Higher bar for benefits
Fluctuating hours also make it difficult to qualify — and pay — for health care coverage, workers complain.
Full-time employees are eligible for benefits six months after being hired, while part-time employees must wait a year and average 30 hours weekly, Walmart says. That's up from an average 24 hours a week for part-time employees hired before Feb. 1, 2012. There's no minimum for part-timers hired before Jan. 15, 2011.
Walmart says it changed its health care plan to more closely conform to the new federal health care law.
Greg Fletcher, an electronics sales associate at the Duarte, Calif., store, works 24 to 32 hours a week and says he's getting the "high end" of available hours. His wife also works at Walmart but lacks enough hours to earn benefits. Together they made $25,000 last year. Fletcher says Walmart's benefits would cost up to a third of his paycheck to cover his family.
"For a lot of people, it's just an unaffordable option," the 29-year-old says.
Instead, the Fletchers are on Medi-Cal, California's Medicaid program, to help cover themselves and their two sons, ages 6 and 9 months.
However, Walmart subsidizes a greater percentage of the cost of health care coverage than most retailers, says Will Sneden, senior vice president in Aon Hewitt's health and benefits practice. Sneden, who counts Walmart as a client, says the discounter's health benefits consistently rank in the top 25% of retailers "due to favorable eligibility and a wider choice of plan options with relatively low employee premiums."