Health care reform: Cutting hours isn’t the answer

The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as health care reform, requires employers with 50 or more full-time employees (including full-time equivalent employees) to provide health coverage to employees who work an average of 30 or more hours per week. If employers who are subject to the rules don’t comply, they can face hefty fines.

To get around this, some employers are hiring more contract or temporary employees, or going so far as to shift their workers from full-time to part-time status.

While this may seem like a simple solution, it can drastically impact your business’s productivity, growth and reputation. So before you make any drastic decisions, consider how these staffing changes will alter your business. Here are three questions to ask yourself before moving forward:

1. Will part-time employees possess the necessary skills to get the job done?

In most cases, part-time and temporary workers don’t have specialized skills. Often, they’re entry-level candidates who have worked a variety of jobs. Others do it to supplement their full-time career, such as teachers who work part-time or seasonal jobs during their holidays and summer breaks.

These workers may not have the specialized knowledge or skills needed to produce the same quality products and services your customers have come to expect from your company. Dissatisfied, your once-loyal customers might look elsewhere for what they need.

With that said, hiring part-time, seasonal and temporary help isn’t always a bad idea. It gives you much more flexibility and allows you to hire staff based on the ebbs and flows of your business. It can be the perfect fit for businesses that experience high turnover or seasonal spurts in production, such as restaurants or retailers.

2. How will you handle the impact on your staff?

Chances are your full-time employees won’t be too happy if you cut their hours and shift them to part-time. They could possibly get upset and quit.

If you’ve decided this change is necessary, explain why. Discuss the business reasons for your decision and allow employees to ask questions. Try to accommodate them as much as possible. For example, consider creating a schedule that allows them to take another part-time position somewhere else to make up the hours they lost at your company.

The repercussions of shifting some employees to part-time can extend even further. Employees who stay after becoming part-time may be bitter. And they may resent you and any new part-time or temporary employees you hire. One way to help ease the tension is to plan some team building events so everyone can get to know one another. Most importantly, make yourself available to your employees should they want to discuss their concerns.

3. Are you prepared to manage your part-time employees’ schedules?

Everyone wants a flex schedule
– to come and go when it’s convenient for them. But when you have multiple part-time employees this can be difficult.

You need to carefully consider the position you’re filling. For example, customer service or technical support positions can’t be left vacant. Therefore, you’ll have to carefully schedule your part-timers so that there’s always someone available.

If you can, avoid hiring part-time or temporary employees for time-sensitive or customer-related positions. Instead, hire them for short-term projects or task-oriented positions. This way, if someone’s not there, it won’t hurt your business.

Many times, employees choose to work part-time or temporary positions so they can schedule their work around other obligations, such as family, school or even other jobs. When you schedule these workers, you’ll have to take that into consideration. For instance, employees with children might have a difficult time finding childcare at night. Working an evening shift may be out of the question for them.

Finding quality employees doesn’t have to be so difficult. Get our free e-book, How to develop a top-notch workforce that will accelerate your business.

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