Editor's Note: Susannah Chance is Vice President of Human Resources at Work Opportunities Unlimited and chair of BIA’s HR/Health Care/Workforce Development Policy Committee.
If you’re looking to start a robust debate among your colleagues, ask them to name some things state government does well and not so well. Maintaining beautiful parks, promoting sober driving and safe roads, and encouraging visitors to New Hampshire might be among the positive examples cited of a job well done. Perhaps on the other side, collecting tolls on a holiday weekend or handling lines at the DMV would be cited.
What most business leaders would agree on is that state government should not make decisions about the way private business owners and managers run their companies. We’re concerned that many bills this legislative session would cede decision making authority from private sector employers to state government.
Not every business in New Hampshire is the same. New Hampshire boasts, and the Business and Industry Association’s membership includes, technology firms, military contractors, advanced manufacturers, biotech companies, professional service firms, and medical providers, to name a few. Some have been successfully run by New Hampshire families for generations. Others are subsidiaries or branches of national or international companies. And thousands more are Mom and Pop operations. Yet many bills under consideration at the New Hampshire State House represent cookie-cutter legislation that intrudes on longstanding best practices used by private employers. The fact is, employers know better than politicians how to attract and retain employees.
House Bill 255 would require that employers pay an additional $2 an hour to employees who work between 10 PM and 8 AM. If state government makes a business’s third shift dramatically more expensive to operate than other shifts, one wonders how long the business will keep running a third shift. Other bills set mandates around worker scheduling. HB 724 would make employers pay time-and-a-half if a worker is scheduled to come back to work less than ten hours after punching out. Senate Bill 60 would require employers to post hourly workers’ schedules 14 days before the start of a pay period (and depending on how the pay period is structured, some postings would be required a month in advance). These are unnecessary intrusions by state government, stripping employers of the flexibility to set compensation and work schedules that best suit the changing needs of their business.
Unfortunately, there’s more. HB 227 would limit how long an employer can use a leased employee. The bill would prevent a contract with an employee leasing company from lasting more than 120 days. HB 211 would prohibit asking a job applicant about their salary history. Both HB 253 and SB 100 would prohibit asking questions about criminal backgrounds on employment applications.
HB 532 establishes a cumbersome and confusing new mandate for employers with a “use it or lose it” vacation policy that would compel them to adapt a new policy. If at the end of a prescribed period of time a worker has unused vacation days the employer is responsible for paying the employee for those days.
These bills and others are unnecessary and go far beyond federal labor requirements. You can argue with colleagues about what state government does well and not so well, but you’d be hard pressed to convince most business leaders that state government is better at running a private business than business owners and managers themselves. There is an appropriate role for state government, but it does not include making decisions about attracting, managing, and retaining private sector employees.