13 Aug Counting Employees under the Affordable Care Act’s Pay-or-Play Provisions
Employers subject to the Affordable Care Act’s Employer Shared Responsibility provisions may be assessed a penalty if they do not offer affordable health coverage that provides a minimum level of coverage to their full-time employees and their dependents. Whether an employer is subject to these pay-or-play provisions depends on the number of people it employs. When counting employees, however, there are specific rules that must be followed.
An employer is generally considered an “Applicable Large Employer” subject to the pay-or-play provisions if it employed an average of at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees (FTEs), on business days during the preceding calendar year. To determine whether an employer is considered an Applicable Large Employer for a calendar year:
- Add the total number of full-time employees for each calendar month in the preceding calendar year, and the total number of Full Time Equivalent employees for each calendar month in the preceding calendar year.
- Divide the sum by 12.
- If the result is not a whole number, round it down to the next lowest whole number
If the result of this calculation is less than 50, the employer is not considered an Applicable Large Employer for the current calendar year. If the result is 50 or more, the employer is an Applicable Large Employer for the current calendar year.
[Note that transition relief was provided to qualifying employers with an average of 50-99 full-time and full-time equivalent employees on business days during 2014, so that they will not be assessed a penalty in 2015.]
The first step to counting employees is identifying full-time and full-time equivalent employees. A full-time employee, with respect to a calendar month, is an employee who works an average of at least 30 hours per week, or 130 hours in a calendar month. A full-time equivalent employee isn’t an actual person. Rather, it’s a term used to describe the combination of all non-full-time employees who are counted as the equivalent of a full-time employee.
The number of FTEs for each calendar month in the preceding calendar year is determined by calculating the aggregate number of hours of service for that calendar month for non-full-time employees (but not more than 120 hours of service for any employee) and dividing that number by 120. Fractions may be rounded to the nearest one hundredth.
For example, assume that during each calendar month of 2015, Employer W has 25 employees averaging 35 hours of service per week and 40 employees each of whom averages 90 hours of service per calendar month. Each of the 25 employees averaging 35 hours of service per week count as one full-time employee, so Employer W has 25 full-time employees for each calendar month in 2015.
To determine the number of FTEs for each calendar month, combine the hours of service of the 40 non-full-time employees (40 employees x 90 hours) and divide that number by 120. This calculation (40 x 90 = 3,600, and 3,600 / 120 = 30) shows that Employer W has 30 FTEs for each calendar month in 2015. Since Employer W had 55 full-time and full-time equivalent employees during each calendar month in 2015, Employer W will be considered an Applicable Large Employer for 2016.
The regulations contain a number of specific rules, methods and exceptions that must be considered when counting employees. For example, in some cases an employer may not have to include seasonal workers when counting employees. Given the complexity of some of these rules, methods and exceptions, employers should consult with an attorney to make sure they’ve counted correctly.
At Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk, we are committed to guiding you through the changes coming in 2014. Check back with us periodically for future informational updates about the Affordable Care Act. If you have specific questions about the Act or if you are ready to take action and would like to see how Setnor Byer Insurance & Risk can help, contact us.
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