With ever-changing state and federal laws affecting small businesses, it can be challenging for small business owners to stay on top of issues related to legal and regulatory compliance. Here, we’ve consolidated several key new regulations for 2015 that could affect your New England based small business into a concise and actionable list.
There’s been asweep across the nation to increase minimum wage for 2015, with the majority of New England states being affected. The New England states that experienced minimum wage increases at the beginning of 2015 include Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont.
In Massachusetts and Rhode Island, minimum wage increased to $9.00 per hour. In Massachusetts, minimum wage is expected to increase another dollar to $10.00 on January 1, 2016, then to $11.00 on January 1, 2017.
In Connecticut, minimum wage increased from $8.75 to $9.15 on January 1, 2015, will increase to $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and then to $10.10 on January 1, 2017.
In Vermont, minimum wage increased from $8.73 to $9.15 an hour this year, will increase to $9.60 on January 1, 2016, and then to $10.50 an hour on January 1, 2017.
While many small business owners already pay their employees above minimum wage, certain types of small businesses, such as those in the restaurant and retail industries, will be hit hard by the new legislation.
Mandatory Paid Sick Leave Law
For New England states, mandatory paid sick leave regulations are not only relatively new, but seem to be changing rapidly as well.
Under the Mandatory Paid Sick Leave law, all private sector employers with 11 or more employees are required to provide paid sick leave to employees. Of the New England states, Connecticut was the first to adopt the Paid Sick Leave law in 2012, and also made an amendment to the law in January 2015. The amendment for the state of Connecticut includes the method for determining whether or not an employer is exempt from providing paid leave, as well as defines time frames for employee paid sick leave accrual. The amendment also extends paid sick leave benefits to radiologic technologists by adding them to the list of “service workers.”
Massachusetts was the third state, behind Connecticut and California, to adopt the new paid sick leave law. In November 2014, Massachusetts voters approved the Paid Sick Leave law, which is scheduled to take effect on July 1st of this year. This new legislation marks a significant change for Massachusetts, where historically it has only been mandatory to offer unpaid sick leave to employees.
In Vermont, the House of Representatives recently approved legislation on paid sick time for employees. The legislation was reintroduced on February 10th, 2015 and would affect 60,000 workers in the state, according to the Vermont Department of Labor. The new law would allow for 3 days of paid sick leave per year leave starting January 2016, increasing to 5 days in January 2018. This important bill is now slated to go to the state Senate for a vote during 2016.
Maine, Rhode Island and New Hampshire have yet to adopt any paid sick leave laws.
Ban the Box
Nationwide, there are 100 cities and counties that have adopted the “Ban the Box” campaign, which advocates that applicants with a criminal history should not have to put a checkmark in the box on job applications that asks about the existence of a criminal record. Instead, ex-offenders are able to display their experience and job potential before ever having to tell a potential employer about their criminal background.
To date, there are a total of 16 states that have adopted the policy including, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The newest state in New England to adopt “Ban the Box” is Vermont.
“This is about giving those who have paid their debt to society a fair chance at a good job.”says Vermont's governor, Peter Shumlin. Shumlin goes on to say, "I think there's rising awareness that we have 70 million Americans who have a criminal record and we have the highest incarceration rate of any country in the world and yet we know that when we can get people back in the workforce, they are much less likely to re-offend, they are much less likely to be supported by taxpayers on welfare and other programs and they have a productive future." Governor Shumlin signed an executive order on April 21, 2015 to officially “ban the box “in Vermont.
Where can I find my state’s small business regulations?
Staying abreast of business-related laws and regulations can be a time consuming and challenging obstacle for a small business owner to overcome. Here is a list of websites you should monitor regularly to stay up-to-date on business-related legislation:
As the leader of your business, it is critical that you keep your business in compliance to avoid costly fines. We frequently have business owners call us for help with new laws and regulations. If you have any questions about the new and changing laws and regulations in the New England area, we can help empower you with the information you need to ensure a successful 2015.
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Tom DiSilva has been providing professional human resource services for over 30 years. As the CEO of Navigate PEO, he actively partners with organizations of all sizes in the Greater New England area and across the country to help their businesses grow. He has expertise in HR and Labor Management, offering guidance and support for key areas of business such as negotiations, operations management, employee coaching, and employee benefits design.