Businesses Balk at Obamacare Definition of Full-Time Work

US News and World Report posted an article today discussing the new provision in the Affordable Care Act that 30 hour work weeks are considered full time and it’s effects on the service industry and others. There’s a lot of debate on this topic in a lot of industries, but this hits the restaurant and hospitality industry the hardest.

This point is brought up a couple times in the article, but it’s very true that the schedule flexibility in the restaurant industry is attractive to a lot of people. I know when I was waiting tables and tending bar in a resort town it was great to be able to pick up shifts and work doubles when the snow wasn’t great or during the very busy weeks. Then take off on weeks when the snow was good and be able to give up shifts and spend more time on the mountain. I wonder how schedule flexibility is going to be affected with this change?

What are your thoughts on this provision? How is it affecting your business?

The full article is posted below:

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The controversy over what counts as a full-time job under the Affordable Care Act continues, especially for those in the service industry.

Lawmakers and several service industry associations are contesting the provision in President Barack Obama’s signature health care law known as the employer mandate, saying it is harmful for American workers. The mandate defines a full-time employee as a person who works on average 30 hours weekly, and requires that business with 50 or more full-time employees provide health insurance to at least 95 percent of those workers and their dependents up to age 26, or pay a fee.

“Lots of people who are working part-time now want to have full-time jobs, and that’s made more difficult by this provision of the health care law that discourages employers from hiring or keeping full-time employees,” said Jack Mozloom, spokesman for the National Federation of Independent Business.

The NFIB, some restaurant associations and certain community colleges support legislation in the House and Senate that aims to change the definition of a full-time employee to one working an average of 40 hours a week. Without such an alteration to the ACA, Republican-led lawmakers claim, there could be a devastating economic impact.

“The inevitable result is going to be fewer full-time employees, and I really don’t see how the other side can argue with that logic unless they completely misunderstand business,” Mozloom said.

Restaurant owners are also particularly concerned.

Thousands of jobs are at stake with the continuation of the provision, Sam Toia, CEO of the Illinois Restaurant Association, said in a statement.

“Because of the Affordable Care Act’s arbitrary 30-hour-per-week definition of a full-time employee, restaurants are being forced to restructure their workforce by reducing their employees’ hours,” he said. “Employees are losing the mobility and flexibility in their schedules they normally would enjoy when working at a restaurant. Opportunities are decreasing for young and inexperienced workers to gain entry-level employment and advance into a fulfilling career in the restaurant and hospitality industry.”

Karen Bremer, executive director of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said when she worked her way through college, having flexible hours allowed her to work less when she needed time to study for finals and work more during the holidays when others wanted time off. Less flexibility would mean workers had fewer opportunities to learn certain “soft skills.”

“We’re the industry that teaches America how to come to work on time, how to smile, how to work on a team with other people, to follow orders, and to make change and to provide customer service. We do a great service to the United States in terms…of teaching those soft skills,” Bremer said.

But Gary Burtless, an economist who researches the labor market policy at the Brookings Institution, said changing the employer mandate would hurt workers, not help them.

By raising the amount of hours classifying a full-time employee to 40 hours a week, employers are incentivized to cut workers hours to avoid providing health insurance, he said. Since those who work 40 hours per week represent a larger part of the workforce, the proposed alterations would do more harm than good, he explained.

“The whole rationale for this is so completely flipped on its head economically,” he said. “They basically want to exempt most, a huge share of employment in the United States, from mandatory coverage under the Affordable Care Act”.

The restaurant industry isn’t the only one struggling with the mandate. Some community colleges, like Ivy Tech Community College in Indiana, worry that the provision will make it difficult to find faculty members.

“We are challenged to find credentialed faculty in certain areas and if we are limited in the hours we can provide such faculty, it only makes that challenge more difficult and could put us in a position where we cannot (offer) many courses in some of the disciplines,” Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said in an email.

Julie Garcia, director of human services at Northern Virginia Community College, said the provision has not plagued her college. But she understands how it could impact smaller schools.

Costs for personnel, the largest part of colleges’ workforce, rise every year, Garcia said. Managing this is difficult, especially for a small team juggling other things, she said.

The 30-hour provision has resulted in a smaller number of “classified part-time” employees, who work between 30 and 40 hours at NOVA, Garcia said.

The Save American Workers Act of 2015 passed the House in January without Republican dissension. It is currently in the Senate Finance Committee. The Forty Hours is Full Time Act, however, is still stalled in a Senate committee.

Obama has vowed to veto any legislation aiming to change the definition of a full-time employee.

“We can’t put the security of families at risk by taking away their health insurance,” the president said.“And if a bill comes to my desk that tries to do any of these things, I will veto it.”

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