If an employer has 13 full-time employees, each of whom works 40 hours per week, and 10 part-time employees, each of whom works 20 hours per week, can this employer qualify as a “small-employer plan” under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA)?

Yes.  After a qualifying event, COBRA gives certain former employees the right to elect temporary continuation of health care coverage at the employer’s group rates. COBRA’s continuation of coverage requirement does not apply to a small-employer plan, which is a group health plan maintained by an employer who normally has employed fewer than 20 employees during the preceding calendar year.  Although all full-time and part-time employees are taken into account when determining whether an employer had fewer than 20 employees, each group of employees is counted differently. A full-time employee counts as one employee.  However, each part-time employee counts as a fraction of an employee, with the numerator (the top number) of the fraction equal to the number of hours worked by the part-time employee, and the denominator (the bottom number) equal to the number of hours that must be worked on a typical business day to be considered a full-time employee.

Though this formula may sound complicated, it’s fairly easy to apply. In the situation at hand, the employer’s 10 part-time employees work 20 hours per week out of the 40 hours per week ordinarily worked by full-time employees, thus producing a fraction of 20/40, or ½.  Therefore, each part-time employee is counted as ½ of an employee. Ten employees counted as “half” an employee equals 5 “whole” employees, which, when added to the number of full-time employees, 13, total 18 employees. Since this number is fewer than 20, this employer may qualify as a small-employer plan.