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Killing jobs and cutting wages does not help workers

If Delaware wants to understand the ramifications of various employer mandates featured on many platforms this election season, they can look north to Connecticut. Connecticut’s proposed bills in 2018 included family and medical leave, expanded paid sick leave, and minimum wage hikes. The implementation and compliance costs of these mandates to taxpayers and businesses were estimated to be up to $530 million.

Connecticut Business and Industry Association President and CEO Joe Brennan expressed concern that long term talks about the difficulty of having one-size-fits-all mandates on employers applied to these bills as well. Added costs and administrative burdens expected to accompany these and similar measures are bad news for an economy as businesses will be forced to lower wages or cut jobs entirely.

You hear people ask, “Why not mandate that employers can’t do these harmful things?” Unfortunately, these things cost money that has to come from somewhere. Businesses are experts in finding ways to be able to stay afloat and keep their doors open and will have no option but to make cuts if saddled with these costs.

Connecticut’s paid leave benefits were set to be funded by mandatory deductions from employee wages, exchanging income for benefits. On top of this, taxpayers would fork over $18.6 million annually to administer these plans. The costs impact more than just the employees and tax payers: businesses’ bottom lines will be impacted, especially for companies that are operating on very small profit margins, like small businesses.

So what can businesses do?

The easy answer is to cut wages or cut jobs to make up the additional costs. Automation is rapidly expanding in the business world, and is a cheaper option in the long term to having increasingly expensive, and often unreliable, human labor. Robots could occupy 38% of jobs in the U.S. economy by 2030, and boost productivity, manage labor costs and improve operational predictability for large and small businesses. Small businesses like transportation and storage, manufacturing, retail and other industries, are the most likely to adopt these changes in the near-term. They’re also the ones who will be hardest hit by the proposed employer mandates.

In addition to or to avoid layoffs or automation, businesses could also raise prices to pass the cost onto the consumer. In this instance, the business still faces higher costs, but now the tax payer is paying twice to fund these mandates. If the costs become too high and sales suffer, layoffs are back on the table.

You can’t force a company to hire associates but you can certainly force them out of a burdensome state or country they can no longer afford to operate in—and they’ll take their jobs with them.

When our workers, small businesses, and overall economy are already struggling to get back on their feet after COVID, anything that could provide such widespread damage should be off the table. The 2021 Legislative Session should focus on helping Delaware workers and businesses, not forcing them into unemployment and bankruptcy. This election will determine if our workers and businesses can recover, or if costly and burdensome mandates will cause more job loss and small business struggle. Delawareans must make the best choice for the future this November.