The pandemic's impact on New Jersey businesses in 2020, plus its anticipated impact on 2021 revenues, equals fewer perks and limited pay raises next year for workers, according to a survey released by the New Jersey Business & Industry Association.

Because they predict future losses as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency, and believe that recouping profits already lost due to closures may never occur, as we reported on Monday, business owners appear more likely this year to slash pay bumps and healthcare coverage for employees.

According to the 2021 Business Outlook Survey, 40% of businesses anticipate no wage increases for employees in 2021. That's a 16% jump from the share of employees in last year's survey that anticipated offering no raises in 2020.

Of the 56% of employers who plan to hike pay for their workers in 2020, a plurality (28%) expect the bump to be between 1% and 2.9%. Nine percent of owners anticipate offering raises of at least 5%.

More than 1,000 New Jersey businesses were surveyed by NJBIA in September; most respondents were small businesses, employing fewer than 25 people.

Survey findings suggest healthcare coverage will be impacted by reduced revenue. Out of the 72% of respondents who offered health insurance in 2020, more than a quarter said they'll discontinue that coverage in 2021.

Beyond impacted sales numbers and increased costs related to sanitization and personal protective equipment, businesses are also concerned about costs brought on by potential litigation related to COVID-19. Forty-five percent of respondents said they would not be able to afford litigation costs should an employee claim they contracted the respiratory illness while on the job.

Two thirds of employers said they're somewhat or very concerned about being sued by patrons who claim they've contracted COVID-19 on their property.

"While there have been new laws and executive orders to protect workers, there has been no balance to speak of in terms of protecting employers," said Michele Siekerka, president and CEO of the New Jersey Business & Industry Association. "The challenge that any small business following safety guidelines would face to afford to defend themselves cannot be understated in these trying times."

Jan. 1 will also usher in an additional $1 hike in New Jersey's minimum wage. Gov. Phil Murphy has said he has no plans to put that schedule on hold.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at

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