I want to be a part-time lover
July 6, 2014 9:50 AM   Subscribe

Like most organizations, my company is very stingy when it comes to giving benefits to part-time workers. I'm looking for the best arguments -- moral, financial, practical, or otherwise -- for granting these important employees paid time off in particular (for illnesses, vacation, holidays, bereavement, etc.) "Best" meaning arguments that would be understood and ideally persuasive to management.

The best I've come up with so far is "presenteeism", where sick workers without benefits feel compelled to show up, potentially sharing any contagious illnesses with their co-workers.

Grateful for any leads and/ or search tips!
posted by woodman to Work & Money (13 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If you aren't providing good incentives for people to stay in a position, you're going to have incredibly high turnover. I don't know what industry you are in, but having to re-train people all the time is bad for everyone.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:55 AM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

If they are fine with staffing with part-timers, then you have a very long road ahead of you. However you could argue that employees who get better treatment tend to feel a sense of ownership. Provide more follow-through, and in general are better employees because they feel part of the company. I would be wearing thigh high boots when presenting this.
posted by Gungho at 9:57 AM on July 6, 2014

Best answer: Benefits for PT employees can help attract top-notch employees to your company, and may help ensure their loyalty. Well-treated employees are happy employees, and happy employees are more loyal and more productive employees. Loyal, productive employees give way to less turnover, which means lower hiring and training costs. Lower hiring and training costs means the company has the money to provide benefits for PT employees. With no benefits at all for PT employees, it's reasonable to assume that all your PT employees are going to be looking for something better to come along, which is going to cost the company in hiring costs, training costs, and continuity of service/production/care/whatever is appropriate in your industry.

It may be easier to start with lower cost benefits, like flex time, telecommuting (if feasible), or free food. I've seen a lot of companies have "Free Food Friday" once or twice a month for ALL employees, regardless of PT/FT status.

With PTO, perhaps you could make a pitch that includes PT employees having to wait 180 days, instead of 90 days like FT staff to be eligible. A prorated number of hours of PTO vs hours worked would probably be necessary as well.
posted by The Almighty Mommy Goddess at 10:02 AM on July 6, 2014

Best answer: Presenteeism is a very good argument and one used by a lot of corporate consultants. Another is the issue of reducing turnover-- a company that gives its part time staff basic benefits is one where the staff will be more likely to stay longer, leading to a more stable workforce, if only because such benefits aren't available elsewhere.

But keep in mind that I don't believe the issue is as simple as "management hasn't heard the right arguments" to account for their decisions. In many cases they prefer "presenteeism" to a staff that feels like they have the autonomy to call out sick. Many want a high turnover among their part time staff to underscore the low level, temporary nature of the work rather than end up with staffers who may hoard too much specialized knowledge and/or demand full time status or other promotions.

What I am saying is that this is highly dependent on the corporate culture, and you have to argue how better benefits for part timers aligns with their corporate goals.
posted by deanc at 10:10 AM on July 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: A persuasive argument is one that addresses the values and motivations of the deciders and the specific circumstances they find themselves in. Nobody here knows what those are, so I would read this AskMe as a brainstorming session rather than a question that actually produces answers.

That said: I think you're coming at this the wrong way. You have identified a problem you have and a solution to it. You are, now, proposing solutions to that problem to your management. You've missed a step, though: your management doesn't have a problem, so solutions -- especially ones like this that cost money -- are not going to be persuasive.

So your first goal ought to be to identify a problem for your company and/or managers. For example, "turn-over" is only going to be a persuasive argument if you can convince your managers that the current rate of turn-over is a real problem that they are facing right now as opposed to a theoretical problem that they could hypothetically improve on. The answers in this question might be useful in terms of helping you know what kinds of problems to look for.

Once you've identified one or more actual problems in your workplace that impact your managers and/or company, you now have the job of selling those problems to your management. This is not the time to talk about your proposed solutions. You have to get them on board first; they have to agree that there's a problem and that it is a serious problem that merits a solution. After that, you can try suggesting your solutions, but don't be surprised if they try to solve the problems on their own.

The first solutions they try will probably not be the solutions you're looking for. If they solve (or make progress on) any of the problems you've brought up, be appreciative. If it didn't quite solve the problem all the way, you're back to step one: convincing them that the remainder of the problem is a real, serious problem that they ought to find a solution for. If they try, but make no progress using their own solutions, be appreciative, but keep suggesting your own solutions. The appreciation is important because it signals that you care about the company and the actual problem rather than caring only about your own level of benefits.

