Friday, November 18, 2016

What are your biggest business concerns for 2017?

New sick leave and wage laws will impact your small business

The recent change to Washington's minimum wage and sick leave law may have a significant impact on small businesses in Eastern Washington. Most business owners will need to evaluate operations, personnel, policies and their accounting software.

In a nutshell, Initiative I-1433 requires Washington State employers to increase minimum wage (starting Jan 1, 2017) and also provide paid safe/sick leave for employees (by 2018). As of November 18th, Labor & Industries has not updated the 2017 Minimum Wage Notice on the website, but you can read more here.  

Seattle Times, 11.08.16
The City of Spokane recently enacted a similar safe and sick leave ordinance starting in 2017.

The Initiative calls for:
  • raising minimum wage to $11.00 (2017)
  • $11.50 (2018)
  • $12.00 (2019)
  • $13.50 (2020)
  • and requiring employers to provide employees with paid sick leave to care for the health of themselves and their families."

Source: Washington Employment Security Department
Emily Eng, The Seattle Times

Business owners will have numerous issues to address, such as:

*Budgeting/forecasting to account for the increases

*Pricing adjustments

*Knowing costs, COGS, percentages of key expenses (year-to-year comparison)

*Looking at personnel - (changing employees to independent contractors will not work)

*Apprentice/intern programs - is there a way to pay lower than minimum wage and develop work skills?

*Vendor relationships

*Personnel manual

*Public relations - how do you inform your customers/clients that you are increasing prices as a direct result?

*Accounting software: if you are not using Quickbooks, how will you track sick leave?

*What can be automated? If it is a restaurant, should you evaluate the use of tablets or automated ordering systems or ordering online?

*If you are in a hospitality industry, can you visit a 'green policy' and reward guests with a room or restaurant credit for not choosing to have rooms serviced on a daily basis?

*What positions can be eliminated? Do you need a receptionist? Do you have good job descriptions? Can you cross-train employees?

*How will you manage when people call in sick to care for a family member or themselves?

I'm so confused, where do I start?

First, find out what is required from the City, State or other agency. Talk with your business advisor on how to forecast for increased wages, create a personnel manual or even understand what is required. If we get enough interest, we can bring in a speaker or trainer on any of these topics.

If you have been thinking about implementing other policies, such as cell phone or social media, now is an opportune time. 

Do you need a
social media policy?
For example, perhaps you had a laid-back management style regarding use of Facebook on a work-owned computer and relied on the honor system that employees would use it occasionally. Now it is to the point of distraction and cutting into productivity. You, as the employer, can implement a policy or personnel manual to address the expectations and usage of personal use on business equipment. Personal use of company-owned property could also expose private information like health records to a security breach. A good place to start is with a Personnel manual if you do not have one in place. 

The most important thing is to not ignore these issues and requirements. Claiming that you didn't know could result in stiff penalties or fines, employee dissent or even lawsuits. Some of this boils down to what kind of business owner are you or do you want to be? Your staff and customers can make or break a business, it is important to retain both of them.