Back in December I wrote a post titled “Healthcare Reform’s Silver Lining for the Staffing Industry.” In it I talked about the potential for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. the ACA or Obamacare) to level the playing field between temporary positions and traditional full-time employment because many people seek permanent positions not only for job stability but for healthcare benefits. Although temp agencies may see some cost increases related to paying those benefits for their full-time employees, I’m confident that those increases will be mitigated by having a higher-caliber candidate pool as highly skilled and sought-after workers who had previously held out only for permanent positions begin considering contingent jobs as viable options.
Last week The Wall Street Journal ran an interview with Bob Funk, the CEO of Express Employment Services. Express is the fifth-largest staffing agency in the USA and has seen huge increases in its business in anticipation of the ACA going into effect next year. So when I heard that its CEO is fighting to repeal the ACA—a law that has contributed to his company’s growth—I definitely paid attention to what he had to say.
In a just-released report, Express writes that the ACA is damaging the full-time employment market by driving more companies to rely on part-time temporary workers in order to stay below the fifty-full-time-employees cap that makes them subject to the ACA’s mandates. The report concludes
The labor-related changes being brought about by this new law are serious, long-term and harmful. They may be good for the staffing industry today, but they are not very good for job creation, small businesses or workers.
Funk underscored this point in his conversation with the Wall Street Journal interviewer. Even though the impending implementation of the ACA has been “an absolute boon” for Express, with its business up 8% this year alone, Funk is adamant in his belief that the ACA is bad for the country as a whole because it will lead to rising unemployment in the full-time sector, thus decreasing quality of life for workers.
In a lot of the conversations about the ACA, many of the arguments against this legislation—including Funk’s—seem rooted in a general dislike of government programs and not necessarily in a careful evaluation of the ACA on its own. For example, Funk says, “The problem isn’t just Obamacare, though. It’s the entire regulatory assault on employers coming out of Washington—everything from the EEOC to the Dodd-Frank monstrosity.” This statement, which lumps together a group of disparate programs, indicates to me that perhaps Funk (and others who share his opinion) haven’t considered the implications of the ACA from all angles.
As I pointed out in December, I believe implementation of the ACA has the potential to be a good thing for employers, even though it may make some companies reluctant to grow and others will shift more of their staff from permanent positions to temporary positions. One of the biggest objections to the ACA is that it threatens the “traditional” forty-hour work week. There’s no guarantee that the forty-hour-work week will disappear, though.
And if it does, well, we’ll adjust, as we have before. After all, “traditional” ideas about work have changed many time in our country’s history and will surely change again in the future. Before the 1835 Philadelphia general strike succeeded in persuading the city’s government to mandate ten-hour workdays, for example, employers had previously required to employees to work even longer hours. And without the 1937 Fair Labor Standards Act, we wouldn’t have the forty-hour work week that exists today—and we’d still have child labor.
In spite of some politicians’ attempts to derail this legislation (Senator Ted Cruz’s recent twenty-one-hour-long speech is one noteworthy example, even though much of it—such as a reading of Green Eggs and Ham—wasn’t relevant to the discussion), it is going into effect next year. The ACA is here to stay, and rather than make assumptions about the possible dire consequences of this law, employers should instead be thinking ahead to how its implementation could help their businesses. It won’t destroy America (as some of its most vocal opponents claim) but in the long run may make it stronger.