’s low unemployment rate is leading some companies to provide their hourly workers with health insurance, paid sick leave and other attractive benefits, experts say. “Employers certainly are doing anything they can to attract and retain skilled workers that fit the jobs that they have,” says Julie Stich, who follows benefit trends for the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans (IFEBP), a nonprofit organization. The IFEBP found that nearly half of the 391 companies it surveyed were offering full- and part-time employees the same health insurance coverage, along with other benefits.

“There are more and more types of benefits that are being offered to part-time workers as well, outside of the health care realm, things like leave or educational assistance or life insurance, disability insurance and the like,” says Stich.

For example, once part-time employees at Starbucks have accumulated at least 240 hours of work over three months, they’re eligible for the company’s “Special Blend” of benefits. In addition to health insurance (medical, dental and vision), part-time employees also can take advantage of college tuition reimbursement, which covers courses taken online through Arizona State University. Part-time employees also can buy company stock at a discounted rate through automatic payroll deductions, a benefit it has offered since 1991, when it became the first privately held company in the nation to offer this option to both full-time and part-time employees, according to research from Aon Hewitt.

In some cases, the new benefits are adding to an already appealing workplace. For example, in addition to health insurance benefits for employees who work at least 20 hours per week, Whole Foods Market offers workers a valuable in-store discount. At Costco, part-time employees can get health insurance with dental and vision coverage, and because most of Costco’s locations have a pharmacy on-site, they can pick up their prescriptions while they’re at work. 

Other national companies that provide benefits to part-time employees include UPS, Best Buy, Walmart and Lowe’s Home Improvement. Job applicants should look for such perks when reviewing job postings, and if the benefits aren’t listed there, they should ask potential employers about what might be available.

“Definitely ask when you’re in the interview,” says Stich. “Ask about benefits, just as you would ask about wages and salary.

Stich adds that there are particular benefits that older workers should ask about. “Health insurance is hugely popular, but it also is important to ask about things like disability insurance,” she says. “Does the company offer part-timers long-term disability options or short-term disability? What does sick leave look like? Those are things that are critical for your security as well. You never know what is going to happen with your health for anyone, no matter the age.”