Del.: Workers’ Comp Rates Drop, Minimum Wage Rises

By Diane Cadrain Feb 12, 2015

Delaware employers’ workers compensation insurance rates dropped significantly, retroactive to December 2014, Insurance Commissioner Karen Weldin Stewart announced on Jan. 28, 2015. The average decreases for employers in the voluntary market will be 11.5 percent; for those in the residual market, 9.7 percent. The decreases are expected to save employers approximately $20 million in insurance costs this year.

Commissioner Stewart attributed the decrease to stakeholders’ willingness to work together and to the passage last year of House Bill 37, which requires that medical costs be reduced over the next three years.

Minimum wage. The minimum wage will go up to $8.25 at the end of June 2015, but a report from a legislative Low Wage, Service Industry Task Force is urging more changes.

“We made some progress last year, when we raised the minimum wage, but we knew we still had work to do,” said Sen. Robert I. Marshall, co-chairman of the task force. “We think this plan has practical recommendations that will help, not just people at the bottom of the economic ladder, but all Delawareans.”

The report calls for increasing the state’s minimum wage to $10.25 per hour by 2017 and indexing it to the Consumer Price Index. Ultimately, the task force said the state should move to a minimum wage in the $15 per hour range, which experts testified could save the state big money in Medicaid and other social programs.

The report also calls for:

  • Increasing and indexing the minimum wage paid to tipped workers.
  • Increasing the state’s earned income tax credit and possibly making the credit refundable.
  • Giving the state’s labor department clear authority in protecting wage-hour whistleblowers and prosecuting cases of unpaid overtime.
  • Increasing investment in training programs for unemployed workers.
  • Developing a program to pay for needed infrastructure work.

In response to the report’s recommendations, Republican task force members submitted a minority report addendum to the 90 + page document, stating that “Delaware family incomes have not recovered since their precipitous drop in 2008, and it is vitally important that the Delaware State Government not pursue policies, regardless of how well-intentioned, that will reduce the number of jobs available, the number of hours worked, and reduce take-home pay for workers.”

Delaware employers, including the Chamber of Commerce, the Delaware Retailers, and the Delaware Restaurant Association, oppose any attempts to further raise the minimum wage.

State employee raises. As of Jan. 1, state employees saw five percent increases in their salaries.

Diane Cadrain is an attorney who has been writing about employment law issues for more than 20 years.

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