Senators call for ‘sensible definition’ of full-time employee

A bipartisan group of senators requested a “sensible definition” of the term full-time employee in a letter sent on Wednesday to Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.).

Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Joe Manchin (D- W.Va.) all signed the letter calling for the Budget Committee to address the Forty Hours is Full Time Act in its budget conference.

The bill would define a full-time employee as one who works 40 hours per week for the purpose of calculating the employer mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

“Effective health care reform should expand access to coverage, while not inhibiting economic growth,” the letter said. “For this reason, we are concerned that the PPACA definition of full time as an employee working just 30 hours a week is too low and out-of-step with standard employment practices in the U.S. today.”

The average person works 8.8 hours a day, which amounts to 44 hours a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By that measure, the 30-hour full-time employee threshold is approximately one third lower than the national average.

“By using a threshold of 30 hours a week to define ‘full time’ employee, PPACA artificially drives up the number of workers that appear to be employed ‘full-time’ by a business, exposing those businesses to the risk of substantial penalties,” the letter said. “These penalties begin at $40,000 for businesses with 50 employees, plus $2,000 for each additional ‘full-time equivalent’ employee.”