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National Restaurant Association - DOL reminds employers to provide exchange notice by Oct. 1

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DOL reminds employers to provide exchange notice by Oct. 1

Employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act are required to notify all employees about new health insurance exchanges, or marketplaces, by Oct. 1, and within 14 days of hire for employees who come on board after Oct. 1, the Department of Labor reaffirmed in a Sept. 18 webcast.

Employers must provide the new FLSA Section 18(B) notice to all employees, whether full-time or part-time, DOL officials said. The requirement applies whether the employer offers health benefits or not, and whether the employee is enrolled in an employer's health plan.

DOL officials said employers can provide the written notice in a variety of ways, including mailing it, hand-delivering it, or adding it to paychecks, pay stubs or new-hire materials. Employers can also provide the notice electronically, as long as the electronic form meets DOL standards. "The key is to make sure you use a reliable method to ensure delivery to employees," a DOL official said.

The NRA offers its members an easy-to-use online tool at Restaurant.org/Notify to provide notice to employees. Employers who sign up for the NRA's Notification Tool can send their employees to the site and keep track of which employees have been notified. The NRA’s tool uses model language provided by the DOL to meet the law’s requirements.

The employee-notice requirement was passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. It requires employers to provide three pieces of information to employees: about the existence of the new health insurance marketplaces; that employees may eligible for federal tax subsidies to buy health plans through an exchange; and that employees who choose to buy health plans through an exchange rather than through their employer would lose the employer's contribution to the premium, if any.

The DOL offers two model notices, one for employers who offer health plans and another for employers who do not:

-- Model notice for employers who offer health care coverage
-- Model notice for employers who do not offer health care coverage.

Employers are not required to use the DOL's model notices. "These are simply model notices and may be revised to better suit the employer's needs," a DOL official said during the webcast. "We have the model notices available in Word format so employers can easily modify it... Employers can also create their own model notices."

The DOL's model notices go well beyond the three-part notice required under the ACA. The DOL offers more background on the FLSA notice requirement.

The FLSA mandate is a statutory requirement that applies to all FLSA-covered employers. While there are no monetary penalties for employers who do not deliver the notice, the DOL officials reminded businesses that "employers are required to comply, and employees are entitled to receive the notice from their employer."

The DOL also provided during its webcast information on new SHOP exchanges that will start accepting applications Oct. 1 from small employers interested in purchasing health insurance.

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