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    Cumberland Gulf Takes New Approach to Obamacare Mandate

    C-store chain to expand health care benefits to approximately 1,500 more employees.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News

    FRAMINGHAM, Mass. -- The impending Patient Protection Affordable Care Act has many retailers scrambling. Going into effect on Jan. 1, employers with 50 or more full-time employees must offer affordable health insurance, or suffer a $2,000 fine per employee excluding the first 30 employees.

    Although many retailers are considering cutting employee hours in response to the Affordable Care Act employer mandate, The Cumberland Gulf Group, operator of 589 convenience stores, is taking the opposite approach -- one that may send shockwaves throughout the c-store industry. The company announced this morning that it will expand its health care program to cover an additional 1,500 employees approximately as of Oct. 1.

    The Affordable Care Act, widely referred to as Obamacare, stipulates that employees working more than 30 hours per week are considered full-time workers. In Cumberland Gulf's case, approximately 4,500 workers will be full-time employees as of Oct. 1, and 2,700 will remain part-time workers. The company decided that all of its full-time employees will work 32 hours per week or more, while part-time employees will work 29 hours per week or less.

    Roughly 1,500 employees who currently serve part-time roles will have their hours boosted to meet the 32-hour-per-week threshold and receive health care benefits.

    Providing health care benefits to 1,500 additional employees will certainly be costly for Cumberland Gulf, acknowledged John P. McMahon, senior vice president of human resources and chief human resources officer at The Cumberland Gulf Group. However, he said the changes are well worth it for an employer in a leadership position.

    "There certainly is a choice to be made in this situation and every company needs to do what they think is right," McMahon told CSNews Online exclusively in an industry-first interview. "We think we are doing the right things for the right reasons. We want the internal and external world to know that our company is a great place to work. Our short- and long-term success will be predicated on the people we hire and who work for us and with us."

    The company is instituting this new health care policy because it wants current and prospective employees to know they are partners and part of a family business, McMahon continued. "We've become the premier brand of choice for the daily needs of the everyday, on-the-go world by being a great place to work first," he said. "We want to differentiate ourselves."

    Current part-time workers will not be forced to become full-time employees under the Obamacare guidelines, McMahon stressed. "We will work closely with our people to understand their needs, our needs and work out scheduling and availability," he stated.

    Framingham, Mass.-based Cumberland Gulf initially sent an e-mail to its employees on Friday notifying them of the new health care policy. Although it is still early, feedback has already begun to pour in.

    "The initial reaction has been extremely positive, not only from our internal folks, but from external people who are interested in jobs," McMahon told CSNews Online. "I imagine our candidate flow will continue to increase. People are really happy about the [new health care policy]. It's a tangible example that we are serious [about] our commitment to our people and we really are putting our money where our mouth is."

    The Cumberland Gulf Group is a strategic amalgamation of Cumberland Farms Inc. and Gulf Oil LP.


    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News
    • About Brian Berk Brian Berk is managing editor of Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner, where he specializes in covering motor fuels, technology and financial news. He has served the magazine industry for 14 years and has also worked in the radio and newspaper fields. Berk holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

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