5 Things All Businesses Need To Prepare For In 2021

Is your business ready for the New Year?

Businesses big and small have seen a lot of changes recently – and there’s more where that came from. From updated wage laws to COVID financials to new potential risks on the horizon – here’s the 5 biggest things all businesses need to prepare for in the new year.

1) Update wages to 2021 minimum wage amounts

  • Hourly Minimum Wage increases to $12.50 per hour on 12/31/20. (Tipped employees to $8.35 per hour)
  • “Fast food” qualifying employers minimum wage goes to $14.50 per hour
  • The tip credit is being removed from miscellaneous industry employee pay (non-hospitality) (Note, this should have been reduced by 50% in July, and is completely being eliminated per NYS law for 2021)
  • For salaried (exempt) employees, the minimum wage is also increasing:

2) Make sure your COVID Leave (FFCRA or “Cares Act”) Housekeeping is complete

  • For Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) and/or Emergency FMLA Leave (EFMLA), which are set to end 12/31.
  • Ensure that employees’ use of this time has been recorded accurately in your payroll system, and therefore you are receiving the “Federal Tax Credit” reimbursement for this time. 
  • Ensure that you have affirmation documents from each employee for any COVID leave used in case of an audit later (signed verification by the employee indicating the need and reason for the leave).
  • Make sure you’ve tracked the use of this time for each employee (number of days or hours) for yourself.
  • Pro-Tip: EPSL and EFMLA usage almost always counts towards an employee’s FMLA eligibility for the year, and for this reason and also in the case that these leaves are extended beyond 12/31, you want to ensure that you understand how much time employees have left so you are not overpaying these benefits. 
  • Note: these leaves interact and overlap in a somewhat complicated manner, so if you are unsure about whether you correctly administered these leaves, we encourage you to reach out for guidance. 

3) Know that NYS Paid Family Leave (PFL) benefits are increasing

  • PFL is going to 12 weeks of leave (from 10) and 67% pay weekly pay (from 60%)

Pro-tip: this now directly overlaps with FMLA and you may want to consider a policy adjustment to require overlap of usage where applicable. 

4) Make sure you have a plan to implement New York Paid Sick Leave (required paid time off for sick days) taking effect 1/1/2021

  • All employers will be required to provide 40 to 56 hours of sick time to employees starting January 1st.
  • This is a significant change for all employers in NYS for 2021, which has many layers. We recommend checking out our recorded webinar (it’s free) on this subject.

5) You have plans on how to address other HR trends, risks, and opportunities for the year

  • This includes plans for how to address the ongoing COVID impacts including employee leave needs, remote working arrangements, and COVID response plans. 
  • Addressing the increased focus by employees but also legally on policies and actions around equity, inclusion, and diversity. Are your policies/practices likely to cause you employee satisfaction or legal issues?
  • Are you addressing employees’ increased need/desire for wellness benefits? (EAP program, flexible work environment, etc.)
  • As new laws continue to increase the administrative burden on employers to manage compliance (Paid Sick Leave!), are you leveraging existing or easily available technology to handle this?


Have a question about this information, a tough situation you’re unsure how to handle, or just looking for some reassurance? We can help! Ally HR Partners helps HR people, business owners, and other people leaders who are overwhelmed or unsure tackle their problems, and strategically plan to prevent them in the future! Reach us at Emartin@AllyHRPartners.com

This post was written by Emily Martin, Owner of Ally HR Partners LLC, a Buffalo-based HR consulting firm that helps small businesses identify and implement custom solutions to their people problems and opportunities. Often a business’ #1 expense, Ally HR Partners believes your people should be your #1 asset. Through an integrative partnership approach, Ally becomes your internal expert on all things HR including compliance assurance, performance management, and strategic HR initiatives designed to make the most out of your Human Capital. For more information about how Ally can work for you, visit AllyHRPartners.com.

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Step Out Buffalo Business

Step Out Buffalo Business is a business focused publication featuring tips and tricks for entrepreneurs and small business people in Buffalo & Western New York. We write what we know and when we don't know, we ask an expert in the field. We've gained our knowledge through experience growing businesses in various industries.

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