Health care law limits UWRF student workers to 25 hours per week

Posted February 24, 2016

To comply with the Affordable Care Act (ACA), student employees of the University of Wisconsin from now on can only work 25 hours per week, but that should not affect most at the UW-River Falls.

The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010 and frequently referred to as “Obamacare,” pertains to people who consistently work 30 or more hours per week and guides reporting employees’ hours to the Internal Revenue Service. The act provides those individuals affordable health insurance coverage, according to UWRF Human Resources Director Donna Robole.

“When you look at students in Wisconsin who are working for the the University of Wisconsin, there is a state statute that does not allow the University of Wisconsin to provide health insurance to student help,” Robole said. “That statute also references that student workers are not eligible for unemployment.”

After that statute was put into effect, it was UWRF’s turn to follow the new UW System policy of student employees not working more than 25 hours per week during the academic calendar. For 11 weeks during the summer, student employees may work 40 hours per week, according to Robole.

The ACA has been slowly phased in to the UW System. This year, the ACA requires the UW System to offer health insurance to 95 percent of its eligible employees, and that led to the 25-hour limit going into effect for student workers.

“We knew that it was not going to be able to continue the way it had in the past without looking at student hours because we would not be able to offer health insurance to students if they were considered full-time eligible,” Robole said.

Robole and the rest of the Human Resources Department looked back at the fall semester to see how many students averaged more 25 hours each week.

“We had only 10 students who’s combined hours averaged over 25 or more each week,” Robole said. “Most of our students fell below that mark.”

So far, it has not been an issue for departments with student employees, but Robole said there are peak times where departments need more employees.

“There are peak periods of times where departments need more help than others and the students provide that assistance,” Robole said. “The departments are concerned with how they are going to keep their doors open without offering more hours to students as needed.”

The Falcon Shop, on the first floor of the University Center, employs a number of student workers. Bailey Goodman, a senior who works in the Falcon Shop, said the hour restrictions do not affect her.

“We (Falcon Shop) are not part of the university, so the cutback on hours has not affected us,” Goodman said. “My hours are getting trimmed regardless.”

If a student were to go over the 25-hour mark, there would be a fine assessed to the whole UW System, not just the specific employee or the specific department.

“We are working very hard to get the word out and get things lined up so that we can be in compliance with the University of Wisconsin policy,” Robole said.

That fine to the UW System would be millions of dollars, according to Robole.