As the Affordable Care Act approaches its four-year anniversary, the law’s threat to American job creation is well documented.
The employer mandate — requiring companies with 50 or more full-time equivalent workers to provide health care coverage in 2015 or 2016 depending on their size — is already discouraging hiring as employers seek to avoid Obamacare’s costly penalties. According to a recent Gallup poll, 41 percent of small-business owners say the law has prevented them from hiring new employees, and 38 percent have halted plans to grow their businesses.
A lesser known provision in the law actually jeopardizes existing jobs by changing the definition of full-time work from 40 hours to 30 hours, adding insult to injury for American workers.
Many of the industries hardest hit by this new 30-hour workweek operate with thin profit margins, giving some employers little choice but to reduce employees’ hours to avoid the requirement to provide coverage. Moreover, redefining the long-standing 40-hour workweek will raise operating costs and create yet another administrative headache that will divert employers from running their businesses.
This won’t just hurt the job creators that drive our economy, but also those who need as many hours as possible to keep their households afloat. Hourly employees — from retail clerks and fast food workers to firefighters and professors — could see their incomes fall as a result of this ill-advised provision.
Obamacare proponents will spin any opposition to a 30-hour workweek as an attempt by business to get out of providing coverage. But prior to the health care law, more than 178 million Americans — more than half the population — received voluntary employer-based health insurance. Unfortunately, under Obamacare, it’s becoming too costly to do business, let alone to offer competitive compensation and benefits to attract the best workers.
We all agree that our health-care system needs to be fixed — and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is suggesting ways to truly reform our system through its Health Care Solutions Council report. We know that placing the burden squarely on the backs of small businesses that power our economy isn’t the way to do it. Neither is ratcheting up the financial hardship on American workers who are just trying to make ends meet.
Lawmakers have the opportunity to right this wrong with the Save American Workers Act, which is expected to be considered in the House later this month. The Chamber of Commerce strongly supports this measure to restore the 40-hour workweek that has been the bedrock of the workforce for more than a half-century.
— Tom Donohue is president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The opinions expressed are his own.