Under the SECURE Act and SECURE 2.0 Act, employers must provide long-term, part-time employees the opportunity to make elective deferrals under their 401(k) plans and, beginning in 2025, their 403(b) plans. Under the new rules, long-term, part-time employees include those employees who complete at least 500 hours of service in three consecutive years (reduced to two years in 2025), are at least 21 years old and enter the plan solely because they satisfy this requirement.
When this occurs, certain special rules apply to such employees, including rules that impact when employees become vested and whether such employees must be included in annual nondiscrimination testing or must receive top-heavy vesting and benefits. As a result, many employers have asked whether employees who enter the plan as long-term, part-time employees are always treated like long-term, part-time employees or if that can change throughout the course of their careers. The answer is, well, complicated, and the impact differs depending on whether the employer is applying the special vesting or nondiscrimination and top-heavy rules to such employees.