On June 20, 2014, the Departments of Labor, HHS and Treasury (the "Departments") released final rules regarding employers' use of orientation periods for new employees when determining the date by which an employer must offer the new employee health insurance.

Generally, the ACA requires applicable employers to offer health insurance to all full-time employees within 90 days of an employee's start date, without requiring the employee to meet any other qualification standard.  However, employers are permitted to make an offer of insurance to full-time employees contingent on completion of a "bona fide orientation period."

The final rules define a "bona fide orientation period."  To be a "bona fide orientation period," the waiting period may not last for more than one calendar month from the employee's start date in a position that would otherwise be eligible for coverage, minus one day. The final regulations take effect with plan years beginning in 2015.

Note, however, that compliance with this orientation period rule will not necessarily mean that an employer has complied with the ACA's employer "pay-or-play" rules.  Employers that are subject to the ACA's employer "pay-or-play" rule must offer coverage prior to the first  day of the fourth month of employment, regardless of whether the employee must complete an orientation period prior to coverage.