Skip to Content

Part-Time vs Full-Time Hours (Canada Definition)

What is the difference between part-time and full-time hours? 

There is no legal difference between part-time and full-time hours. Neither employment law legislation nor employment common law recognizes any meaningful difference between part-time and full-time work.

Therefore, technically, there is no difference, in terms of any employment law rights, between a part-time worker and a full-time worker.

A part-time employee and a full-time employee have the same entitlement to minimum standards and the full suite of rights that every other employee in Canada has.

Employers don’t even need to define part-time vs full-time hours. A company is free to hire an employee for just 1 hour a week or 100 hours a week (so long as minimum standards regarding minimum pay and overtime pay are satisfied). 

Thus, in conclusion, from a lawyer’s perspective, there is no difference between part-time and full-time hours. 

However, while we have explained there is no legal difference between part-time and full-time hours, there is an obvious difference in the real world. Some companies do define part-time vs full-time in their policies and contracts, and for these employers, full-time workers usually must work 37.5 or 40 hours per week, while part-time workers must work some lesser amount, usually 30 hours or less per week. However, keep in mind this is a single employer’s policy, not the policy or the law of a province. At the same time, there is no industry standard (or legal standard) for the maximum hours a part-time employee can work. An employer can set any number as the maximum number of hours a part-time worker can work. 

Part Time Employees And Wages and Benefits

Some employers provide benefits to full-time employees but not to part-time employees. Or they pay part-time employees fewer wages per hour/year than full-time employees. There is nothing unlawful about this however. An employer is free to pay someone less or provide them lesser or no benefits for any reason that isn’t discriminatory. And it is a lawful reason to refuse benefits or higher wages to a part-time employee because doing so is not a ground for discrimination as defined by human rights legislation. 

Indeed, in one labour law case, an Ontario court confirmed that an employer does not discriminate by refusing to provide certain benefits that a full-time employee is normally given to a part-time employee at the same company – even when the employee was only working part time because of their disability. 

Once again, the courts and the legislators have taken a view of employment law in terms of economic efficiency and decided that employers ought to have the right to save money on certain workers by paying them fewer wages if they are only doing part-time labour. 

Thus, in summary, there is no legal difference between part-time and full-time hours in Canada, and employers can freely pay part-time workers less than full-time workers for the same kind of labour. Moreover, there is no standard full time or part hours in Canada. An employer is free to set its own “part time” hours and employee classifications without breaking any law.