Under IRS and Treasury Department regulations, new seasonal employees are not considered "full-time," benefits eligible even if they are expected to work 30 or more hours per week. But how do you know if you can classify an employee as seasonal?
The answers to the two questions below will determine if you can classify an employee as seasonal:
Do employees in the position typically work for a period of six months or less?
Does the period of employment begin in approximately the same part of the year (e.g. summer, winter or holiday season)?
If you answered "Yes" to both questions above, your employee is a seasonal employee, regardless of how many hours the employee is expected to work each week. This means you do not have to classify the individual as full-time, benefits eligible (subject to the benefits waiting period, if any) as of the date of hire.
An Applicable Large Employer (ALE) will generally not be liable for ACA employer shared responsibility penalties if it fails to offer health coverage to seasonal employees during an initial measurement period, even if those employees end up working full-time hours during that measurement period. For more information on how seasonal employee hours are measured, please refer to the ACA Fact Sheet – Full-Time, Variable Hour and Seasonal Employees. As a reminder, TriNet does not provide legal advice. You will want to consult with your legal counsel to ensure that your notifications and contracts with seasonal employees contain appropriate protective language. For example, you will want to document that the newly hired employees understand the job is expected to end at a certain date.
Below are several examples of employees that are, and are not, seasonal employees under the ACA definition1. All examples assume the employee is expected to work more than 30 hours per week.
Benefits Waiting Periods
Remember that any newly hired full-time employee that is not considered seasonal is still subject to the waiting period, if any, selected by your company. If your company frequently hires "short-term" employees that do not meet the definition of a seasonal employee, you may want to consider a longer waiting period before company benefits are effective. Under ACA, the maximum waiting period is 90 days.
1 Examples are for informational purposes only. The facts and circumstances in each situation will determine if an employee is considered seasonal for purposes of ACA employer shared responsibility penalties.