Counting Methods

downloadEmployee Counting Methods

Employee counts are used to determine what laws, rules, fees, and penalties apply to a health plan and/or the employer sponsor. We’ve summarized 12 counting methods in one convenient chart to help you navigate the complexities of this process.



[1] These rules may not apply in the same way to in employers in multi-employer plans or MEWAs.

[2] Note that it is not the same as the “controlled group” test applicable in other areas.  Employees of “joint employers” may also need to be counted.  This may occur in situations involving temporary staffing agencies.  These are both complex, fact-intensive and somewhat subjective tests.  Consult with counsel regarding their application.

[3] For example,  employees who are not work due to sickness or vacation must still be counted.

[4] Note that for current year calculations an employer will be covered for the entire year even if it doesn’t meet the 20-week requirement until the end of the year.

[5] As defined in Internal Revenue Code Section 414(b), (c), (m) or (o).  These are rules that apply to Section 401(k) plans.

[6] Includes full and part-time common-law employees of all employers considered to be a “single employer” for purposes of Internal Revenue Section 52(a) or (b).  These are similar to but somewhat more inclusive than the Code Section 414 rules.  In general, employers are considered separate if they file separate tax returns.

[7] If the sum of an employer’s full-time employees and FTEs exceeds 50 for 120 days or less during the preceding calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 who were employed during that period of no more than 120 days are seasonal workers, the employer is not considered to employ more than 50 full-time employees (including FTEs) and the employer is not an applicable large employer for the current calendar year.