Obamacare limits student employment

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The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as “Obamacare,” has left BYU faculty scrambling to comply with the unfamiliar law. Starting this year, part-time employees are not allowed to work over a 28-hour weekly average for any entity of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

New regulations further state that student employees may not work for two Church affiliates simultaneously.

Deseret Mutual Benefit Association, healthcare provider for LDS Church entities, recognizes all LDS entities as one company employer. Entities include BYU, BYU-I, Deseret Book, MTC, KSL, LDS Motion Pictures, Temple Square Hospitality and roughly thirty more Church affiliates.

Forrest Flake, assistant administrative vice president of BYU Human Resources, said, “They have to treat all Church entities like they’re one employer. So that means students can only work for one Church entity at a time. This does not mean you cannot intern for Deseret Book over the summer; you can, but you cannot intern for Deseret Book and retain your on-campus job at the same time”.

In order for a student to work for BYU and KSL, the student must quit one job before beginning the other. Even if a student worked below the 28-hour average, he cannot be employed at both BYU and KSL. Students working seminary student-teaching jobs or interning for the Church while working on-campus jobs have been the most impacted. These students have ultimately had to choose one job or the other.

Wade Ashton, manager of Student Employment, estimates that roughly 200–300 students will be directly affected by the Church entity rule. Students were contacted and asked to choose one entity.

“We have had to email students and ask them who they want to work for. They can’t work for the MTC and student teach. They can only work at one,” Ashton said.

The students were then given ample time to choose. However, some students are dependent on these multiple jobs to meet their needs.

“It’s been really unfortunate for some students,” Ashton said. “Their ability to make as much income as they could has been limited, and their departments have had limited use of them.”

Though the full implementation of the healthcare law has been delayed one year, BYU and Church-affiliated organizations are following provisions this year. Flake predicts that the new provisions will have limited impact on student employment.

“We already have a fall/winter 20-hour-per-week work policy,” Flake said. “There are very few exceptions to this. Most BYU part-time employees will not be greatly affected.”

Greg Danklef, BYU HR area consultant, says there are misconceptions about the law. Obamacare states that any full-time employee must receive healthcare. Obamacare defines full-time as a 30-hour work week, ten hours less than what was previously considered full-time.

BYU policy allows students to work 20 hours or fewer during the school year, and 40 hours during summer terms, with few exceptions. Most students can still work 40 hours a week during holidays and spring/summer terms without exceeding the new 28-hour cap.

Average work hours are determined on a yearly basis each October. Starting Jan. 1, 2015, if an employee is eligible BYU must provide health insurance for the employee or face a substantial penalty. This is not an entirely new policy to BYU.

“BYU has never offered medical benefits to part-time employees. We are simply continuing that policy now. Not too much should change for the student employees on that front,” Flake said.

“The number of students directly impacted will be small,” Danklef said. “Few students even worked a 40-hour work week through spring and summer.”

Most students averaged 14–20 hours a week during the last spring and summer terms. Roughly 14,000 BYU students are employed, and fewer than 100 worked 40 hours per week last summer.

“This would only affect students who worked excessive hours. Graduate students and three quarter-time employees will be the most affected,” Ashton says.

Graduate students were formally able to work 30 hours per week and 40 hours during spring and summer terms. Now graduate students will have a weekly average cap of 28 hours. Graduate students working 28 hours per week can no longer work 40 hours during spring and summer terms.

The new regulations mean managers have to monitor student hours more attentively. If a student violates the hour limit the students and supervisors are alerted. Most often, a student needs to work fewer hours to bring their work hour average down. If a student continues to break the hour limit, his employment would be terminated.

“We don’t want to fire anyone. That’s an absolute last resort,” said Danklef. “I’d say worst-case scenario you can’t work for six months.” After six months the student is listed as a new hire.

BYU and the LDS Church have taken additional lengths to abide by the law. Though the Healthcare Act caps part-time employment at 30 hours per week, the LDS Church caps part-time employment at 28 hours per week.

“We’re all new to this bill and all trying to figure this out,” Danklef said. Ashton commented that the vague nature of the law makes implementations difficult. There were few administrative guidelines upfront, but he believes BYU has implemented the new law effectively.

“We try to be very honest. We are not trying to get around this law,” Danklef said. “We want to be compliant.”

But with compliance comes the necessary new single entity rule, placing more limits on student employment.