Also recognize that it might be that either there are no actual problems with their current policy or that they prefer the existing problems to the solution of giving part-timers PTO.
posted by toomuchpete at 10:38 AM on July 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Best answer: My field of research is positive organizations specifically what creates organizational commitment and prosocial behaviors in employees. I did a quick pass of the research using the terms "part-time" and "employee benefits" and didn't find anything to support your case. I added "turnover intention" and again didn't find anything juicy. Adding "presenteeism" didn't help either.

Here are some articles which you might find useful. I skimmed these looking for information about benefits - none were directly on point, but all had value as a way to think about part-time workers.

Dick, P., & Hyde, R. (November 01, 2006). Consent as Resistance, Resistance as Consent: Re-Reading Part-Time Professionals’ Acceptance of Their Marginal Positions. Gender, Work & Organization, 13, 6, 543-564.
This study is interesting because it looks at how reduced load employees see their choice/work conditions. Research has suggested that part-time professionals recognize their marginalization as a legitimate consequence of their choice to work part-time.

Wittmer, J. L. S., & Martin, J. E. (July 01, 2011). Work and personal role involvement of part-time employees: Implications for attitudes and turnover intentions. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 32, 5, 767-787.
Very interesting and recent look at part-time workers. This study finds that part-timers are are less psychologically involved in the workplace, experience less positive work attitudes, and have higher turnover intentions than full-time employees. It's not benefit focused, but it neatly summarizes the counterpoint argument. (Why invest more in employees with less positive work attitudes and higher turnover intention?)

Nelen, A., & De, G. A. (March 01, 2009). Why Do Part-time Workers Invest Less in Human Capital than Full-timers?. Labour, 23, 61-83.
Dutch study concludes that part-time employees receive less support in the form of performance interviews, personal development plans, and feedback. If you wanted to get more out of part-timers, could you attack this problem without touching benefits?

I'm not saying that you are wrong. However, I could not support your argument in the research. If you don't have access to those articles and would like them let me know.
posted by 26.2 at 11:59 AM on July 6, 2014

It increases the value of your sunk costs associated with training because you'll reduce turnover.
posted by spunweb at 12:01 PM on July 6, 2014

It'll reduuce time theft and shrink. If people feel like they have time to take care of themselves and that the company respects them, they're more likely to show up on time and not sick, more likely to work hard while they're at work, and less likely to steal, do a sloppy job, or ignore policy and procedures.

San Francisco mandates paid sick time for part-time workers. It's an hour earned for every 30 worked. You might want to look into the results of that. I believe Paco Underhill has also done research on morale and absennteeism in a retail environment that includes part timers; in an office or similar environment, look to studies of library part timers and paraprofessionals for more data.

I agree with other commenters, however -- the argument will not be won with a solution, it will be won by convincing management that there is a problem. Treating part timers like inhuman robots is normal, so you need to give a big picture reason why the status quo has to change, ideally expressed as a dollar amount.
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:22 PM on July 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Additionally, if your part timers are customer facing and you have high turnover...you not only have the sunk cost of training and onboarding, but you lose business incrementally because your new people are not ever going to be as skilled as your old hands. So you get someone new, for 3 months or so they're going to do a subpar job just out of inexperience. If youur part timers are churning through every 6 months, you're losing money on both the training (which is both supplies, new nametags, forms, etc but also the time cost of the trainer and HR) and from a constant low level of performance that you wouldn't see on a trained, experienced team that has worked together for a while. (It is particularly easy demonstrate this with selling/commission stats, but you should use the metric you have.)
posted by blnkfrnk at 12:26 PM on July 6, 2014

At the big box store I work at, part time because all the people in the dept I'm in are hired part time, the training is done on a computer, despite the job dealing exclusively with customers face to face. They seem to use my job as the gateway to getting promoted up the chain. Training costs them only for the hours of time put in by the trainees to watch the videos and take the quizzes. I think they see high turnover as a feature, not a bug. I don't think there is any argument that could be made to change their minds. YMMV.
posted by Meep! Eek! at 2:20 PM on July 6, 2014

What's their advertising budget like? The cost of some beinifits could be counted as part of the brand and marketing. The pr boost from adding the bennies may more than offset the yearly cost.
posted by Sophont at 2:56 PM on July 6, 2014

Hah, yeah, I don't think a lot of people care about turnover any more. Easy come, easy go.
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:26 PM on July 6, 2014

Response by poster: Hmmm ... Some great food for thought for here. A bit discouraging that 26.2 doesn't find any support in the academic literature. Will be looking at our turnover rates & the associated training costs, and following up on some of the other ideas. Thanks to all for the great ideas.
posted by woodman at 12:23 AM on July 7, 2014

« Older Name that Bug, Cameroonian Edition   |   Moscow on a very restrictive diet. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.