I am in the lucky situation as a 24h/week (3 days) software (web application) developer. While my working hours is the last thing I'd like to change, my current employer became now one of the first things. My recent interviews gave me the impression that employers don't even consider hiring a part time developer (e.g. two 20h/week instead of one 40h/week).

While I know only my side of that story I'd like to have insights of the other side. One reason I might think of are costs which are a function of the number of employers (e.g. a laptop or accounting) which would increase by 50%. I would like to get an idea of the significance of such costs in order to adjust my target salary during negotiations. Next to further valid reasons I'm also interested in possible fears or uninformed opinions (e.g. two part timers produce more facility costs).

Unfortunately I didn't ask the question to one employer yet (as I didn't want to make myself unattractive in the first round). I guess I will have to sacrifice some jobs to get more informations. But let's ask this question here in the first place.

My primary interest is about the situation in Germany. But I think the answer to this question might be globally the same, as one of those interviews was in Kuala Lumpur.

  • 5
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about regulations or agreements that are company-specific and don't have universally applicable answers.
    – gnat
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 19:15
  • 1
    @gnat Somehow all companies seem to universally agree on not having interest in part time developer. There must be some common reason for that reluctance which I don't see yet.
    – user19594
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 19:57
  • What's not to understand? Developers are expensive, and software projects are notorious for falling behind schedule. Then there's the retention issue; a part-timer at least feels less likely to stay with the company long-term, but long-term developers are the most productive (and losing an entrenched developer can be extremely disruptive). And capacity doesn't scale linearly with bodies; two 24h devs will cost more than one 40h dev and be less efficient in many scenarios. I see little to no long-term benefit from the company's point of view.
    – aroth
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 5:36
  • @aroth I think my understanding is limited by the naive thinking that a 3/5 developer will produce 3/5 costs plus x. I.e. two such developers will produce an overhead of x/2. I am looking for informed answers which give me an understanding about the significance of that overhead. But it's also helpful to learn that a further reason might be the idea that part timers are less productive. I will edit my question to make that more clear.
    – user19594
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 6:46
  • in case you still looking for a solution ... check out the teilzeitsarbeitgesetz (or what its called), basically after a year with one employer you can demand part time and the burden is on them to deny it.
    – mart
    Commented Feb 24, 2015 at 15:12

3 Answers 3


There are many things that are different with working part-time.

  • Experience. Somebody working 3/5 days for 5 years only accumulates 3 years of experience

  • Focus: your focus is probably somewhere else than work.

  • Direct Cost: Having two people working part time means you have to pay double for all their costs: Lohnnebenkosten, things like parking lots, office space, heating, light, support personel, accounting etc.

  • Indirect Cost: Having two people doing the job of one person means you have to spend double the man-hours on organisation. If meetings to organise the project cost 4 hours a week, having two people attend them will cost 8 man-hours per week. Organising the meeting so that both can attend will cost, too.

  • Reliability: With two people working, the chance of making no progress on a project because of all developers being sick or having days off is decreased.

  • New perspective: with more people on the job, you may get more diverse solutions

Companies maximize for easy profit. It comes down to only be profitable if instead of a full-time developer with 3 years experience the company can find two part-time developers that have 5 years experience each, but are willing to work for 3/5th of a position that pays 3/5th of their perceived experience. So they need to pay you less than half of a full-time developers salary and employ you more than half the hours the full-time developer works per week. And then it may be profitable.

Chances are, you don't get people that work more than half the time for less than half the money. Mostly, that works for companies that employ people that need the money so much they will take bad conditions as long as they can get a job.

In Germany there is a law governing part-time work (what else would you have expected from Germany?). The Teilzeit- und Befristungsgesetz states that once you did work full-time, you are entitled to a job working part-time if that is possible with your employer. I have not seen instances where this did not work out if you ask nicely, especially for parents. However, this is mostly seen as "temporary" even though temporary may well mean for the next 18 years.

  • Your points are helpful for my understanding. While there are valid reasons, there are also some invalid (e.g. most of the direct costs like light and heating and reliability). Which is also OK, as I want to get an idea of possible fears and uninformed opinions. May I ask you if you are in the role of an employer?
    – user19594
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 7:21
  • @user19594 I have never been an employer, but I have been in positions to interview people and have a vote on their employment.
    – nvoigt
    Commented May 19, 2014 at 8:32

Two part-timers are sometimes way more expensive for a company than one full-timer. You have more administrative overhead on both business and the technical sides. Last time I did the math social security deductions were more expensive, too, but I can't find the details on that anymore, sorry.

Also, web application might be a special case. Not every company needs permanent web-app development, but those who do tend to hire full-timers.

You might have better luck freelancing.

  • I have to admit that I didn't invest much time into research on the "Lohnnebenkosten". But what I found was only percentages of the salary. Do you have an approximated idea in what region those expenses are if you compare let's say two 35k€ developer against one 70k€ developer?
    – user19594
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 17:51
  • I dimly remember something around 30% of wages. The increased cost for "two-halves" came probably from having to deal with n+1 instead of n employees (important for small businesses) and organizing "the workforce". Commented May 18, 2014 at 18:40
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    Traditional Lohnnebenkosten is only a small part of the overhead. There is also HR, finance, office space, IT, food, services, etc. that are all a function of the number or people, regardless of how much they are making.
    – Hilmar
    Commented May 18, 2014 at 21:27
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    @StefanSchmiedl - not to mention that it can be inconvenient and inefficient when the bulk of full-time employees need to deal with a part-time employee on a critical path. Commented May 19, 2014 at 0:17
  • @Carson63000 well then they need to plan better Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 19:33

There are already a couple of excellent answers. I'd like to elaborate a bit on the "organisation" aspect.

  • In a Scrum process, developers will need to attend planning sessions, reviews and retrospectives (and things will be similar in other processes).
  • Developers need to attend trainings.
  • There are all-hands meetings.
  • You will need to deal with the email background radiation.

All these place a constant demand on each employee's time, whether he works 20h per week, 40h or 60h. Suppose these things consume 4h per week, and that's a very conservative estimate. 4h are 20% of a 20h/week employee, but only 10% of a 40h/week employee. Put otherwise, two 20h/week employees only yield 2*16=32h total productive time, whereas one 40h/week employee yields 36h, or 12.5% more. (If you believe a 12.5% differential in productivity is no big deal, try negotiating for a 12.5% pay raise without a compelling reason.)

Part-timing is certainly possible, even in very large German software companies. But it will almost always involve people who have been with the company for quite some time and who already have a lot of specialized knowledge. For a beginner, part-timing would first of all mean that he will take six months instead of three to learn the ropes.

  • Not every one uses (most misuse) SCRUM and daily stand-ups are not always required even them Commented Aug 7, 2018 at 19:32

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