IRS Says Colleges Must Be ‘Reasonable’ When Calculating Adjuncts’ Work Hours

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the new law designed to expand health insurance to more Americans, has put adjuncts and their workload in the spotlight.

The Internal Revenue Service this month issued proposed rules for employers that acknowledge the special work circumstances of adjuncts—among them, the way adjuncts rack up work hours outside of the classroom—that need to be considered when evaluating whether their employers must provide them with health benefits.

Under the new law, which takes effect in January 2014, employees who work at least a 30-hour work week must receive health benefits from their employers. Some colleges are concerned about how to tally up the hours adjuncts spend on the job to determine if they have reached that full-time status. Most adjuncts don’t receive health benefits, and the legislation appeared to pave the way for them to finally get access.

The proposed rules, announced in the Federal Register on January 2, don’t provide a hard and fast formula for how to calculate an adjunct’s workload, but “further guidance may be provided,” the announcement says. The agency is collecting comments on the proposal through March 18.

In the meantime, colleges must “use a reasonable method for crediting hours of service,” the IRS document says. In the case of an adjunct faculty member, the document adds, it would not be a reasonable method of calculating an instructor’s work hours for colleges to take into account “only classroom or instruction time and not other hours that are necessary to perform the employee’s duties, such as class-preparation time.” <Read more. May require paid subscription.>

Via Audrey Williams June, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.