The White House this week announced it would delay by one year a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring employers to provide health insurance for their employees.
The one-year delay will allow the administration to streamline the process for complying and provide farm employers with the information they need to follow the law.
Business groups have lobbied for elimination or delayed implementation of the "employer mandate" citing reporting problems, burdensome provisions and potential for limiting job creation.
(Orignially published Dec. 6, 2012) The Obamacare healthcare reform law defines "full-time" work as averaging only 30 hours per week. That means labor-intensive ag businesses employing 50 or more workers must provide health insurance or pay a fine, according to analysts for the Northeast Equipment Dealers Association.
The term 'full-time employee' means, with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week – 10 hours fewer than the traditional 40-hour work week. It means those formerly part-time employees are now considered full-time employees. And, employers are mandated to provide the minimal level of government-defined health insurance coverage for them.
Again, that rule applies only for employers with 50 or more employees. And an employer will be required to pay a penalty per employee for each month it doesn't offer coverage.
The good news is that most farm businesses will be under the 50-worker count. That's because seasonal or temporary workers are exempted. It applies only to regular employees.
How it'll play out
The obscure provision recently emerged in regulations issued by the Internal Revenue Service for how employers must account for which workers are full-time, and which ones aren't. Under these standards, published in September, employers can choose a "look-back" period of between three and 12 months to measure if an employee has worked an average of 30 hours per week.
If an employee has worked 30 hours per week during this time, that person would count as a full-time employee for at least the next six months; regardless of how much they work, thus preventing employers from cutting hours to avoid the mandate. According to the report, an employer calculates the hours that the employee works during at least a three-month period, determining if the employee has worked 30 hours or more per week on average.
If that employee meets the 30-hour thresh-hold, he/she is counted as full-time for at least six months. If the employer has at least 50 total employees, health insurance must be provided or a fine will be payable.
Now, even bigger questions arise: Will current part-time employees be now considered as full-timers for the purposes of federal employment and unemployment statistics? And, will the rule change force employers to hire more people for less than 30-hour work weeks – far less than a "living wage"?