BRISTOL COUNTY BUSINESS NEWS The Ofﬁcial Publication of the Bristol County Chamber of Commerce, Inc. April 2017 Edition
Five Beacon Hill Actions That Could Raise Business Costs
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By: Robert A. Mellion, Esq. President & CEO, Bristol County Chamber of Commerce, Inc.
Beacon Hill is constantly introducing and debating legislation that intentionally or incidentally raises the cost of doing business in Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the 190th Legislative Session of the General Court could be an exceptionally bad one for small businesses. More concerning is the support that several high profile anti-business bills and provisions are receiving. This year began with the surprise that an “Employer Contribution to Health Care” provision was inserted within the Governor’s FY 2018 Budget. The revenue capturing scheme is a “Massachusetts Only” proposed $2000 per employee tax that will likely hit most employers with 11, or more, full-time equivalent employees. The language
of the proposal was buried within the “Outside Section 46: Employer Contribution to Health Care 2” of the Governor’s proposed FY2018 budget. Not only is the tax unfair, but it also has the unintended consequence of pushing employers to terminate their health care benefits. While employers that do not offer health insurance will pay the $2000 penalty per employee, so will employers that may offer excellent health insurance to all of their employees. Many employers offering insurance will likely pay the tax because they fail to reach the employee take-up rate of 80% through no fault of their own. Please know that the Chamber is working to put an end to this action. Another proposal that could significantly raise the cost of doing business in Massachusetts is a bill requiring employers to provide employees with 26 weeks of paid leave for their own illness and up to 16 weeks of paid family leave for the birth/adoption of a child or to care for a relative, including spouse, parent, grandparent, in-law, child, or grandchild. If this bill becomes law, employers would be forced to pay workers a percentage of their salary during this leave, which could be up to $1,000 per week.
Massachusetts would be the only state in the United States requiring employers to take on this burden. In 2016, the measure advanced from the Senate, but failed to pass the House. Assisting in preventing the passage of last year’s Employer Paid Sick Leave bill was a major relief for the Chamber. Small business owners could never be expected to absorb such a substantial hit. The problem is that another Employer Paid Family Leave Bill has been reintroduced for the session in 2017. Legislation has also been introduced that would restrict an employers’ control of workplace schedules. If passed, the “Strict Scheduling Law” will limit changes in work schedules and any changes would result in penalties that are intended to be costly to employers. For instance, the legislation would require 21-day advance written notice of an employee’s work schedule. For any changes made to the schedule within 21 days, workers would be entitled to one hour of additional “predictability pay.” While the bill may have good intentions the move is extremely onerous for small business owners and would actually
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