The upshot, however, is that most temporary help workers — nearly 3 million on any given day — won’t have employer-sponsored medical coverage even if they are working more than 30 hours, she said.
Under the health law’s mandate that everybody be insured, temp workers without insurance must pay a penalty or seek coverage in state-based marketplaces known as exchanges. Because of the lower wages typically paid by staffing agencies, temps will probably be eligible for tax credits or Medicaid.
Kelly chief executive Carl Camden played down the idea that employers will shed health-coverage liabilities by using temp agencies. He said he sees clients’ adjustment to the health act as “a modest opportunity” for his company.
“There is a portion of the staffing industry who think there will be a large amount of companies trying to avoid obligations under the ACA and trying to shift over to staffing firms,” Camden said in an interview. “I don’t see that as happening.”
Manpower and Robert Half declined to make officials available for interviews.
The bigger business may be helping companies navigate the law through consulting or by taking over temporary jobs they already have, Camden and other industry officials say.
“We expect that clients that have those kinds of workers and who are daunted by the complexity of the Affordable Care Act will look to staffing firms to help them manage those kinds of workers,” said Edward A. Lenz, senior counsel for the American Staffing Association, a temp-company trade group.
Staffing-company share prices have shot up, partly in response to the recovering economy and partly because of hopes for a surge in Affordable Care Act business, industry analysts say.
Manpower has risen by half since November while Kelly, Randstad and Robert Half are all up more than 35 percent, far more than the market as a whole.
A few years ago, when Massachusetts implemented its own requirement that companies provide health coverage to full-time workers, temp jobs increased six times as fast as in the country as a whole, said Jeffrey Silber, who follows staffing company stocks for BMO Capital Markets.
Officials running Dothan schools see a double benefit. By hiring substitutes through Kelly they’ll avoid possible medical costs and also dodge the complexities of how the health act affects subs, personnel director Goodwin said.
Sometimes subs work more than 30 hours and sometimes they don’t, she said, and keeping track of who would be owed health coverage “would just be a continuing accounting nightmare.”
Several other Alabama systems are starting to hire subs through Kelly, which has been offering health-law Web seminars through the state school superintendents association.
And no wonder, Goodwin said. At last year’s meeting of the American Association of School Personnel Administrators, “that was one of the hottest topics,” she said: “How this Affordable Care Act would affect school systems.”
Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health-care-policy organization that is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.