Benefits

CEO’s Letter: America’s Workforce Policy and HR’s Never-Ending Burden

You all ready for the new overtime requirements for workers earning $47,476 or less per year? Of course you are. Finally HR got the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare selection process and program choices up on employee portals. No problem—they have been there for a few years. Ready for the extra bathroom? Of course, why is that an issue?

As we close out of the bizarre political season that was 2016, I cannot remember a year when more political fallout landed in the lap of HR. The change in overtime regulations that began in 2014 and seemed to be rendered by an online poll—that may be harsh but I cannot understand the math on this one—was just stopped by a federal judge days before implementation and after everyone was ready. For the sake of the poor overworked people in HR, could someone have checked with a lawyer before announcing the effective date? I am just saying.

As the political candidates sparred over the merits of the ACA, we all had to manage the aspects of it that effected company healthcare plans and policies. To paraphrase Marc Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, I don’t come to bury or praise any particular candidate, but ignoring them is not an option either. There was a considerable amount of time, effort, and expense for companies figuring out with their healthcare providers options or how to manage
the ACA implementation if they’re on self-insured programs. We are about to begin again as major changes loom. To be fair, the public and then the market forces all rejected ACA long before the 2016 campaign. According to a CNN poll on March 22, 2010, it was opposed by an estimated 59 percent of Americans on the day it was forced through on “congressional reconciliation.” However unpopular or popular it was, HR had to galvanize for its effective date.

Also, immigration reform will now be a major initiative, and HR will have to deal with potential E-verify systems. Collecting I-9s will not be sufficient. Many companies will have to wrestle with the compliance issues and the consequences of employees with false credentials being identified and potentially terminated or deported. Who will have to deal with the employee reactions to these kinds of events? HR.

The problem is not that the American government woke up one day and realized that workforce and workplace issues such as gender rights, pay equity, and benefits are an issue. The problem is that the government is so inconsistent in policy and dependent on who is in power. I remember attending an event with the CHRO of a major North Carolina employer who was being lobbied by former Governor McCrory’s office about support for his bathroom bill. The company has had extra bathrooms for years because HR executives understood the workplace must offer dignity
and inclusion to all employees, period—end of story. McCrory didn’t so much gain an extra bathroom as lose the governorship (I lean to the conservative side and can’t figure what the heck his administration was doing).

Workforce and workplace issues are important. It falls to HR to be ahead of the curve in responding to social issues well in advance of the Beltway taking notice. Most companies do this very well, but the inconsistency in the regulatory environment is both ongoing and problematic.

Maybe the overtime regulation just frozen in federal court should be approved but only to cover the extra hours expended by all the frazzled HR professionals dealing with these policy changes.

Happy holidays to all from the staff of HRO Today and SharedXpertise Media, LLC.  Thank you for your attention this year, and we look forward to a Happy New Year!

Elliot H. Clark
CEO

Tags: Benefits

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