As if we didn’t have enough on-the-fly change in 2020, with every new year comes even more new and changing employment regulation for employers to keep up with both at the Federal and State levels. These changes impact companies of all sizes, particularly multi-state employers and remote workforces, which there are more of now, which can make it difficult to keep up with which ones apply to your company. That is where we come in, we are here to help.
Here is an overview of just some of the changes that are happening in employment and HR across the country:
At the Federal level, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) that was set to expire on December 31, 2020, is essentially voluntary for employers through March 31, 2021. As a reminder, the FFCRA applied to all companies with less than 500 employees and provided paid sick leave and family leave for employees that were unable to work due to a variety of COVID related situations. This voluntary extension means that after 12-21-2020, an employee is diagnosed with COVID (as an example) and is unable to work and the company can either provide paid leave outside of their regular paid time off benefits for time missed and get the dollar for dollar tax credit on the 941 or the company doesn’t provide paid leave other than what may be available through any company policy and the company can not claim any tax credits. Here is a link to talk more about the extension through March 31, 2021. https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20201231-1
Some of the Federal regulations that may have been “relaxed” in 2021 will be reinstated through 2021, these include, but are not limited to, the EEO-1 Survey and I-9 Form verification for remote workforces.
The EEO-1 survey guidance can be found here. This is for private employers with 100 or more employees as well as employers with 50 or more employees and a minimum of 1 federal contract or subcontract over $50,000.
The remote completion and verification of the I-9 Form is extended through January 31, 2021 and is expected to back to “normal” February 1, 2021. Here is the guidance related to that to ensure that your company is in compliance based on the moving dates: https://www.ice.gov/news/releases/ice-announces-extension-i-9-compliance-flexibility-1#wcm-survey-target-id
20 states and 32 local municipalities increased their minimum wage for 2021, effective January 1, 2021. The Department of Labor has a map that outlines the minimum wage for each state and can be found here to check your state. When there is a difference between state and federal regulations, including the minimum wage rate, employers must abide by the regulation that is in the best interest of the employee.
6 states have either enacted new leave laws or have updated their existing leave laws. Those states in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and New York. Click each state for more information.
Some other things to keep an eye on for 2021 include COVID Vaccines in the Workplace and an increased focus on Safety.
We are expecting to see an increased focus on Safety in the Workplace in 2021 and beyond. Up until now, some companies and industries may not have given much thought to workplace safety guidelines or the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSH, particularly, office environments, small companies and low risk industries.) However, OSH applies to virtually all companies because the General Duties Clause requires employer to provide employees "employment and a place of employment, which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm." That means that during COVID in particular, companies should follow CDC guidelines around workplace cleaning, social distancing and wearing face masks to mitigate the risk associated with these types of claims.
In 2021, the Biden Administration is increasing the attention on COVID Safety in the workplace and have created a Task Force that will focus specifically on workplace investigations and fielding employee complaints related to COVID exposure in the workplace, among other things.
4 States (VA, CA, OR, MI) have enacted their own emergency temporary workplace Safety standards and we expect to see that continue with other States and at the Federal level. 16 States (CA, CT, IL, KY, ME, MA, MI, MN, NH, NM, NY, OR, RI, VT, VA, WA) require that employers provide COVID training, which we have available and can work with you if the training applies to your company.
The bottom line for safety is to ensure that your policies and practices related to cleaning, enforcement of social distancing and wearing masks are consistent.
Finally, with remote workforces more standard and recruiting options opening up across the country, that puts companies in the multi-state employer category. That has the potential to increase the level of compliance and so companies need to be mindful about how they apply federal and state employment laws to remote workforces.
The good news? You don’t have to go at this alone. We are here and staying on top of changes as they apply to small businesses and their employees. Let’s talk about what that looks like for your small business.