The happiest place on earth just got a little happier.
Walt Disney Co. announced on Wednesday that it is offering full-time employment to the 427 part-time employees at its Disney World theme park in Orlando, Florida who work at least 30 hours per week — the threshold at which the Affordable Care Act requires large employers with 50 or more workers to offer basic health benefits to employees or risk paying a $2,000 per employee fine after the first 30 workers.
Disney already offers a level of health coverage that is acceptable under Obamacare to its full-time employees. But part-time workers, including those who work at the 30-hour cutoff set by the health law, receive more limited benefits. Instead of rolling back these workers’ hours to avoid expanding their health coverage, Disney is choosing to promote them to full-time status.
“Disney wants to be proactive,” said Ed Chambers, president of the Service Trades Council union that represents tens of thousands of Orlando Disney employees, in an interview with Bloomberg News. “Disney is way out in front on this.”
That’s a striking departure from some retail and service sector firms that have used Obamacare’s employee coverage requirement as an excuse to cut hours and benefits. While the vast majority of firms are not engaging in such tactics, high-profile stories about companies that do adopt that approach tend to dominate media coverage.
In fact, Disney’s decision tracks with a recent survey of chief financial officers at large American firms finding that American companies actually intend to increase their number of full-time employees by almost 2 percent over the next year, despite repeated claims by Obamacare critics that the reform law will create a part-time economy, discourage hiring, or encourage employers to roll back workers’ hours to avoid Obamacare.
Those claims have not borne out in reality. According to an analysis by Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) in July, just 0.6 percent of the American labor force worked between 26 and 29 hours per week in 2013 — the level of work that employers would be expected to roll back their workers’ hours to if they were trying to bypass Obamacare.
Furthermore, less than a third of workers say they are working less than 30 hours because of an employers’ decision, with most choosing to work a limited number of hours out of personal preference. That led CEPR researchers to conclude that the employment trend “is in the wrong direction for the ACA as job-killer story.”