One of the great challenges employers are facing right now is staying abreast of evolving employment laws, especially at the state and municipal levels. Paid sick leave laws, mandatory sexual harassment training, fair workweek laws, pay equity statutes, how does an already time-challenged HR department keep up with it all, while monitoring federal labor laws and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements, too?
For example, are you familiar with the new hairstyle discrimination bans? Do you know which 35 states and 150 cities have passed ban the box legislation? Are you aware of OSHA’s 2020 penalty increases?
New workforce regulations keep on coming. Unfortunately, there is no single authoritative resource for employers to turn to for comprehensive updates and guidance. But the cost of even accidental noncompliance can be steep, whether it takes the form of government fines and penalties or employee-driven class-action lawsuits.
So, what’s an employer to do? A growing number of organizations are adopting best practices that not only help them stay abreast of such changes but ensure they are correctly implemented as well. If you’re not already using these basic strategies, it’s time to consider developing some best practices of your own.
Seven ways to stay in the regulatory loop
- Make sure your company belongs to the leading HR associations, industry trade groups, and local business chamber. Attend their events and get on their distribution lists. Not only will these groups be focused on regulations most likely to affect your business, but chances are also, they’ll have good suggestions for addressing them.
- Go straight to the source: regularly monitor the websites of regulatory agencies on the federal, state, and local levels. If it’s an option, subscribe to their newsletters, such as those offered by the DOL and OSHA.
- If your firm has a relationship with an employment law firm, see if your attorney provides legislative updates. Many firms prepare ongoing news briefs and offer host webinars on topical issues; don’t overlook these when they hit your inbox.
- Speaking of compliance webinars, take advantage of them whenever you can. Government agencies, legal experts and HR software providers often host complimentary webinars on the hot compliance issues of the day.
- Download an RSS feed reader that allows you to curate what content you’ll receive. Similarly, follow the social media accounts of the various legal experts, HR organizations, and government agencies that are relevant to your business.
- Take advantage of all the resources your HR and payroll software provider offers, such as weekly blogs and monthly client newsletters. Some may also offer an HR compliance portal that is available to clients as a value-added service.
- If your HR department doesn't have a compliance specialist—a team member who's responsible for monitoring new legislation that impacts your workforce—then designate one. It's a big responsibility, so formalize it by adding it to their job description and performance review criteria.
By collecting information from multiple sources, you’ll be able to follow proposed legislation from the time it’s introduced to the time it’s passed and enacted (or not). You won’t be taken by surprise when January 1 rolls around—or, worse yet, miss an underreported piece of legislation that affects your business.
Implementing legislative changes that affects your workforce
It is not enough to be up-to-speed on legislative updates; you also need a formal process for complying with them. These may include:
- Making your compliance specialist responsible for maintaining a database and/or communicating new legislation to the larger HR department, which can then address it. Consider making legislative updates a regular agenda item of department meetings.
- Creating a list of stakeholders who should be part of larger decision making, as well as outside resources like your employment law attorney or HR consultant. While small changes can often be handled by HR, others require a corporate-level buy-in.
- Developing a process for updating employee handbooks and guides as needed, hanging posters when required, and updating your HR and payroll software accordingly.
- Creating a process for training your managers on the new laws and holding them accountable for enforcing them. Additionaly, implementing training practices for employees as applicable.
- Monitoring your operation to make sure the changes have been correctly implemented. If your HR software allows you to produce applicable analytics, track them. If you need to collect confirmation from managers, do so regularly. Don’t take it on faith—if you’re inspected or sued, nobody else will.
Build a compliance-minded HR and management culture
The current onslaught of regulatory changes is here to stay for the foreseeable future. One trend we’re seeing is that, in the absence of federal labor laws on a hot social issue—take sexual harassment training, for example—states and localities pass their own legislation first. For employers that operate in multiple jurisdictions, compliance is especially complicated.
Regardless, the best way to deal with wave after wave of continual change is to develop a steadfast process that allows you to roll with the punches and stay on your feet, no matter what comes your way.