Employers and HR Should Prepare for 2017 Compliance Challenges

What are the key compliance issues facing employers in 2017? And what are the implications of a new unified Republican government in Washington DC?

With federal, state and local laws and agency actions in flux, employers need to be on guard. To minimize the risk of liability and ensure a productive and legally compliant workforce, an employer needs to be ready to review and revise its workplace policies, practices and procedures if needed.

This year XpertHR solicited feedback from almost 1,200 HR professionals on what they consider to be the most challenging HR compliance issues for 2017. Here are our picks for the top 10 employment law challenges for 2017:

2017-HR-Compliance-Trends-SlideShare-XpertHR

Be sure to check out our Top 10 Employment Law Trends of 2017 SlideShare presentation for an at-a-glance overview of our top 10 trends.

Election Uncertainty

In the wake of the historic election of Donald Trump and Republicans assuming control of both houses of Congress, there is a great deal of uncertainty among employers as many are left wondering what will happen to the pro-employee initiatives that have been so successful under President Obama. Employers need to keep a close eye on the Supreme Court, NLRB, EEOC and DOL initiatives and issues such as discrimination, equal pay, leave and immigration.

Workforce Planning

A number of 21st century workforce trends are having a tremendous impact on employee recruiting, hiring and retention. Employers must contend with new ways of working from the on-demand gig-economy and alternative work arrangements to changing societal demographics with millennials entering the workforce.

Employers are facing continual challenges in finding and retaining high quality employees. Based on this, HR needs to assume an active role as it invests in talent and attempts to align HR objectives with business objectives while following trends in technology, industry and diversity.

Mandated Employee Leave Protections

Employers are contending with the rapid rise of leave laws on the federal, state and local level related to paid sick leave, military leave, family leave and others and managing their complex interrelationship. HR and employers need to understand the leave laws that apply to their workplace, how they intersect and how to incorporate them into policies, practices and procedures.

Threat of a Cyber Breach

The omnipresence of the internet, social media and mobile devices in an increasingly digital world, is having a significant impact on the workplace in terms of mobility, communication, productivity and efficiency. This makes it essential for employers to minimize the risk of a cyber breach and protect confidential information belonging the employer, employees and customers.

Employers need to make sure such information is properly secured and encrypted, that they utilize workplace policies and agreements protecting such information, and that they properly train employees and supervisors how to safeguard such information and respond to a data breach.

ACA and Employee Benefits

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has presented employers with a myriad of obligations, deadlines and penalties, but the fate of the healthcare law remains very much in doubt under the new Trump administration. Further, more and more employees are seeking creative benefit offerings as well as customization and personalization. Employers also face additional challenges when it comes to making sure wellness programs are legally compliant.

Evolving Workforce

There has been a dramatic shift in the workforce in recent years as the workplace has evolved past the traditional model of an employee working from 9 to 5 for one employer in a brick and mortar building. In today’s workplace, telecommuting , flex time and job sharing have become commonplace as employers are able to take steps such as:

• Drawing on talent outside their geographical areas;
• Providing workers with greater work/life flexibility;
• Helping employees save on commuting and child care costs; and
• Taking advantage of emerging technologies.

What’s more, a growing number of workers participate in the on-demand or gig economy as independent contractors or freelancers and may be jointly employed as temporary or contingent workers. However, these changes present unique challenges when it comes to discrimination and wage protection under federal, state and local laws. Thus, it is critical for employers to establish clear policies, properly classify workers, evaluate working relationships and make sure they are legally compliant.

Equal Pay

There has been a tremendous focus on equal pay issues and increasing pay transparency in the workplace. The EEOC has made equal pay a priority and the revised EEO-1 Report (due March 2018) will require employees to provide information regarding compensation and hours worked in addition to race, gender and ethnicity. Meanwhile, state and local governments continue to expand equal pay laws.

To prepare, an employer should review and audit its pay practices, job descriptions, salaries, benefits and bonuses to root out discrimination. Any wage differentials should be based on nondiscriminatory factors and supported by documentation. In addition, an EEO policy should prohibit wage discrimination and managers and employees should be trained accordingly.

Employee Handbooks

An employee handbook is an essential workplace tool both to set forth the employer’s mission and goals and to minimize liability in case of a lawsuit. However, handbooks remain difficult to manage in light of rapidly changing laws, particularly with regard to EEO, leave, workplace safety, accommodations and the NRLB’s increased scrutiny of employment policies that violate the employee’s right to engage in protected concerted activity. Thus, employers must keep on top of the latest developments affecting their employee handbooks and draft policies in a narrow, unambiguous manner to avoid infringing upon employee rights.

Overtime

In the wake of a federal district court’s ruling that the federal overtime rules that would have taken effect on December 1, 2016 will not be implemented or enforced, employers must think strategically about their next move based on whether they have already implemented changes to employee compensation and, if so, how to handle them.

Regardless, it is essential to update employment policies, communicate with employees and supervisors and remain compliant at all times. Further, it is always critical for employers to closely monitor overtime issues and make sure that workers are properly classified, especially given today’s evolving workforce.

Diversity in an Increasingly Global World

In an increasingly global society there are distinct benefits, both business and cultural, to maintaining a diverse and inclusive workplace. It can improve employee productivity and efficiency while also positively impacting the employer’s bottom line as well as brand and customer relationships. Employers should take concrete steps to increase diversity including implementing EEO policies, granting reasonable accommodations and providing diversity and sensitivity training to all employees and supervisors.

For more on the top challenges employers will face in 2017, download XpertHR’s white paper.

 

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