The start of a new year is a great time to identify areas of focus for your small business to keep things running as they should be. Let’s explore 3 key areas of focus of the Human Resources aspect of your small business and what that means for 2022 and beyond.
1. State versus Federal regulations
Each new year, we see a lot of changes in employment related regulations at the state and federal levels. Although, with each passing day, states are taking matters into their own hands and continuing to enact laws that impact companies that either operate in those states and/or have employees in those states. Leave laws, harassment and COVID training requirements, salary disclosure requirements, minimum wage increases... the list goes on and on, and each state has different employment regulations that vary, not only from state to state, but also from the federal regulation standards. This can create a bit of a compliance nightmare for a small business, particularly multi-state employers and remote workforces - which there are more of now. With remote workforces becoming more standard and recruiting options opening across the country, more companies are being put into the multi-state employer category for the first time. Therefore, it is necessary to increase the level of compliance and the need to be mindful about which state and/or federal regulations apply to your small business, and how to implement the applicable employment laws.
Item to note – when there is a difference between a state and federal regulation, a company is required to abide by the regulation that is in the best interest of the employee.
2. I-9 Audits and Immigration Compliance
Under the Biden administration, the focus on undocumented individuals through workplace immigration raids is ending, and the focus is being placed more on employers and their compliance with immigration regulations such as the I-9 form and E-Verify. That means more inspection audits! Based on FY 2018 data from the Department of Homeland Security, almost 6,000 I-9 audits were initiated at companies as compared to the approximately 1,300 from the year prior. That means it is only going to continue to increase, and it is not going to slow down going into 2022. The results of those audits vary from fines and penalties to criminal convictions of managers and company owners. Penalties and fines can range from $150 upwards to $20,000 depending on the nature of the violations. This can all be avoided by ensuring that your small business is in compliance with the Form I-9. As a reminder, all employers are required to have a completed I-9 form on file for every single active employee. The I-9 can be completed electronically or there can be a hard copy, but it needs to be completed in full for all employees consistently across the organization. The I-9 form must be kept separately from the regular employee file. There are also specific retention requirements for the I-9 form after the employee leaves the company. The form must be retained for 3 years after date of hire or 1 year after date of termination, whichever is longer. We recommend all small businesses conduct a regular self-audit of not only their I-9 forms, but also the employee files, to ensure ongoing compliance and to avoid unnecessary fees and penalties in the event of an audit.
3. Workplace Culture
There is a lot that goes into what makes up a workplace culture, but one specific area of workplace culture that has been brought to the forefront and will continue to be a key area of focus is flexibility. Flexibility in how, when and where people work. Flexibility in managing workloads with individuals’ family and personal lives. Flexibility in understanding that not everyone works the same way or is motivated by the same things.
We must be willing to understand each individual employee for who they are. This might even mean reevaluating the traditional 40 hour work week, what might be considered full time or part time for your small business, and what works best for your small business operations and employees. Through 2022, we will see more news and information about 4-day work weeks, 32 hours versus 40 hours as full time, and other shifts in the concept of work.
The good news? You don’t have to go at these topics, or any other HR topics, alone. We are here to help and our team regularly stays on top of small business specific issues for the benefit of the business and their employees. Let’s talk about what that looks like for your small business.
Here’s to a great 2022!