Affordable Health Care Act, temporary staffing, and compliance
Staffing firms, you may need a check-up. Even if you don’t serve clients in the health care industry, you still have to comply with health care laws. One way or another, you have to take care of your people. When clients come to you for temporary staffing, they expect you to do just that. It’s about compliance.
There are persistent questions under laws such as the Affordable Health Care Act and regulations of the Internal Revenue Service. For your own company’s health, you should read on for answers.
Who’s the employer—the staffing firm or the client?
Staffing firms, and some seasonal employers, face a conundrum that many companies do not—the question about who is responsible for providing health care coverage for independent contractors. Unfortunately for temporary staffing firms, the answer is not in their hiring contracts. It’s in the law.
Many government agencies have relevant employment regulations, including unemployment departments and labor commissions. But the IRS is the gorilla in the fight over independent contractor vs. employee. The agency has a control test that determines which party is the employer.
How many FTEs do you have?
The Affordable Health Care Act weighs in, too, when it defines “full time” as 30 hours per week, 130 hours per month, or 1,560 hours in a year. It sounds straightforward enough, but it is not always clear cut in the temporary staffing industry.
Temps come and go on a repeating basis, working different numbers of hours and durations. Some employees may work full-time, but only for part of the year.
“The nature of our business adds a level of complexity, because employees are hired, then separated, and then rehired, and the cycle repeats,” says Rebecca Cenni, CEO of Atrium Staffing. “The sporadic nature of temporary assignments makes accurate reporting challenging.”
For this reason, the IRS offers look-back provisions as an alternative to a strict monthly calculation for staffing and other types of companies that employ intermittent labor. Under the look-back provisions, companies can look back at the last 12 months of timesheets and pick a measurement period between three and 12 months to determine employees’ average weekly hours. If an employee worked an average of 30 hours per week during that time, that individual is considered full-time.
David Lewis, CEO of Operations Inc, an HR outsourcing and consulting firm, says there’s more to successfully navigating compliance than the math of calculating FTEs and determining affordability. Beyond the math, there are a number of practical questions to consider with regard to compliance for Affordable Care Act temporary staffing.
Will you need to increase your billable rates?
Inevitably, the additional cost and burden must be absorbed somewhere, whether by passing it on to clients and/or streamlining operations to cut costs. Staffing firms may need to increase their billable rate to account for the added expense of health care benefits. This brings the challenge of communicating the news of potentially higher costs.
“It’s important to set expectations and communicate with your clients,” cautions Lewis. “Higher prices may become a deterrent to the clients who use your staffing agency.”
Will employees sign up for your plan?
Newer staffing agencies that have never offered benefits before may find that fewer employees enroll than they might expect. “Most temporary employees earn less than $35/hour, so even if offered,” says Lewis, “the overwhelming majority won’t take the benefit. Even if it’s “affordable” under IRS regulations for employers, it’s not necessarily affordable to workers.
This cascades into another potential concern for Affordable Care Act temporary staffing: pricing. If a significant number of employees choose not to enroll in your plan, your insurance carrier’s group plan pricing may change for the worse. For instance, if the insurer priced your plan for a group of 65 people, and fewer than 20 enroll, pricing is likely to suffer.
There is no IRS penalty for employers in this scenario, provided your plan is considered affordable. It’s important to note that individuals who opt for no coverage at all will be accountable under the individual shared responsibility provisions.
Does your technology facilitate ACA compliance?
If your technology doesn’t support Affordable Care Act compliance, it may be time to invest in software to track and manage assignments and billing that incorporates these fundamental calculations. Look for one that incorporates:
- The number of average and total accrued hours each worker has worked over a period of time (this determines who is counted as an FTE)
- Average pay rates (which are used to determine whether your plan is affordable)
- An appropriate look-back period
Knowing how to accurately count, classify, and track the eligibility of your employees, including seasonal and intermittent workers, are critical elements when determining your temporary staffing firm’s responsibilities and liabilities under IRS regulations and the Affordable Health Care Act.
Compliance is good for your company’s health
Affordable Care Act temporary staffing is a challenge, but there is a remedy: it’s Monster Hiring Solutions. With expert recruiting and hiring information, Monster can help employers, employees, indepedent contractors, and staffing companies thrive.
Legal Disclaimer: None of the information provided herein constitutes legal advice on behalf of Monster.