Is it a case of following old rules, or a way to skirt paying part-time employees healthcare? That’s the question for Staples this week as a memo surfaced advising managers not to schedule part-time employees for more than 25 hours a week. Under the Affordable Healthcare Act, which takes effect next year, employees working more than 30 hours a week are considered full-time and eligible for affordable healthcare through their employer.
The memo, first reported on BuzzFeed, was sent to store managers describing the company’s decision to curb hours for part-time employees starting this month. The memo includes a brief script on how to talk to associates that would normally work more than 25 hours per week at Staples.
Managers were also told they may need to hire additional part-time staff to make up for reduced hours.
The Affordable Care Act wasn’t specifically mentioned in the memo, but many Staple employees have pointed out a provision in the law that could be to blame: The law counts employees who work at least 30 hours a week as full-time, and companies with 50 or more employees that don’t provide affordable healthcare to full-time workers will be forced to pay penalties.
Staples isn’t the only company to come under fire for the possibility of reducing employee hours because of the Affordable Healthcare Act.
Last August, Forever 21 faced backlash after a memo leaked online detailed plans to reduce hours to 29.5 hours or fewer. The company said the decision was made ‘independent of the Affordable Healthcare Act’.
In October 2012, Darden Restaurants, owner of chains such as Red Lobster and Olive Garden, experimented with cutting works hours to just under the new full-time guideline.
But is the Staples memo just reinforcing an old rule? That’s what Staples officials told BuzzFeed.
“We have reiterated the policy as we work to increase the efficiency of our retail network,” Mark Cautela, a spokesman for Staples, told BuzzFeed.
Still, the memo uses the phrases “new guidelines” and “new part time policy.” Officials did not respond to BuzzFeed’s questions about the discrepancy.
Staples employees are understandably upset at the prospect of losing hours and wages. As often happens in these case, some have started petitions on sites like Change.org against these kinds of moves. One such petition received more than 160,000 signatures asking Staples to not limit hours of part-time employees.