House Committee to Consider Employer Mandate Fix

On Tuesday at 10:15am, the House Committee on Ways & Means will consider legislation that would repeal the 30-hour definition of “full-time employee” in the Affordable Care Act and restore the traditional 40-hour per week definition.  H.R. 2575, the Save American Workers Act, is sponsored by Rep. Todd Young (R-IN) and has 192 co-sponsors in the House.

The Committee held a hearing on the bill last week, where IFA member and multi-unit Marriott and Hilton franchisee Peter Anastos testified on the law’s impact on his business.  Although he plans to continue to offering coverage to his existing employees who work at least 30 hours per week, he said, that may change for new employees that he hires to staff the new hotels that his company, Maine Course Hospitality Group, will open in the next 18 months.

Asked by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) about the constant stream of new regulations and delays associated with the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Anastos compared ACA compliance for small business to “trying to nail Jello to a wall.”  Although the Obama Administration announced a one-year delay of the employer mandate last July, the collective weight of new costs and regulations are enough to crush small businesses that are forced to offer coverage to full-time employees or pay tax penalties.  Asked by Rep. Boustany if his business is facing uncertainty as a result of the law’s implementation, Mr. Anastos bluntly replied, “that’s the understatement of the year.”  Click the thumbnail below to view a video excerpt from Mr. Anastos’ testimony.

To take action on this important issue by emailing your Representative, click here to visit IFA’s grassroots action center, www.FranchisingVotes.com.

Sen. Manchin Meets with Public on ACA Fix

 

 

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Earlier this week, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) visited a Burger King location in Vienna, West Virginia as part of a week-long tour of businesses in the state.  The meeting, attended by members of the business community and local elected officials, primarily concerned the need to reform the definition of full-time employee in the Affordable Care Act’s Employer Mandate.

Under the health law, employees who work an average of 30 or more hours per week are considered full-time employees, a number which bucks the long-time industry standard of 40 hours per week to qualify for full-time status.  Businesses with more than 50 full-time employees would either have to offer affordable health coverage or face hefty penalties.  The mandate’s additional cost burdens would have a devastating impact on small businesses, particularly those in the franchise community.

Matt Herridge of Charlton Management, the company that owns the Burger King location where the meeting was held, said that providing health coverage to employees not normally considered full-time would cost his business more than $6,000 per employee who received coverage.  The possibility of dramatically increased labor expenses is already forcing his business to weigh personnel management policy changes.

“If we start providing that to every single worker here, we would be out of business within a month,” Herrige told the Parkersburg News and Sentinel.  “Most businesses like us have cut folks back to under 30 hours. What we will have to consider later this year is whether we will follow suit or not.”

Sen. Manchin has taken leadership on this issue, cosponsoring S. 1188: the Forty Hours is Full Time Act of 2013.  The bipartisan legislation would raise the threshold for full-time status in the Affordable Care Act to the industry-standard 40 hours per week.  Companion legislation has already been introduced in the House as H.R. 2575: the Save American Workers Act of 2013.

IFA strongly supports efforts to reform the definition of full-time employee, and is working with its industry partners to ensure to legislators are fully aware of the challenges facing businesses struggling to comply with the Affordable Care Act.

For more information, please see this joint IFA and U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the impact that the Employer Mandate’s definition of full time has on businesses.

The slippery slope of government intruding on contracts in franchising…and beyond

 

 

This week, Maine is set to hold a hearing on so-called “Fair Franchising” legislation (LD 1458). This legislation, like many others, opens up a Pandora’s Box of ambiguity in contract terms that threaten the basic and proven tenets of the franchise business model, which is all about maintaining the brand, and would leave both the franchisee and the franchisor liable for potential litigation down the road.

The result?  More franchisors and franchisees will be fighting lawsuits versus working together to grow their businesses, add jobs and make the U.S. economy stronger.  Meanwhile, consumers would have a less consistent experience at franchise locations.

The International Franchise Association is working to educate lawmakers in Maine (and elsewhere) about why LD 1458 has damaging provisions that would harm the franchising industry and the 74,100 jobs it supports at 3,674 franchised locations in Maine, which pump $7.4 billion annually into the Maine economy.  Now is a good time to remind folks why IFA is fundamentally opposed to further government regulation of franchising.  The word “further” is a key point here, as the franchising industry is already highly regulated by government at both the state and federal levels, by commercial contract law, state investment law and nationally by the Federal Trade Commission.  Additional regulation is not only bad for business, but it’s bad for the free enterprise, market-driven system that our great nation was founded upon.

To be sure, going into business is inherently risky.  However, without risk, there would be no opportunity for success.  When a person starts a business of any kind, there is a risk of failure, and there is perhaps a greater risk that things won’t work out exactly as planned or envisioned.  Is that fair?  One could argue that it depends on your perspective.

