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The Affordable Care Act: Determining large-employer status

On July 2, 2013, the Obama administration announced it is delaying from 2014 until 2015 the requirement that businesses provide health insurance or pay a penalty.

Starting in 2015, employers with 50 full-time and/or full-time equivalent employees (FT/FTEs) will be considered "large" employers and required to offer affordable health insurance coverage or pay penalties. Employers need to examine their workforces now to determine their status under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in 2015.

Defining full-time employees and equivalents

A full-time employee (FT) averages at least 30 hours of service per week or 130 hours in a calendar month. Full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) are calculated by dividing the total hours of service of all part-time employees for a month, but not more than 120 hours for any one employee, by 120. This number is added to the FTs to determine if the total is at least 50.

"Hours of service" determine whether an employee is FT or FTE, which includes:

  • All work for which an employee receives U.S.-sourced income.
  • Each hour an employee is paid or entitled to payment for performing duties for the employer.
  • Each hour an employee is paid or entitled to payment for periods of time that no duties are performed due to vacation, holiday, illness, incapacity, layoff, jury duty, military duty or leave of absence.

Hourly and salaried employees

An employer must calculate hourly employee hours of service based on hours worked and hours of paid leave. For salaried employees, employers are permitted to use one of three methods:

  • Counting actual hours of service based on hours worked and hours of paid leave.
  • Using a days-worked equivalency method where an employee is credited with eight hours of service for each day worked.
  • Using a weeks-worked equivalency method where an employee is credited with 40 hours of service for each week worked.

Employers may use different methods for salaried employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act. In addition, they may change methods each calendar year. However, they are prohibited from using the days-worked or weeks-worked equivalency methods if the result would substantially understate hours of service.

Determining full-time status

Employers may use the current month-to-month method or the look-back measurement method to determine an employee's full-time status. For month-to-month, employers need to set an employee's status at the beginning of the month. The look-back method involves counting hours of service to determine if an employee has averaged at least 30 hours of service per week.

The information outlined here is merely an overview of the new rules. Many additional considerations apply regarding certain employee situations. It is imperative that employers accurately determine the number of FT/FTEs for purposes of deciding whether they will continue to offer health care coverage in 2015.

Beth Auterman, CPA, is an assurance partner at CliftonLarsonAllen. She can be reached at 217-373-3125 or beth.auterman@CLAconnect.com.

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