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Restoring the Traditional Definition of Full-Time Work

YoungIn early April, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation I authored to repeal and replace one of the most egregious provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA mandates that employers with 50 or more employees must provide health care to full-time employees or pay a tax. But buried within that mandate was a definition of full time that only totals 30 hours a week—a full 25 percent less than the widely understood and historically accepted standard. My legislation—H.R. 2575, The Save American Workers Act—would simply repeal that provision and replace it with the commonly held 40-hour definition of full-time employment.

Though the Obama administration has unilaterally delayed implementation of the employer mandate on multiple occasions, employees and employers alike already have felt the impact of this provision acutely. According to analysis by the Hoover Institute, as many as 2.6 million employees nationwide may be at risk for reduced hours and wages under this new 30-hour definition, and many employers already have begun to limit the hours of some workers in anticipation of the new provision kicking in.

Many employees face the prospect of being limited in their work hours to 30 or less. When they aren’t allowed to work more than 29 hours, they aren’t able to generate the income they need to support their families. An employee who sees his or her hours cut from 39 to 29 ends up losing an entire week’s worth of pay each month. The employees we’re talking about are the people who most depend on getting every hour they can. We’re talking about custodians, cafeteria workers, and substitute teachers at your child’s school; the waitresses and busboys at your favorite restaurant; the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store; and the support staff at the hotel on your last vacation.

Employers, for their part, don’t want to limit the hours of their employees. In most instances, they know their employees personally and want them to feel financially secure in their jobs. But these same employers often can’t afford the new compliance costs, nor can they afford the tax burden associated with non-compliance. In many instances, their best option—just to stay afloat as a business—is to ensure they stay below this new and arbitrary definition of full time.

By restoring the 40-hour definition, the Congressional Budget Office projects an increase in employee wages of $76 billion over the next 10 years. It also makes compliance simpler, more predictable, and less costly for employers. That’s because it forces the law to conform to the realities of the labor market and existing business practices rather than the other way around.

I’m grateful that the positive changes brought about by this simple legislation were quickly and strongly embraced by organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association. As AH&LA President/CEO Katherine Lugar noted ahead of the House vote, “Changing the ACA definition of a full-time employee back to the traditional 40 hours is a crucial adjustment needed to ensure the law is made more workable for hoteliers—many of whom are small businesses—and their employees. The health care law’s existing—and arbitrary—30-hour definition severely restricts the scheduling flexibility so valuable to our industry’s workforce. In many instances, these employees may end up taking a second job in order to make up the income shortfall caused by fewer working hours. This important bill has already drawn more than 200 bipartisan cosponsors—a clear demonstration that members of Congress understand the ACA must more accurately reflect current employment practices.”

In the end, a bipartisan group of 248 representatives supported our legislation and sent it to the Senate. Its outlook there, however, remains murky. While a bipartisan contingent—led by Sens. Susan Collins and Joe Donnelly—has introduced similar legislation (S. 1188, the Forty Hours Is Full Time Act), it’s not clear if Senate leadership will allow any changes to the ACA to come to the floor for a vote.

AH&LA was crucial to helping us build momentum for this commonsense bill in the House, and your continued efforts will be required to continue building that momentum in the Senate. Spread the word, call and write your senator, and ask your employees to do the same. But take note: The employer mandate and this 30-hour provision are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1 of next year, so our time is limited.

Congressman Todd Young represents the 9th district of Indiana.

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