Significant Human Resources Alterations in Store Under Biden Administration
Written by Flex HR’s CHRO Jim Cichanski
2020 was quite the unpredictable year, and employers are still working to restore stability as the nation transitions Presidents. One thing the past year has taught business leaders is the flexibility to adapt in such fluctuating environment. And businesses need to stay compliant because some major HR deviations are due to transpire. President-elect Joe Biden has communicated his initiatives to considerably change employment and labor laws that currently reside in the workplace today. His actions thus far prioritize filling his cabinet and surrounding offices with individuals that have deep roots in labor relations. Therefore, it’s imperative that Human Resources leaders be aware of the predicted upcoming modifications.
Key Human Resources areas possibly impacted by the new administration in 2021 will be:
There are strong indications that the new administration will move very fast to implement new guidelines and standards. In fact, this first action could come as soon as a few days after the President-elect takes office. Instilling remote work and holding companies accountable for that, strengthening sanitation procedures, social distancing and employee training is also on the short list of items that could be implemented quickly. We may see a band on any social events of more than 25-50 people. And if it is allowed, masks will be required or a fine can be imposed. These guidelines could take effect until the number of death cases drop substantially. To support these efforts the new administration is considering doubling the number of OSHA inspectors.
- COVID-19 Direction – OSHA to issue more binding rules outlining workplace exposure prevention, testing, temporary closures and penalties for employer COVID violations. We will also see a push for more monetary relief for those economically harmed by COVID.
Expanded coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This will take some time to see major reform. The only thing we see happening quickly is increased attention to health plans covering all care related to COVID. Another popular offering is to add Telemedicine as a requirement in ACA qualified plans.
COVID Paid Leave
Extended paid leave of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) is currently voluntary for employers to retain through March 31, 2021. We may see swift action to require this act to be followed as it was through December 31, 2020, and even extending the act several more months past March 31, 2021.
Beyond anything related to COVID, the President and Vice President-elect have made strong commitments to put a Company Paid Leave Act into law. Previous communications of 12 weeks paid leave has since dissipated. Most states that have implemented a paid family leave program are paid through a state tax charged to the employee as a payroll deduction. Also, this may be mandated by size of company.
Push for nationwide minimum wage increase, overtime rule changes, and “wage theft” provisions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) will be seen in the first 90-days of the new administration. There may be some occupations that will be allowed to sustain a lower wage such as agricultural and farming positions, for example.
Secretary of Labor
President-elect Biden has nominated Boston Mayor Marty Walsh to be the next Secretary of State. This is the first union member to fill this role in over 50 years, indicating the new laws will focus on employee-centric policy versus employer supported rules.
Only a few states today prohibit non-competes in employment agreements. However, President-elect Biden has strong commitments to support the California elected Vice President in following her state law of not allowing non-competes for all workers.
This is where employers and employees agree not to poach and hire each other’s employees. The new administration has a strong commitment to ban this practice.
Harassment, Bullying and Discrimination
Broadening on discrimination and harassment (gender, age), and possible required anti-harassment training every year or two. There are some states laws requiring this now so it would not be hard to model off of one of those states.
Transference in executive orders affecting immigration and increased work visas. However, this may help support the shortage of high-tech open positions and other jobs for Nurses and even Doctors but resulting in the burden of bringing them to work for US companies to at the expense of the employer. We most likely will see fees escalate your VISA applications, H1B’s and green card administration services. And you guessed it, the cost will shift more to the burden of the employer.
Most likely there will be a drive to enforce the “Right to Organize” Act, supporting major changes for Unions, which they will welcome. Over the past four years the Labor Relation Board has not been the forefront in labor activity. Under the Biden administration expect to see the NLRB very active in employee centric activities.
Jim Cichanski | Founder & CHRO | Flex HR
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