A coalition of restaurant, retail and franchise groups has expressed confidence that they could push changes in the Affordable Care Act’s definition of full-time workers in the new Republican-led House and Senate.
Industry groups seek to revise the ACA’s definition of a full-time workweek from the current 30 hours to “the more historic standard of 40 hours per week,” said the National Restaurant Association, which noted that there are 7.5 million hourly workers at U.S. restaurants and bars.
The workweek definition has been a longstanding priority for industry groups. The ACA’s current “employer-mandate provision” requires certain companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide healthcare coverage to their full-time employees and dependents, or potentially be penalized. The ACA defines an employee working 30 hours a week as full time.
“It is a good sign to the industry that one of our issues is among the first issues that this Congress will address,” said Scott DeFife, the NRA’s executive vice president for policy and government affairs, in an interview Tuesday. “That’s an important signal to the industry that there is hope we can make some changes to mitigate the impact of the law on restaurant operations.”
The NRA is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Hotel & Lodging Association, the International Franchise Association and a number of other retail groups to affect the ACA changes in an umbrella campaign called “More Time for Full Time.” Link: MoreTimeForFullTime.org
House members are scheduled to vote Thursday on an ACA workweek bill, H.R. 30, to raise the definition to 40 hours. The House passed the bill, introduced by Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., and Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., twice last year, but it was not considered in the Senate.
This year, however, a companion bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., was reintroduced Wednesday.
Jack Crawford, the NRA’s new chairman, and president and CEO of the Ground Round Independent Owners Cooperative, appeared with Collins and Donnelly at a press conference in Washington, D.C.
“With a workforce of over 13.5 million, restoring the definition of a full-time workweek to the traditional 40-hour model is critical now more than ever,” Crawford said in prepared remarks. “As it stands, the 30-hour definition under the current healthcare law forces employers to restructure our workforce and unwantedly reduce employee hours.”
Robert J. Green, executive director of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, a division of the National Retail Federation, on Wednesday expressed his group’s “strong support” of the House legislation.
“H.R. 30 aligns the Affordable Care Act’s current definition of full-time work — 30 hours per week — with the definition found in most other workplace rules — 40 hours,” Green said. “The 40-hour workweek is a time-honored American tradition ingrained in our laws and culture; the ACA’s 30-hour per week threshold is a peculiar, restrictive and detrimental provision of the law.”
Green said the 30-hour definition led to “difficult and complicated calculations required for chain restaurant businesses to be in compliance” with the act’s requirements.
“The 40-hour full-time workweek definition in H.R. 30 will allow business owners to make rational decisions about staffing levels in their restaurants and will provide employees additional and needed opportunities to work additional hours,” Green said.
(Continued from page 1)
The timetable for the Senate’s companion bill remains unclear, the NRA’s DeFife said. “There are more procedural issues in the Senate that have to be worked out, but we hope those will be worked out shortly,” he said. “It’s more a matter of when and how, not if, in the Senate. It will happen.”
DeFife said restaurant operators have made changes in the workweek definition a top priority for their industry representatives in the capital.
“The 30-hour definition is so contrary to other parts of their operations in terms of workforce planning,” DeFife said. “And there is no other labor law that gears anyone toward 30 hours a week as full time. This arbitrary limit on hours for part-time to full-time is a barrier to management’s operation of the restaurant and to workers’ earnings.”
While President Barack Obama’s administration has indicated it would veto any ACA workweek changes, DeFife said bipartisan support in Congress would strengthen the industry’s arguments.
“The signal to look for is if we have enough Democratic support that the administration should take this issue seriously and work with us on making this change,” DeFife said. “This is not a fundamental thread to the core of the administration’s purpose for providing healthcare. This is a definition of full time that has had a lot of unintended consequences on workplace management and hiring that don’t have anything to do with healthcare.”
Contact Ron Ruggless at [email protected].
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless