Businesses Pressure to Bring Back 40-Hour Week Rule in Obamacare

Monday, 15 Jul 2013 12:20 PM

By Audrey Hudson and Sandy Fitzgerald

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American businesses are intent on grasping an opportunity to preserve the traditional 40-hour work week now that Obamacare's contentious employer mandate has been delayed.

The mandate described anyone working 30 hours a week as full-time, but now companies and politicians on both sides of the aisle see a chance to reverse the move.

Indiana Republican Rep. Todd Young is spearheading legislation to replace the Obamacare provision on workplace hours after business groups including the National Retail Federation and the Chamber of Commerce appealed to members of Congress due to concerns they would be forced to lay-off workers to meet the demands of purchasing more insurance policies.

Young's measure, co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Pete Olson of Texas, Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania and Tim Walberg of Michigan has the support of more than 100 congressmen.

After the delay in the employer mandate announced earlier this month, Obamacare will require businesses with more than 50 employees who work 30 hours a week to provide health insurance starting in 2015. The change has already prompted many businesses to cut back hours. The country's biggest retailer, Wal-Mart insists all new part-time hires work no more than 30 hours.

The Senate has already signaled its approval to return to the 40-hour threshold, backing an amendment proposed by Republican Susan Collins of Maine and Democrat Joe Donnelly of Indiana. But Politico reported Monday that it could fall in the House where many Republicans insist the only way forward is repeal of the whole act.

"We have a good bloc of our members who will not vote to, what they call, 'fix the law' — they want to repeal the law, said Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health.

In announcing his legislation, Young said repealing the Obamacare definition would protect jobs for the poor and middle class, as well as keep labor laws consistent.

"As the administration continues to stumble through implementation of the law, many Americans are still confused with how this sweeping law will work and what its impact will be," Young said. "For hourly workers, though, one thing is already clear: Americans are seeing their hours cut and their paychecks reduced as a result of the employer mandate, a centerpiece of the law."

Young said, "We were promised this bill would create jobs, and evidence that the opposite is happening is apparent every day. Chalk it up as yet another broken promise from those who brought us Obamacare."

Olson described the 30-hour definition as "tying the hands of employers by forcing them to reduce many of their part-time employees' hours."

Some fear the two-year delay of the employer mandate will take pressure off Congress to act quickly on the work-week measure.

However, Scott DeFife, a lobbyist for the National Restaurant Association, told Politico the delay cuts both ways.

"Some people are going to react to what the administration did by saying, 'We don’t have to act on it right away,'" DeFife said. "We have more time to make our case to build support for our legislative ideas. At the same time, some people are going to get temporarily distracted."

House Republicans this week will vote on whether to delay the Obamacare individual mandate requiring Americans to buy insurance by next year.


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