Health care reform poses workforce challenges for restaurant industry

Although the enforcement of the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate – also known as “play or pay” – has been extended one year, the restaurant industry is already bracing for its impact. Under the law, employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent (FTE) employees are required to offer all full-time employees the opportunity to enroll in a health plan that offers minimum essential coverage or pay a penalty. The ACA defines a full-time employee as an individual who works an average of at least 30 hours per week.

In a Journal Record article titled “Recipe for havoc: Health care reform poses workforce challenges for restaurant industry,” writer Kirby Lee Davis reported on how many in the industry are planning to respond to the mandate, with some having already decided to hold worker hours below 30 per week in order to contain their potential coverage liability. Others are taking a wait-and-see approach to see if Congress will take action and revise the calculation used to determine whether a worker is considered a full-time employee.

“I think that the bigger franchises, like McDonald’s, are helping their franchisees out with trying to come up with solutions,” said McAfee & Taft employee benefits attorney Jim Prince, who was interviewed for the story. For businesses and organizations who employ more than 50 FTEs and find themselves subject to the mandate, Prince suggested they investigate the new low-cost products available in the marketplace — such as a Minimum Essential Policy — which are specifically designed to satisfy the requirement that the employer has to offer coverage.