NRA hopes to ease the burdens restaurant operators face with the ACA

The rollout of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been cause for much debate not only in Washington, but in homes and businesses across the country. And while the plan has its merits, restaurant owners are finding out that it’s far from being a “one size fits all” policy.

Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must now provide healthcare coverage – this group NOW includes hourly employees who work 30 or more hours per week. If companies do not comply, they face a penalty. This further increases the financial burden for many small, multiunit operators across the country.

Neil Trautwein, vice president of the National Retail Federation (NRF), recently testified before a Congressional committee, calling into question the 30-hour-per-week cutoff now separating full- and part-time employees and how it will dramatically affect restaurants.

“Many retail and restaurant employees do not fit neatly into full- and part-time categories, and compliance with the unprecedented levels of change under the ACA will be particularly challenging,” he said in his testimony.

Scott DeFife, executive vice president of government affairs for the National Restaurant Association (NRA) corroborated this sentiment with his statement, “There’s no part of the industry that reported to us that thought that definition worked. The restaurant industry is not a nine-to-five, five-days-a-week industry. In any one given work week, there are multiple restaurant work weeks.”

NRA recently conducted a survey of multiunit operators and found that 36% are scheduling employees for fewer hours on average. While the industry is adding more jobs, multiunit operators are now relying on workers who clock less than 30 hours a week.

“Being a small business and not having an HR department and all that, you’re basically out there doing it yourself,” says Ron Hines, co-owner of Cafe Carolina and Bakery based in Raleigh, North Carolina. The brand has four units and 65 employees, pushing it just beyond the 50-employee limit.

In addition to attending tradeshows, holding forums and creating online tool kits – all in an effort to help their members understand this complicated law and available options – the NRA is now pressing legislators to change the 30-hour workweek definition in the hope of easing impending financial strain on restaurant operators.