A U.S. Senate bill seeking to change the definition of a full-time worker as it applies to the federal health-care reform law gained important bipartisan support Tuesday when Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., signed on as a co-sponsor.

The measure, called the Forty Hours is Full Time Act of 2013, would redefine a full-time employee as one who works 40 hours a week or 174 hours a month based on a 52-week year. It was introduced in April by Susan Collins, R-Maine.

Currently, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act states that businesses with more than 50 full-time workers must provide health insurance for full-time employees who work either 30 hours per week or 130 hours per month.

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Many in the foodservice industry have been attempting to persuade lawmakers to boost the number of weekly hours worked from 30 to 35 or 40 since the PPACA was passed in 2010, and industry association leaders were quick to voice support for the new measure.

The International Franchise Association “has worked diligently to educate lawmakers since the law was passed that the definition of a full-time employee under the [PPACA] is unworkable for employers in the franchising industry, which include many restaurants, retailers, hotel owners and service-related business owners, and supports more than one out of every eight private sector jobs in America,” said IFA president and chief executive Steve Caldeira in a statement.

“We are pleased lawmakers are finally heeding our call to provide a more workable and common-sense solution for employers under the ACA….” he added.

“The definition of full-time employee is of particular importance to restaurants because of the industry’s unique reliance on large numbers of part-time and seasonal workers with fluctuating and unpredictable work hours, as well as unpredictable lengths of service,” said Scott DeFife, the National Restaurant Association’s executive vice president, Policy and Government Affairs. “The law’s definition of full time as 30 hours of service per week, per month on average is significantly below the standard most employers use today, based on other federal labor laws.

“We applaud Sens. Collins and Donnelly for their efforts to make these much-needed, common-sense changes.”

Commenting on the measure, Rob Green, president of the National Council of Chain Restaurants, said, “Any legislation that addresses the [full-time worker] issue is a positive development. [The 30-hour definition] has always been a major flaw in the law. It’s good that there’s new recognition that [the 30-hour threshold] is extremely problematic for chain restaurants and the restaurant industry, and it’s very positive that we’re seeing bipartisan recognition.”

Donnelly, in a statement, said, “Most Hoosiers I know think 40 hours is full time. We need to change the definition of a ‘full-time employee’ in the [PPACA] to bring it in line with what most Americans have traditionally recognized as full time.”

Contact Paul Frumkin at paul.frumkin@penton.com.
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