Guidance on the Notice to Employees of Coverage Options under Fair Labor Standards Act

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300px-US-DeptOfLabor-Seal-New_svgUnited States Department of Labor – Employee Benefits Security Administration

I. Introduction

Many provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Affordable Care Act) that become effective beginning in 2014 are designed to expand access to affordable health coverage. These include provisions for coverage to be offered through a Health Insurance Marketplace (Marketplace), premium tax credits to assist individuals in purchasing such coverage, employer notice to employees of coverage options available through the Marketplace, and other related provisions. The Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Treasury are working together to develop coordinated regulations and other administrative guidance to assist stakeholders with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

II. Background on the Notice to Inform Employees of Coverage Options under the FLSA

Section 18B of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), as added by section 1512 of the Affordable Care Act, generally provides that an applicable employer must provide each employee at the time of hiring (or with respect to current employees, not later than October 1, 2013), a written notice:

  1. Informing the employee of the existence of the Marketplace (referred to in the statute as the Exchange) including a description of the services provided by the Marketplace, and the manner in which the employee may contact the Marketplace to request assistance;
  2. If the employer plan’s share of the total allowed costs of benefits provided under the plan is less than 60 percent of such costs, that the employee may be eligible for a premium tax credit under section 36B of the Internal Revenue Code (the Code) if the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace; and
  3. If the employee purchases a qualified health plan through the Marketplace, the employee may lose the employer contribution (if any) to any health benefits plan offered by the employer and that all or a portion of such contribution may be excludable from income for Federal income tax purposes.

III. Guidance for the Notice to Inform Employees of Coverage Options under the FLSA

This section provides temporary guidance on what the Department will consider as compliance with FLSA section 18B, and this guidance will remain in effect until the Department promulgates regulations or other guidance. Future regulations or other guidance on these issues will provide adequate time to comply with any additional or modified requirements.

A. Employers Subject to the Notice Requirement

The FLSA section 18B requirement to provide a notice to employees of coverage options applies to employers to which the FLSA applies. In general, the FLSA applies to employers that employ one or more employees who are engaged in, or produce goods for, interstate commerce. For most firms, a test of not less than $500,000 in annual dollar volume of business applies.(4) The FLSA also specifically covers the following entities: hospitals; institutions primarily engaged in the care of the sick, the aged, mentally ill, or disabled who reside on the premises; schools for children who are mentally or physically disabled or gifted; preschools, elementary and secondary schools, and institutions of higher education; and federal, state and local government agencies.(5)

The Department’s Wage and Hour Division provides guidance relating to the applicability of the FLSA in general including an internet compliance assistance tool to determine applicability of the FLSA.

See  www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/scope/screen24.asp.

B. Providing Notice to Employees

Employers must provide a notice of coverage options to each employee, regardless of plan enrollment status (if applicable) or of part-time or full-time status. Employers are not required to provide a separate notice to dependents or other individuals who are or may become eligible for coverage under the plan but who are not employees.

C. Timing and Delivery of Notice

Employers are required to provide the notice to each new employee at the time of hiring beginning October 1, 2013. For 2014, the Department will consider a notice to be provided at the time of hiring if the notice is provided within 14 days of an employee’s start date.

With respect to employees who are current employees before October 1, 2013, employers are required to provide the notice not later than October 1, 2013. The notice is required to be provided automatically, free of charge.

The notice must be provided in writing in a manner calculated to be understood by the average employee. It may be provided by first-class mail. Alternatively, it may be provided electronically if the requirements of the Department of Labor’s electronic disclosure safe harbor at 29 CFR 2520.104b-1(c) are met.

D. Model Notice

To satisfy the content requirements for FLSA section 18B, model language is available on the Department’s website www.dol.gov/ebsa/healthreform.  There is one model for employers who do not offer a health plan and another model for employers who offer a health plan or some or all employees.  Employers may use one of these models, as applicable, or a modified version, provided the notice meets the content requirements described above.