Enough has been written and said about the “unintended consequences” of the Affordable Care Act regarding part-time work. Some employers, including big ones like Wal-Mart, have taken advantage of the exclusion of workers who put in less than 30 hours a week to completely drop whatever healthcare they were offering to part-timers while reducing the hours of other workers to less than 30 per week. Others have plans to offer ‘skinny insurance plans’ which offer limited benefits that may not include essential coverage. But, of course, the very postponement of the ACA’s mandate is a clear indication that the government recognizes the need to to plug the loopholes left wide open by the ACA.
One such development is the introduction of the Part-time Worker Bill of Rights aimed at extending healthcare, family leave and retirement rights and benefits to part-timers too! The bill would penalize employers for failing to provide health coverage, include part-time workers in the employers’ pension plan and extend other critical benefits and protections.
In an interesting take on the effects of the Affordable Care Act, according to a Randstad survey, 33% of all workers (or 47.5 million Americans) would consider temporary work as a viable option once health insurance becomes available while 43% are willing to take up a non-traditional work arrangement when it is made possible.
The combined effect of both acts would necessarily have a corresponding increase in alternative types of employment like independent contractors or staffing contractors through staffing agencies. While independent contractors, who are self-employed, would still be responsible for their own healthcare coverage, staffing contractors would be covered as W-2 employees of the staffing agency. This may result in an increase in the costs associated with retaining agency contractors for specific engagements, but the employer may escape the necessity of proving the compliance with the ACA’s tenets.
The ultimate goal of the Affordable Care Act is to bring healthcare closer to every citizen. . As often happens, employers must balance the value of loyal, productive employees against worker costs. It is important for employers to keep the spirit as well as the letter of the law in mind.
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