The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service issued long-awaited guidelines Monday on how to determine whether adjunct faculty are full-time employees for the purpose of providing health insurance coverage.
For each hour that adjuncts spend in the classroom, employers should count an additional hour and 15 minutes to cover prep time, the IRS said in the Federal Register.
In other words, one hour in the classroom equals two and one-quarter hours as far as an adjunct employee's workweek is concerned, making for a ratio of slightly more than 1:1, as Inside Higher Ed notes. Adjuncts are still considered full-time if the school closes during the summer.
Until further guidance is issued, the IRS said, this is "one (but not the only) method that is reasonable for this purpose."
Adjuncts make up a majority of the higher education instruction workforce, meaning that the IRS' decision may have far-reaching effects. Under new rules imposed by the Affordable Care Act, employers with 200 or more workers must provide health insurance to full-time employees. For this purpose, a full-time employee is anyone who works 30 hours or more a week.
While the new guidelines could lead to health coverage for those who didn't have it before, some schools have said they're too cash-strapped to provide such benefits, and are instead cutting back on the hours adjuncts are allowed to work.
Nevertheless, advocates for adjunct faculty were generally pleased with the IRS' decision.
"It recognizes and attributes to adjuncts some of the many hours they spend grading and preparing for every hour of class time," Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, told Politico. Weingarten added that she was worried there is no enforcement mechanism, because "we're living in such a scorched-earth paradigm that you see insurance companies and employers are looking for any way to avoid the obligations."
Maria Maisto, president of New Faculty Majority, told The Chronicle of Higher Education, "The key takeaway from this is that the IRS recognized that there is a lot of complexity to contingent faculty work."