On Capitol Hill, advocates voiced their support for the Simplifying Technical Aspects Regarding Seasonality, or the STARS act, which would clarify the definition of a seasonal worker under the Affordable Care Act. “It just looks to clarify who qualifies and who does not qualify as a seasonal worker so you can establish if you are a large employer or not,” said Scott Grams, executive director of the Illinois Landscape Contractors Association. “It’s incredibly confusing as we’re staring down the barrel of the gun this October.”
As part of PLANET’s Legislative Day on the Hill on July 29, lawn care operators and professionals voiced their opinions and asked for change to benefit the industry.
Currently, there are three different definitions of seasonal workers or employees. One is defined by the nature of the work, while another is calculated by determining all hours of work performed by all employees in a company including seasonal workers. That calculation determines if a business is an “applicable large employer” under the ACA, meaning that it employs more than 50 workers for 120 days. If an employer is determined to be an ALE, it then has to figure out who must be offered health care. In doing that, the definition of a seasonal employee could be simply someone employed for six months or less, as defined by the U.S. Treasury.
“Because many companies in our industry fall in that 50-employee range, depending on how you count, it’s extremely critical for them to understand the methodology they should be using and that’s going to start with clarifying the language and the definition of seasonal employee or seasonal worker,” said Claire Storti, regulatory legislative chair of the ILCA and human resources manager at Scott Byron in Lake Bluff, Ill.
Green industry professionals argued that the legislation would allow businesses to better understand and execute their healthcare requirements by defining a seasonal employee as someone who is on the job for six months or fewer in a year, and exclude them when determining whether or not a business is an ALE.
“Also, if the seasonal employee is not offered coverage by the employer, they can apply for subsidies on the exchange, so it actually is a benefit to the seasonal employee because he can get cheaper coverage on the exchange,” Grams said.