Along with the individual mandate to buy insurance, the employer mandate has been one of the more controversial aspects of Obamacare. Implementation of the employer mandate has been delayed twice, and other aspects of the law are being phased in, with "transitional relief" to help businesses cope. However, according to Healthcare.gov, an employer "mandate" doesn't even exist.
A search for "employer mandate" on Healthcare.gov doesn't return any applicable information, but there is a page on the site entitled "Which businesses must cover their employees." The answer begins with the unequivocal statement, "No employer is required to offer health insurance to its employees." However, the following sentences make clear that for some businesses, the decision to not offer insurance is not without consequences:
But some larger businesses may have to make a payment in 2015 or 2016 if they don’t offer coverage or if the coverage doesn’t meet certain standards.
The payment is called the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment and applies to employers of different sizes at different times.
The site refers detailed questions to the IRS website which explains that employers with between 50 and 99 employees will not face the Employer Shared Responsibility Payment in 2015, and discusses other "transitional" policies that will affect larger businesses sooner.
On the other hand, the Healthcare.gov site does refer to the "individual mandate,” and does so more than once. The site states that, "[m]ost people must have health coverage" or be subject to a fee, "also known as 'the penalty,' the 'individual shared responsibility payment,' or the 'individual mandate')."
Much of the language is the same as the section describing employers' obligations, as is the impact of disregarding the requirements of the law. However, while businesses are told that, "no employer is required to offer health insurance" and individuals are told that, "most people must have health coverage,” both are subject to penalties for non-compliance. It is unclear why the administration makes the distinction by referring to the latter as a mandate, but not the former.