Apple has side-stepped existing debate concerning whether all Americans should be given a chance at affordable health insurance – by extending full-benefit medical insurance to part-time employees starting from January 2010.

This may not seem a huge deal to UK readers, but in the US health insurance is essential, while the kind of salary part-time and unemployed citizens attracts means access to the insurance and non-welfare health care is denied to these groups.

IFOAppleStore (experts on matters in Apple retail), reports: “According to sources, the benefits now offered only to full-time employees, including those who work at the retail stores, will be offered to those working as few as 15 hours a week, which would include nearly all store employees.”

Principal caveat to the deal is that employees must have been with the company a year in order to qualify. All the same, with an estimated 9,900 part times in the Apple retail chain, the move seems set to cost Apple $80 million a year.

The move is understood to be in response to “significant dissatisfaction that emerged over the past year among part-time company employees,” the report informs. Health insurance – or the lack of it – was seen as contributing to that malaise. It could be seen as good business practice, particularly as Microsoft attempts to poach Apple retail employees.

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