With franchising, due to the contractual nature of the model, there are adequate opportunities for both parties to assess through due diligence the risk before a contract is executed.  The franchisor can evaluate the prospective franchisee and ask questions about if he or she is financially qualified, will be a good operator, and will follow the franchisor’s operating system.  The franchisee gets a detailed disclosure document with information about the franchisor, its business history, and its financials.  The franchise contract spells out the obligation of both parties to each other for the term of the agreement.  At the end of the day, both the franchisor and franchisee can make the decision to sign the agreement or not.

So what are some of the consequences of these so-called Fair Franchise bills?  With regard to Maine, there are several provisions that are very problematic and damaging to the franchise industry.  For instance, franchisors could not terminate, cancel, or fail to renew franchisees for refusing to take part in promotional campaigns for the products or services of the franchise that promote profitability.  That means non-compliant franchisees could benefit from advertising funds contributed by other franchisees who are following the system.  Franchisees also would be exempt from selling approved products from approved suppliers, which could jeopardize consistency and quality affecting the integrity of the brand.  We hear from franchisees that they want the brand protected as much if not more than the franchisors as it has a direct impact on their success.  These negative consequences hurt both the franchisor and franchisees.

In most cases, the root cause of tensions in franchise relationships is due to communication and transparency breakdowns.  Franchisees who feel they are being treated unfairly are encouraged to leverage the many mechanisms in place within the overwhelming majority of franchise systems to work together with the franchisor to resolve issues.  Franchisors ought to be transparent and consult with their franchisees when implementing a new relationship with a vendor, or implementing a new policy across a system and show franchisees why it will ultimately help them.

Franchising works when franchisees are profitable.  If franchisees don’t make money, franchisors don’t grow their system, don’t expand their royalties, and they certainly don’t create the jobs this country desperately needs.  In most systems, communication is very good between franchisees and franchisors.  IFA encourages all of its members to abide by its Code of Ethics, and while not a self-governing body, we believe the best course of action when tensions or disputes arise is through a private dispute resolution, before any legal action is taken.

An IFA-commissioned task force of leading franchisees and franchisors formed last fall is working toward the completion of a core set of principles that it believes franchise businesses should abide by to stave off conflict.  Fundamentally, their intention is to avoid conflict from the get-go by promoting transparency in franchise agreements and trust in franchise relationships.  If things do go wrong, mechanisms should be in place that are understood at the beginning of the contract phase by both parties to address the concerns.

IFA will continue to work to identify best practices to better the industry.  Litigation should always be a last course of action.  Government intrusion in a private right to contract is unnecessary, and will only result in unintended consequences for both franchisors and franchisees.

For more information about the consequences this legislation could have on the economy in Maine, click here

Increase Your Digital Marketing and Tech Solutions

FranTech Technology Toolkit

The IFA FranTech Toolkit is designed to help marketing, communications and information technology franchise professionals navigate the maze of digital marketing and technology solutions available to franchises today.

Find eight different ways that technology is helping to improve efficiencies and positively impact bottom lines.  Topics include a localizing your email marketing strategy; social, local and mobile marketing changes everything and online marketing.  This special advertising section is essential reading for your next strategy session.

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Franchise Digital Marketing & Technology in the Spotlight

IFA’s FranTech 2014: Digital Marketing & Technology Best Practices for Franchising, is scheduled April 10 and 11 in Denver.  Featured experts will examine how you can capitalize on new digital communications platforms and technologies to take your business to the next level. We will bring together leading experts in cloud computing, security, mobile marketing, lead generation and much more. Register now.

Benetrends Offers IFA Members Access to New Development Fund to Fuel Expansion

Access to capital is expected to continue to be a challenge for the next few years, ultimately affecting franchise expansion. But a new $100 million fund from Benetrends is helping to fuel the industry’s growth by offering International Franchise Association franchisor members direct access to capital for qualified applicants to develop new locations or to purchase their first franchise.

“Part of ensuring sustained franchise growth across the country includes offering access to strong, franchise-focused lending programs such as Benetrends new $100 million fund,” said Steve Caldeira, CFE, IFA president and CEO. “In doing so, we are providing both existing and prospective franchisees with the tools and financial resources they will need for long-term growth and success.”

Hand & Stone, a rapidly growing spa franchise, is the first brand to participate, receiving $10 million in initial capital to assist with its growth.

“Benetrends is excited to now provide franchisors and their franchisees access to the critical funding needed to expand their current operations or purchase their first franchise,” said Rocco Fiorentino, CFE, president & CEO, Benetrends, Inc. “We’re pleased to award Hand & Stone the first $10 million from the new fund as they look to meet their future development needs following their record-setting growth in 2013.”

 

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