By Julie Gallion, Senior Human Resources Consultant, Nonprofit HR

Last week, the federal government decided to delay the mandate that would require all large employers (with over 50 employees) to provide affordable health insurance to their employees. In general, this is a good thing for employers who do not currently offer coverage and for those employers who were really struggling to understand how to meet this mandate for their temporary and part time employees whose hours inch up above the 30-hour mark in the mandate due to overtime. However, with the continuation of the mandate that everyone purchase insurance, employees are more likely than ever to jump ship and move on to organizations who offer them insurance coverage.

Employers struggling the most with this mandate were those in the retail and service industry with very high turnover and frequent shifts in the number of hours worked. For example, a college student who waitresses might work 40 hours a week during the summer and school holidays but she would work less than 30 during the school year. With this mandate, employers were unsure whether they would have to continuously put employees on the insurance and then take them off several times a year, or if they should just pay the penalty for not providing the insurance.

The delay provides the federal government time to sort through the regulations and the varying employment statuses. Hopefully, by fall of next year there will be some guidance for large employers with fluctuating employee schedules on what rules can be established to help manage these fluctuations.

On the employee side however, the delay may be seen as a negative. Especially to employees of large businesses because they are still required to have insurance but may not fully understand where to get it. The result may be an influx of applicants to employers who offer insurance coverage.

So, what is an employer to do to reduce the administrative complications and costs associated with offering insurance coverage while attracting and retaining employees who are required to have insurance coverage?

One option is to educate your employees on obtaining insurance on their own and the possibilities of government assistance to pay for the coverage. Frequent and effective communications about the options available to your employees will go a long way toward keeping your valuable uninsured employees. Also, providing a little bump in pay to help them pay for the coverage would go a long way.

The federal government and several states still have every intention of opening Health Insurance Exchanges in October 2013, as mandated under the ACA. These Exchanges have a large budget and strict requirements for communicating their availability to the general public. Exchanges have found that a great way to educate large populations is through employers and employer groups.

In fact, Nonprofit HR along with the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington, DC is hosting a meeting next week where employees of the Washington DC Health Benefits Exchange are coming to speak to small nonprofits about the Exchange. The meeting will include details on what the Exchange will look like and how to enroll. The Exchange employees are ready and willing to conduct this meeting as well as several follow-up meetings for our group to educate businesses and individuals about the Exchange and have offered to help enroll individuals and small businesses on the spot during a future meeting once the Exchange opens.

Businesses large and small who do not offer insurance to all employees should consider providing educational opportunities for employees to learn about the Exchange available in your region.  Inviting the Exchange into your business would be an excellent way to show your employees that you do care about their well-being and want to help where possible. Heck, it may even result in a change of heart and the federal government delaying the mandate for years to come if they see that businesses are truly trying to help individuals obtain insurance.

A smart employee will take into consideration the fine for not having insurance and will either ask for a pay raise to pay the fine or jump ship to an employer who offers insurance even for a lateral salary move. This is true for employees who are not offered coverage due to their temporary or part-time status. You’ll want to have a strategy in mind for how to manage these requests.