We thought this survey uncovered some really interesting trends about districts and the health care reform! Here were some of our key takeaways:
Have a plan for tracking employee hours
Regardless of your decision to reduce or not to reduce employee hours, most school districts need to be tracking time for variable-hour employees. More than a third of respondents are already tracking hours for part-time employees and substitutes, and nearly half of respondents plan to start.
That means 90% of districts surveyed have a plan to track employee hours.
If you don't have a plan, don't wait! Though the implementation of the employer mandate was pushed back until 2015, the look-back period for employee hours will need to cover 3-12 months of 2014.
At the very least, your district needs to determine the following:
— Are you a "large employer" (do you employ 50 or more full-time employees and full-time equivalents)?
— Do you have variable-hour employees (substitute teachers, bus drivers, etc.) who would qualify as full-time by working an average of more than 30 hours a week or 130 hours a month?
— Do those employees make up more than 5% of your total full-time employees?
If you answered "yes" to all those questions, you probably need to be tracking and making plans to provide insurance or manage those hours.
Have a plan to manage the paperwork
According to the survey, more than half of school districts have moved from tracking employee hours on paper to an online employee time tracking system.
All the reporting requirements are still being hashed out, but for sure, those with an online system for tracking employee time will have a definite advantage over those sifting through piles of paper timesheets in file cabinets.
If your district is still tracking employee time manually, take some time to either look into online, automated time-tracking systems or start to plan how you will get that physical data into a reportable format for the IRS.
Have a plan for your variable-hour employees
School districts are split about 50/50 on reducing hours for part-time employees.
That divide could be for any number of reasons: they are already providing benefits or plan to offer benefits to those working more than 30 hours, they only have a few employees that would qualify, or they are managing employee hours already based on their schedules.
The key – again – is to not be caught off guard. Make sure you know, based on past and scheduled hours, which employees will potentially qualify as full-time and what your plan is to address them.
Have a plan for your substitute teachers
Eligibility for benefits for substitute teachers – who are generally considered temporary, at-will employees – is one of those topics that would have never come up in conversation at a district a year ago. And for many districts, the number of substitutes working enough hours to qualify is so low, it may still not be a major issue.
However, with about 60% of respondents setting or planning to set a limit on substitute hours, there seems to be enough concern to warrant action.
This percentage is higher than those who have decided to reduce hours for part-time employees – possibly because school districts are not used to tracking hours for substitutes and want a safeguard to ensure subs do not go over the threshold and count as full-time.
Some districts are also exploring other creative options to address the health care law, like hiring a few permanent substitutes or outsourcing subs to a staffing firm.
Have a plan!
Have you noticed a theme in our takeaways? Have a plan!
We're not telling you which options are best for your district, but we are advising you not to wait too long and get caught off guard when the healthcare law goes into effect. Learn more about the Affordable Care Act and districts here: ACA Resource Center.
How about you – what is your district's plan to address the ACA?
Allison Wert is the Content Manager at Frontline Technologies and a freelance writer with a passion for K-12 education, technology and social media.