Full-time employees cost more than just the hourly wage you pay them, thus making it prohibitive to hire one. But some of your best candidates may not want a part-time job. If you can arrange to share the employee's time and expense with another employer (or employers), you may have a solution. Obviously, it works best when all of the employers share the same physical space and the employee has just one work area.
When you share an employee, you must decide how much time—or how much work—the employee will do for each employer. If both (or all) employers need the same type and amount of work from the employee, the division of labor is a lot easier. For example, if you share an office suite with other professionals, and you hire a receptionist to greet visitors, answer the phones, sort the mail, and handle deliveries, you can simply schedule the employee's hours and divide the cost equally.
However, if you need different types or amounts of work from the employee, or if your needs will vary depending on your work load (as is often the case), you have a couple of options for dividing the employee's time.
The simplest way is to divide the hours as you think you will use them—for example, the employee will work 30 hours per week, and each employer will pay for 15 of those hours and have the right to use half of the employee's time. If one employer doesn't have enough work to keep the employee busy for the full 15 hours in a given week, the other can take over some of the hours and reimburse the first employer for them—but if the second employer doesn't need those hours, the first is still responsible for paying the employee for all of them.
Alternatively, the employee can keep track of hours spent working for each employer on a time sheet or computer spreadsheet. The employers can divide the costs pro rata each pay period depending on the time the employee spent on each. If the employee spends administrative time that benefits everyone (such as sorting the mail or handling issues for the shared space, like scheduling janitorial services or stocking the office refrigerator), the employers can divide that time equally. This system requires good communication, because the employers and the employee must make sure the employee's time is used efficiently and that there isn't competition for hours. It works best if there's a general idea of how much time each employer will use, and a good system for communicating needs and expectations.
No matter how you divide the employee's time, make sure you respect the agreement and the employee. Try to anticipate problems prioritizing tasks and maintaining boundaries between jobs. If the employee devotes a particular amount of time each week to each employer, you'll need rules about whether and in what circumstances you may deviate from that schedule. If the employee doesn't have set hours for each employer, the employers must decide how they will prioritize work and then communicate those priorities to the employee, so that the employee doesn't have to make difficult decisions about whose work should be done first.
EXAMPLE: Two architects share work space and also split the cost of a part-time administrative assistant who answers the phone, processes mail, does filing, and takes on miscellaneous tasks as needed, including making the occasional delivery. It occasionally happens that one person has important correspondence that needs to go out the same day, while the other has a delivery that needs to be made—and it may not be possible for both things to happen in the time the assistant has. The first time it happened, she didn't stress, because her instructions were that in the event of a potential conflict, she was to inform both of her employers so that they could work it out between themselves. They did, and it also inspired them to start a simple system under which they used a white board to list "same-day projects." That way the employers could see what was going on and do the prioritizing, again without causing the employee to worry about whose work she should be doing.
You must also decide how to pay the employee. The easier method is to make one person responsible for payroll and issue one check, and have the other employer(s) reimburse that person for their share of the wages, taxes, and insurance. The challenge of doing it this way is that you must keep very clear records not only of the payroll checks issued, but also of the payments made by the unofficial employers, so that they can document and deduct those payments for tax purposes. If you're sharing hours in an irregular way (according to need, for example), calculating shares of taxes and other expenses can get cumbersome.
Other options are to have each employer set up a separate payroll account and pay the employee for time worked for that person, or to set up a joint account for payroll, as the employers in the agreement below do.
Benjamin Coke and Suzanne Clarkson agree to hire an employee whose work time they will share, under the following terms.
_____________________ Benjamin Coke ________ Date
_____________________ Suzanne Clarkson ________ Date