President Obama recently signed an executive order calling for new rules on overtime pay. Currently, salaried workers in executive, administrative and professional positions aren’t eligible for overtime pay if they make over $455 per week. The President suggested $600 or $640 as the new threshold – the current standards for New York and California.
Let’s put this in layman’s terms. There are many arguments for this new overtime law change. According to the White House, only 12% of salaried workers are currently legally required to receive overtime pay, and the threshold hasn’t been raised since the mid-1970’s. Additionally, following the economic downturn, company profits have bounced back, with profits of S&P 500 companies doubling since 2009. However, wages haven’t followed suit.
President Obama said:
“Overtime’s a pretty simple idea — if you have to work more you should get paid more. If you go above and beyond to help your employer and help the economy succeed, then you should share in your success.”
What About Small Businesses and the New Overtime Law?
Unfortunately, these new overtime law changes, if put into effect, will most likely disproportionately affect small businesses. While most large firms can absorb new regulatory costs, small businesses have less revenue to spread the costs across. As Marc Freedman, the Executive Director of Labor Law Policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce explained:
“Similar to minimum wage, these changes in overtime rules will fall most harshly on small and medium sized businesses.”
It is predicted that some small companies will see a significant increase in their payroll costs as lower-level employees working 50 or 60 hours a week become eligible for overtime. In the current economic environment, many small businesses don’t have the available revenue to cover these additional costs. The overtime pay changes could also potentially devastate startups, which often depend on long hours and under-paid dedication from their employees in order to get off the ground.
This new overtime law change will also negatively impact many small business employees. The changes would endanger employee jobs (as many small business owners will be forced to cut back the number of workers they employ) while ignoring the many legitimate reasons why employees may work overtime even without extra pay – like getting experience, developing their skills, or positioning themselves for a promotion.
What Are Your Options?
While a proposed rule is not predicted to come out until the fall, small business owners should start thinking about how they might mitigate these costs now. Some companies may have the revenue to just pay for their newly eligible employees outright, but many small businesses don’t have that luxury. Those already under financial constraints may need to consider raising their prices or reducing their employee numbers.
There are also some other measures small businesses should consider to mitigate these possible regulatory costs. Instead of hiring full-time employees to provide a needed service, small businesses can save money by hiring contract workers or outside service providers. These entities are dictated by contract law rather than employment law, and so are not eligible for overtime or benefits. They can also dictate their own payment terms.
As Paul Christiansen explains in a recent article:
“The corporation is the magic strategy that can open up opportunity, freedom, flexibility and choice for both startups and their service providers.”
Small businesses owners should also consider investing in an automated time-tracking system. If the new overtime law is changed, it will be more important than ever to track how employees are spending their time in order to ensure that no unnecessary overtime hours are logged. A fully integrated system can also show small business owners which employees are profitable to the company, making any budget-induced staff cuts more straightforward.
If the new overtime law changes take effect in the coming year, many small businesses will face additional payroll costs. But with the proper preparations, these costs can be mitigated.
Obama Photo via Shutterstock