July 28, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Obamacare's Acute Affliction on Restaurant Industry | Commentary

Without changes, the Affordable Care Act will hurt economic growth and make flexible work schedules for employees more limiting to offer.

Across the country, many restaurant operators are being forced to make a difficult choice: Do they hire fewer employees, reduce the hours of current employees or raise menu prices? For some, the answer may be a combination of the three. But regardless of the conclusion they reach, there are no easy solutions.

And they’ll have to make those decisions quickly, as the notification period begins in a few weeks and soon the Affordable Care Act will require businesses with 50 or more full-time-equivalent employees to offer health coverage to those employees or face significant penalties.

The irony is that many restaurant owners already offer health coverage to their full-time employees. However, they define a full-time workweek as 40 hours, which is the accepted definition across most industries. Unfortunately, the Affordable Care Act has redefined “full time” employees as those who work an average of 30 hours per week in a given month. This means that restaurants and other businesses that have always operated as small businesses are now considered “large employers” under the law, and therefore are responsible for health care costs that could reach well into the tens of thousands of dollars.

While restaurant jobs are sometimes unfairly described as low-wage, menial work, the industry is one of the few that still allows employees to prove themselves and work their way up. One in every 3 Americans have worked in a restaurant at some point in their life, and many who work in restaurants chose to do so because of the flexibility in scheduling the industry offers.

This is an industry that accommodates part-time and full-time opportunities. It’s also an industry where people can begin their careers and work life with minimal experience, and learn not only about hospitality and service but also finance, advertising and other business and leadership skills.

Unfortunately, if the Affordable Care Act takes effect in its current form and redefines the full-time workweek as 30 hours, those opportunities could be significantly limited. It very likely means fewer hours for part-time employees and a more rigid scheduling structure.

It means the 18-year-old who is looking to earn money for college will be limited to less than 30 hours a week, or the parent who needs a second job for extra income won’t be hired in favor of someone who can offer more hours. This isn’t a case of business owners trying to avoid a law. It’s a matter of staying afloat.

All of our Ground Round restaurants are independently and locally owned by our franchisees, and most of these franchisees only own and operate one or two restaurants. These aren’t nearly “large” employers or large companies, yet by definition of this new health care law, many will be considered as such.

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