Part-timers who work more than 30 hours a week for Half Price Books have long enjoyed health-insurance benefits -- 100% coverage of hospital visits for themselves and 50% coverage for their spouses and dependents. In June the $40-million Dallas book retailer extended that coverage to 10 part-timers who work more than 20 hours a week. Small companies nationwide fund health-care benefits for only 8% of part-time employees. Why does Half Price go the extra mile?

"We depend on long-term part-timers as much as we depend on full-timers," vice-president of personnel Tim Jernigan says. Part-time workers compose 23% of the company's workforce. Because many are transient -- the turnover rate among part-timers is 82% -- Jernigan wanted to reward longevity. The new policy specifies that part-timers who work 20 or more hours a week become eligible for health-care benefits after three years.

With such a small percentage of part-timers sticking around long enough to reap the benefits, the additional cost to the health-insurance plan was minimal. The additional coverage accounts for 7.8% of the $1 million the company expects to spend this year for employee health benefits.

Part-timers also share in profit-based company bonuses and in a 401(k) plan with a 25% company match. Vacations, sick days, holidays, and short-term-disability leave are prorated for all part-time workers. "We get better, more discerning people because we provide benefits," CEO Pat Anderson says. -- Reported by Stephanie Gruner

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