‘Obamacare’ benefits mandate could further phase out full-time work

President Obama’s health care reform is prompting employers to hire more part-time and temporary workers to escape paying benefits under a mandate that goes into effect next year, amplifying a trend toward transient employment that took hold during the recession, according to a growing number of economic indicators.

Hardest hit by the move toward cutting work hours and increasing temporary hiring are lower-income workers, millions of whom already lack health insurance and are afflicted with constant turnover in jobs at fast-food restaurants, big-box retailers and other businesses with large numbers of low-paid staff.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest employer, is leading the trend, having increased the share of its temporary staff to 10 percent this year from between 1 percent and 2 percent last year, according to a Reuters survey of 52 Wal-Mart stores last month. It found that half of the stores were hiring only temporary workers — something Wal-Mart previously did only during the Christmas shopping season.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. CEO Bill Simon conceded that the company is hiring more “flex-time” workers to hold down costs, though the company denied that it was trying to escape benefit payments under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, often dubbed “Obamacare.” But business analysts say most of the temporary workers at Wal-Mart are unlikely to ever get insurance through the company because it could take up to a year to become eligible and the workforce has a high turnover rate.

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