Per Diem vs Part Time: Key Differences Explained

Thinking about how to balance your work schedule with your personal life? If so, you might be wondering whether per diem or part-time employment suits you better. Both options offer unique advantages and challenges, and understanding them can help you make an informed decision.

Let’s break down what per diem employment involves and how it compares to part-time work.

What is Per Diem Employment?

Per diem employment is a type of work arrangement where you get paid by the day. Employers call you in as needed, often on short notice. This setup provides flexibility but lacks the consistency of a regular schedule.

Characteristics of per diem work include irregular hours and the ability to accept or decline shifts based on your availability. You won’t have a set number of hours each week, which can be both a benefit and a drawback depending on your situation.

Industries commonly using per diem workers include healthcare, education, and hospitality. Nurses, substitute teachers, and event staff often find per diem opportunities. This type of employment suits those who need flexibility and can handle the unpredictability of work schedules.

TIP: For businesses managing per diem employees, consider using a shift schedule tool to streamline scheduling and reduce confusion.

What is Part-Time Employment?

Balancing family commitments or pursuing further education? Part-time employment might be the solution you’re looking for.

Part-time employment involves working fewer hours than a full-time schedule, typically less than 35 hours per week. You have a set schedule, but it doesn’t require the same time commitment as a full-time job. This type of employment suits those who need a steady income but also want to balance other responsibilities.

Characteristics of part-time work include regular hours, which can be daily or spread out over the week. You usually know your schedule in advance, allowing for better planning of personal activities. Part-time roles often come with some benefits, such as paid time off or health insurance, though these benefits are usually less comprehensive than those offered to full-time employees.

Industries commonly using part-time workers include retail, food service, and customer service. Retail stores often hire part-time employees to handle peak hours and weekends. Restaurants and cafes rely on part-time staff to manage busy meal times. Customer service centers use part-time workers to cover various shifts throughout the day. This type of employment is ideal if you seek consistent hours and some level of job stability while maintaining flexibility for other pursuits.

TIP: Learn more about the pros and cons of full-time vs part-time employment to make an informed decision.

What are the Key Differences Between Per Diem vs Part-Time?

Wondering how these options stack up against each other? Let’s dive into the specifics.

Hours and Scheduling Differences

Per diem employment offers the highest level of flexibility. You work only when needed, often on short notice. This means your hours can vary significantly from week to week. You might work several days in a row or have weeks with no shifts at all. This variability allows you to accept or decline shifts based on your availability and personal schedule.

TIP: Consider using on-call scheduling alternatives to manage per diem employees more effectively.

Part-time employment, on the other hand, provides more consistency. You have a set schedule with a predetermined number of hours each week, typically ranging from 10 to 30 hours. This regularity helps you plan your personal life around your work schedule. You know in advance when you’ll be working, which can make it easier to manage other commitments.

Pay and Benefits Differences

Per diem workers often receive higher hourly pay compared to part-time employees. This higher rate compensates for the lack of guaranteed hours and benefits. However, per diem workers usually do not receive benefits such as health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans. The higher pay rate is designed to offset these missing benefits.

Part-time employees typically earn less per hour than their per diem counterparts but may receive some benefits. These can include health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plan options, though the extent of these benefits varies by employer. The trade-off for lower hourly pay is the added security of benefits and a more predictable income.

Job Security and Advancement Differences

Job security for per diem workers is generally lower. Since you work on an as-needed basis, there is no guarantee of consistent work. Your employment depends on the fluctuating needs of the employer, which can lead to periods without any shifts. Advancement opportunities are also limited, as per diem roles are often temporary and do not always lead to permanent positions.

Part-time employment offers more job security. You have a regular schedule and a more stable relationship with your employer. This stability can lead to better opportunities for advancement within the company. Employers may consider part-time workers for full-time roles or promotions, especially if you demonstrate reliability and strong performance.

TIP: Understand the signs an employee is about to quit to better manage both per diem and part-time staff.

What are the Pros and Cons of Per Diem Work?

Weighing the flexibility of per diem work against its unpredictability? Here’s what you need to know.

Pros of Per Diem

Flexibility stands out as a significant advantage of per diem work. You can choose when to accept shifts, allowing you to manage your time according to personal commitments. This flexibility suits those who have varying schedules or need to balance other responsibilities such as school or family.

Variety is another benefit. Working per diem means you often work in different settings and with different teams. This exposure helps you gain diverse experiences and skills, keeping the job interesting and engaging. You might find yourself in various departments or even different locations, which can be both challenging and rewarding.

Higher hourly pay is a common feature of per diem positions. Employers often offer a higher rate to compensate for the lack of benefits and the unpredictability of work hours. This can be particularly appealing if you are looking to maximize your earnings in a short period.

Cons of Per Diem

Inconsistent hours present a major drawback. Since per diem work depends on the immediate needs of the employer, you might experience weeks with plenty of shifts followed by periods with little to no work. This inconsistency can make it difficult to plan your finances and personal life.

TIP: Consider using Homebase’s time clock feature to track hours accurately and manage labor costs effectively.

