Workers Shift to Part-Time to Avoid Layoffs

While many companies are restructuring by laying off employees, other businesses are trying to shift their employees away from full time positions, and move them towards part-time positions. While some employees welcome the shift to less hours each week, other workers are struggling to keep up with their decreased salaries.

Some professions, such as law, are offering a percentage of employees salaries to not work for an entire year. The firm Skaden, Arps, Meagher, Slate, and Flom have offered associates $80,000 to take a year off. The firm even guarantees that when the employees return from their year off, the would be guaranteed a position. Furthermore, these employees would be immune from any layoffs that would occur while they are away, sweetening the deal even further. But employees faced with such a proposal should be wary, and seek guarantees of their employement after such an arrangment is made. Employees could potentially sign away their job and rights by taking such offers without evaluating the legal terms.

With waves of terminations, employees are worrying that there is a deep swell in the job market toward these employment practices. Employees who had taken reduced hours assuming that they would be returned to full time status when the economy bounces back. But a more foreboding outlook has these workers worried that they remain on part-time status and will not find other suitable full-time employment.

The move makes some sense for employers, who shoulder the costs associated with paying for full time employees. Aside from salary and wages, full time employees often receive benefits and other compensation. Part time employees however are much more limited in their compensation, and can often be paid less by an hourly wage. By managing a staff of part-time or contract workers, these companies can lower their overhead and get by in these tough economic times.

While this seems to be advantageous to for companies to do, this shift can result in unintended negative consequences for the work environment. A work force comprised of part time or contract workers could have significantly lower morale than other environments. Reduced morale in a work environment can reduce cohesion between employees, and affect the quality and pace of work. The company may save some money in paying their workers for less hours, but will struggle to keep up the same output as workers become more disinterested in their work and are potentially spreading their time across a few different jobs.

Another potential pitfall of this shift in employment practices is a higher rate of attrition and turn around amongst employees. While the at will employment situation we have in American allows for flexibility for hiring and firing decisions, this move towards part time employment would adversely affect employers as well. If employers are likely to use mostly part time workers, they must be ready to deal with the high costs of employee turn around. Training employees is considered one of the largest expenses that companies encounter, and that continually having employees come in and out the door raises costs beyond the original desire to save money with part time workers.

As companies shift to these practices, many believe the nature of employment in general will shift with it, with individuals no longer working specifically for one company full time, but acting more as independent contractors and other outsourced positions.