As employers seek to get the most out of their workforces and limited payroll budgets, they employ several different types of employment relationships with their workers. While full-time and part-time cover most work arrangements, others use the freelance or contractor approach. Fractional employment is another option, sharing certain qualities with part-time and freelance employment but also maintaining key differences.

Fractional Work Defined

The easiest way to define part-time employment is as an arrangement in which an employee works for a single company for less than 40 hours per week. Fractional employment is more complex. It generally consists of workers who offer their services to one or more employers at predetermined schedules that are less than full time for any one business but have defined end dates. In this way, fractional employment includes characteristics of freelance work, seasonal employment and part-time work.

Work Type

Many part-time jobs are entry-level positions that businesses use to fill workforce gaps, keep labor flexible and screen candidates for advancement to full-time positions. This is not the case with fractional work, which often involves highly skilled workers and high-level technical positions. For example, fractional work is prevalent in academics, with non-tenured professors filling positions for one or more semesters, and working for multiple universities concurrently.


Fractional work and part-time work are different in large part due to the way employers schedule the workers. Part-time employees may receive different schedules each week or month. They can sometimes trade shifts with colleagues or request unpaid leave. They also earn overtime for hours above specific hourly limits or for working on weekends or holidays.

Fractional workers have set schedules, which may include days of eight or more hours' duration. While employers may distribute available hours to part-timers as they want to, employers are bound by contracts in paying fractional employees for their defined work hours each pay period.

Pros and Cons

Both part-time and fractional work can have benefits for employers and workers. In each case, employers benefit from not needing to pay full-time salaries and benefits to new workers. Fractional employees set their own schedules and wage rates as they contract with employers but must stick to the terms to which they agree. Part-time workers have similar flexibility but may be able to earn raises and keep their positions for years, whereas fractional workers leave when the contract term expires.