Lack of benefits is another downside. Per diem workers typically do not receive health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans. This means you need to secure these benefits independently, which can be costly and complicated.

Less job security is inherent in per diem roles. You are not guaranteed a set number of hours or a long-term position. Your employment depends on the fluctuating needs of the employer, which can lead to uncertainty about your job stability and future income.

What are the Pros and Cons of Part-Time Work?

Thinking part-time might be a safer bet for balancing responsibilities? Let’s look at the details.

Pros of Part-Time

More consistent hours stand out as a significant benefit of part-time work. You have a set schedule, making it easier to plan your week. Knowing your work hours in advance helps you manage other commitments, whether it’s family, education, or hobbies.

Some benefits come with part-time employment. While not as comprehensive as full-time benefits, part-time roles often include perks like health insurance, paid time off, and retirement plan options. These benefits provide a safety net, reducing out-of-pocket expenses for healthcare and offering some financial security.

TIP: Explore the 4/10 work schedule as an alternative to traditional part-time hours for better work-life balance.

Better work-life balance is another advantage. Part-time work allows you to maintain a steady income while having enough free time to pursue personal interests or responsibilities. This balance can reduce stress and improve overall well-being, making it easier to juggle work with other aspects of your life.

Cons of Part-Time

Lower pay is a common drawback. Part-time employees generally earn less per hour compared to full-time or per diem workers. This lower pay can impact your overall earnings, especially if you rely solely on part-time income to meet financial obligations.

Less advancement opportunities exist in part-time roles. Employers often prioritize full-time employees for promotions and career development programs. This can limit your growth within the company and reduce your chances of moving into higher-paying positions or roles with more responsibility.

TIP: For part-time employees, consider using Homebase’s payroll services to ensure accurate and timely payment.

How to Decide Between Per Diem vs Part-Time?

Feeling overwhelmed by the choices? Here are some tips to help you decide.

Evaluate lifestyle and financial needs. Look at your current lifestyle and financial obligations. Per diem work offers flexibility but can lead to inconsistent income. If you need a steady paycheck to cover regular expenses like rent, utilities, and groceries, part-time work might be more suitable. Assess how much variability you can handle in your income and whether you have other financial safety nets in place.

Consider career goals. Think about where you want to go in your career. Per diem roles provide diverse experiences across different settings, which can be valuable if you’re looking to build a broad skill set quickly. However, part-time positions often offer more opportunities for advancement within a single organization. If climbing the career ladder or gaining promotions is a priority, part-time work might align better with your goals.

TIP: Learn more about managing employees with multiple jobs to understand how to balance per diem and part-time roles.

Factor in benefits importance. Benefits play a significant role in employment decisions. Per diem workers generally do not receive benefits like health insurance, paid time off, or retirement plans. If these benefits are important to you, part-time employment may be the better option, as it often includes some level of benefits, even if they are not as comprehensive as those offered to full-time employees. Consider how much you value these benefits and whether you can afford to secure them independently if you choose per diem work.

What are the Legal Rights of Per Diem and Part-Time Employees?

Concerned about your rights and protections? Here’s what you need to know.

Minimum Wage and Overtime Laws

Both per diem and part-time employees have the right to receive at least the minimum wage set by federal, state, or local laws. Employers must ensure that hourly rates meet or exceed these minimums. For overtime, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) mandates that employees working over 40 hours in a week receive overtime pay at one and a half times their regular rate. While per diem employees might not often hit this threshold due to irregular hours, part-time employees could, depending on their schedules.

TIP: Understand how to define full-time hours to ensure compliance with labor laws.

Breaks and Time Off Regulations

Breaks and time off regulations vary by state, but generally, employees have the right to rest and meal breaks during their shifts. For example, many states require a 30-minute meal break for shifts longer than five hours and a 10-minute rest break for every four hours worked. These rules apply to both per diem and part-time employees. Paid time off (PTO) policies can differ significantly between employers. Part-time employees might accrue PTO based on hours worked, while per diem employees typically do not receive PTO unless specified in their contract.

Discrimination and Harassment Protections

Per diem and part-time employees are protected under various federal and state laws against discrimination and harassment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces laws that prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. These protections ensure that all employees, regardless of their employment status, have the right to work in an environment free from discrimination and harassment. Employers must provide training and establish clear policies to prevent and address any issues that arise.

By understanding the differences between per diem vs part-time employment, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your lifestyle, financial needs, and career goals. Whether you prioritize flexibility or stability, there are tools and resources available to help you manage your work schedule effectively.


  • What: Choosing between per diem and part-time work.
  • So What: Helps match job choice to lifestyle and financial needs.
  • Pros & Cons: Per diem is flexible and higher-paid but inconsistent; part-time is stable with benefits but lower-paid.
  • Bottom Line: Pick per diem for flexibility and part-time for stability.

Discover how Homebase’s tools can make managing your shifts and payroll seamless and efficient. Explore Homebase’s payroll solutions and take the first step towards a more organized work-life balance.


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