The hospitality industry is made of small businesses that may struggle to provide retirement plans to their employees as a benefit.

Thanks to a law passed in 2015, sponsored by Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, who is a restaurateur and Washington Hospitality Association member, small businesses and their employees have a way to save for retirement.

Washington’s Retirement Marketplace run by the Washington Department of Commerce is an online marketplace where financial services companies offer low-cost retirement savings plans to businesses and individuals, including sole proprietors, contract workers and the self-employed.

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“We hear from many small business owners across the state that they want to provide a retirement plan to their employees,” wrote Brian Bonlender, director of the Washington State Department of Commerce, along with Mullet, in a Yakima Herald-Republic op-ed. “In our state’s booming economy, they know that keeping their businesses competitive requires great people — and offering benefits helps recruit and retain top workers.”

The Department of Commerce’s goal in making the Marketplace available to Washingtonians is to “simplify the process of finding a retirement savings plan by making it easy to compare state-approved plans,” according to the department’s website.

“We also heard and, from our own experiences in small business, we understand first-hand how hard it is to navigate the complexity and often high cost of providing a retirement plan for employees,” wrote Bonlender and Mullet. “Small business owners have to pay high fees to offer employees plans and their employees also have to pay high fees — no one gets a good deal. That’s why, with bipartisan support, we passed legislation in 2015 to create the Washington Retirement Marketplace, where employers could more easily find low-cost retirement plans.”

Why create this retirement savings marketplace? The department says Washingtonians aren’t saving enough and are not prepared for retirement. They say small businesses have a hard time offering retirement plans because of cost and complexity.

“The Retirement Marketplace is a free service, created in direct response to the concerns we heard,” wrote Bonlender and Mullet. “It removes high fees for small business owners while making sure employees have access to low-fee plans. Moreover, participation is voluntary. The online portal lets individuals and businesses compare state-reviewed retirement plans offered by verified private financial services firms.”

For more information, visit the Retirement Marketplace website.