Several restaurants, hotels and retailers have started or are preparing to limit schedules of hourly workers to below 30 hours a week. That is the threshold at which large employers in 2014 would have to offer workers a minimum level of insurance or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 for each worker.

The shift is one of the first significant steps by employers to avoid requirements under the health-care law, and whether the trend continues hinges on Tuesday’s election results. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has pledged to overturn the Affordable Care Act, although he would face obstacles doing so…

Consultants have warned that companies that use more part-time labor risk productivity losses from high staff turnover and lower morale. Laurence Geller, who until last week was CEO of Strategic Hotels & Resorts Inc., said he weighed moving toward part-time workers but decided against risking that highly trained staff at his high-end hotels would go elsewhere. The company owns hotels bearing the Four Seasons, Fairmont and Ritz-Carlton names.

The insurance mandate applies to companies with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time workers, a calculation based on the number of people employed by the company and an average of hours they work in a week.