Many businesses plan to bring on more part-time workers next year, trim the hours of full-time employees or curtail hiring because of the new health care law, human resource firms say.
Their actions could further dampen job growth, which already is threatened by possible federal budget cutbacks resulting from the tax increases and spending cuts known as the fiscal cliff.
"It will have a negative impact on job creation" in 2013, says Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody's Analytics.
Under the Affordable Care Act, businesses that employ at least 50 full-time workers — or the equivalent, including part-time workers — must offer health insurance to staffers who work at least 30 hours a week. Employers that don't provide coverage must pay a $2,000-per-worker penalty, excluding the first 30 employees.
The so-called employer mandate to offer health coverage doesn't take effect until Jan. 1, 2014. But to determine whether employees work enough hours on average to receive benefits, employers must track their schedules for three to 12 months prior to 2014 — meaning many are restructuring payrolls now or will do so early next year.
About a quarter of businesses surveyed by consulting firm Mercer don't offer health coverage to employees who work at least 30 hours a week. Half of them plan to make changes so fewer employees work that many hours.
The health care law will particularly affect companies with 40 to 45 workers that plan to expand and hire. Many are holding off so they don't cross the 50-employee threshold, says Christine Ippolito, principal at Compass Workforce Solutions, a human resource consulting firm in Melville, N.Y.