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Confusing Obamacare regs define 30-hour week as 40 hours

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Paul Bedard,Washington Secrets,Obamacare,Jobs,Treasury,IRS,Employer Mandate,Health Care Exchanges

The administration is confusing and frustrating businesses and lawmakers with new Obamacare regulations that define full-time as working just 30 hours, but sometimes rely on the traditional 40-hour week and even a new and unheard of standard of 35 hours in guidance to employers facing a maze of requirements.

Congressional officials and business leaders, for example, cited to Secrets IRS guidance issued in February. That 227-page package, they said, appears to set two standards: 30 hours for hourly workers, and 40 hours for salaried workers even though the law requires employers to offer healthcare to those who work 30 hours or more, or pay a fine.

In the section discussing how to calculate hours worked, IRS guidance states: “For employees paid on a non-hourly basis (such as salaried employees), an employer may calculate the actual hours of service using the same method as for hourly employees, or use a days-worked equivalency crediting the employee with eight hours of service for each day for which the employee would be required to be credited with at least one hour of service, or a weeks-worked equivalency whereby an employee would be credited with 40 hours of service for each week for which the employee would be required to be credited with at least one hour of service.”

It gets more confusing in a Treasury fact sheet explaining the so-called employer mandate: “To avoid a payment for failing to offer health coverage, employers need to offer coverage to 70 percent of their full-time employees in 2015 and 95 percent in 2016 and beyond, helping employers that, for example, may offer coverage to employees with 35 or more hours, but not yet to that fraction of their employees who work 30 to 34 hours.”

A key House aide working the Obamacare hourly issue said, “At best, this is evidence of how clunky and confusing this portion of the law is when even administration folks are using multiple definitions; at worst, this is evidence that the administration is trying to transition away from a 40-hour work week. In either case, this isn’t the result of hurried legislation, but the product of four years of carefully drafting regulations. That should be disconcerting to us all.”

House Republicans hope to clear up the issue with a vote as early as next Thursday to set 40 hours as the law's standard for a full-time job.

Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., expects the House to pass his “Save American Workers Act,” he credits the support of at least seven Democrats for advancing the issue.

Paul Bedard, the Washington Examiner's "Washington Secrets" columnist, can be contacted at pbedard@washingtonexaminer.com.