HR POLICY BRIEFING 3/16/2021

President Biden Signs American Rescue Plan Act of 2021

On March 11, the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was signed into law by President Joe Biden, with most of the employer provisions from the original proposal unchanged. The provision raising the federal minimum wage was excluded from the final iteration of the relief package due to budget reconciliation rules.

The package includes several provisions of interest to employers. The final legislation extended through Sept. 6 all unemployment insurance benefits created under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Pandemic unemployment assistance will remain at $300 per week after the Senate dropped the $400 per week stipulation that originated in the House.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) also raises the contribution limits for dependent care flexible spending accounts for single taxpayers and married taxpayers filing separately for the 2021 plan year. Tax credits for employer-provided paid sick and family leave established under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) were extended through Sept. 30.

Read SHRM’s summary of employer provisions.

SHRM Advocates Protecting Employers and Employees

Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 842, the Protecting the Right to Organize Act (PRO Act). This legislation would create an imbalance in labor-management relations and adversely impact employees and employers.

SHRM urged House leaders to support policies that ensure employees and employers are equally represented at the bargaining table. SHRM members played an active role in voicing concerns about the legislation, sending more than 900 letters in less than 24 hours to lawmakers in the House. The bill now awaits potential consideration in the Senate.

SHRM has long championed balanced and fair labor-management relations and supports employees’ rights to form, join, assist or refrain from joining a labor organization—rights we fear the PRO Act would jeopardize.

SHRM is committed to doing our part to elevate the HR profession and advocate public policies that will enable businesses to have the flexibility they require to support, grow and develop their workforces. To join our advocacy efforts, visit SHRM’s Advocacy website.

SHRM Releases Research on Women in the Workplace

In light of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, SHRM collected data on women’s experiences in the workplace, including the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on female caregivers.

The survey found that nearly 1/3 of female employed Americans personally know a woman who has voluntarily left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic due to caregiving responsibilities, and 44 percent of employed Americans agree that being successful in the workplace is more challenging for women with caregiving responsibilities due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

SHRM is working to create workplaces where employees and employers can thrive together. Learn more about SHRM’s advocacy efforts to build equitable and inclusive workplaces.

2021 California Legislative Outlook

Now that the deadline to introduce bills in California has passed, workplace policies will once again dominate the legislative agenda, and SHRM will be an engaged advocate, sponsoring three workplace bills this legislative session. As a sponsor, SHRM will provide guidance in drafting legislation and will submit testimony in support of the bills during committee consideration.

The following bills align with SHRM’s policy pillars:

  • SB 665 (Authored by Sen. Tom Umberg, D)–Enacts the Voluntary Veterans’ Preference Employment Policy Act to authorize a private employer to establish a veterans’ preference employment policy that will give a voluntary preference for hiring a veteran over other applicants.
  • AB 55 (Authored by Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, D)–Allows a nonexempt telecommuting employee to enter into a written flexible-workweek agreement with his or her employer.
  • AB 116 (Authored by Assemblymember Randy Voepel, R)–Excludes from the gross state income of an employee amounts not exceeding an aggregate amount of $5,250 per year that are paid or incurred by an employer for the payment of principal or interest on a qualified education loan incurred by the employee.

Other workplace legislation introduced this year includes bills that preclude employers from disciplining employees or applicants for positive THC test results (AB 1256), expand the California Family Rights Act to allow time off to care for parents-in-law and anyone related by blood (AB 1033 and AB 1041), require employers to provide unpaid bereavement leave (AB 95), create a presumption of COVID-19-related retaliation (SB 606), and require larger employers to provide backup child care benefits (AB 1179). SHRM will continue to actively monitor and advocate when appropriate all workplace legislation in California this year.

If you would like to influence California and federal workplace policy, please join SHRM’s Advocacy Team, and help SHRM advance public policies that foster better workplaces and create a better world.

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SHRM Engages National Council on Disability on Workplace Topics

On March 4, Emily M. Dickens, SHRM chief of staff, head of government affairs and corporate secretary, and Wendi Safstrom, executive director of the SHRM Foundation, introduced Andrés J. Gallegos, chairman of the National Council on Disability, to SHRM’s workplace policy priorities and the SHRM Foundation’s Employing Abilities @Work and Getting Talent Back to Work initiatives. Gallegos highlighted the importance of having people with disabilities not only as employees in the workplace, but also in positions of leadership, such as in the C-suite and on corporate boards, where strategic decisions are made.

SHRM is committed to promoting the employment of people with disabilities and equipping employers with adequate resources to recruit, hire and retain them. To that end, we are a founding member of the CEO Commission for Disability Employment, alongside Voya Financial and the National Down Syndrome Society.

Register here to attend the upcoming CEO Commission for Disability Employment webinar to learn about job accommodations from a legal and practical perspective and how to best support companies in creating an accessible and inclusive workforce. Sean Sullivan, SHRM’s chief human resources officer, will serve as a panelist during the webinar on March 17 at 2 p.m. ET.

SHRM, UN Women, Mars, and the IOE Celebrate International Women’s Day

Women have made great strides over the last few decades. They are filling more seats in government and business and making impactful contributions to the workplace. Building a more equitable and inclusive workforce is critical to driving sustainable economic development and creating a world of work that works for all.

On March 8, SHRM’s Emily M. Dickens; Achal Khanna, CEO of SHRM India; and high-level speakers from UN Women, Mars and the International Organisation for Employers came together for a timely and important discussion on empathy and women in the workplace in celebration of International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month. Catch up on the conversation.

H-1B Selection Process Regulatory Content

The H-1B initial registration period for fiscal year 2022 began on March 9, and the following day, SHRM submitted a regulatory comment on a proposed rule issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that would delay the effective date of the H-1B selection process final rule until Dec. 31, 2021. The proposed H-1B selection process would change the current H-1B process from a lottery system to a wage-level program.

The delay is designed to give USCIS more time to develop, test and implement the modifications to the H-1B registration system and selection process. The delay will also provide more time for USCIS to train staff and perform public outreach, as well as give stakeholders time to adjust to the new rule. SHRM has asked USCIS to reconsider the implementation of the proposed rule.

SHRM and its members will continue to be a resource to USCIS on employment-based immigration issues.

Women Fill More Seats in State Legislatures

Over the last several election cycles, women have continued the unprecedented, sustained run of seeking and winning elected positions.

As we continue to honor Women’s History Month, we’ll recognize the increase of women in the state legislative ranks. In 2012, women made up 23.7 percent of state legislatures. Today, women hold nearly 31 percent of state legislative seats. That’s 2,259 women serving in state legislatures—1,509 Democrats, 729 Republicans, 7 third-party members, 14 nonpartisan members—across the country.

Women are not only landing seats, but they are also ascending the ranks into prominent leadership roles in government. At least 87 women hold leadership positions, including speaker of the House, president of the Senate, speaker pro tempore, Senate president pro tempore, or majority or minority leader.

SHRM works to foster safe, inclusive work environments where all are empowered to reach their full potential. We are ready to partner and work with these leaders to advance smart public policies that create equitable workplaces.

For more information and resources, please reach out to C. Mitch Taylor, SHRM director of public policy, at Mitch.Taylor@shrm.org.

A Q&A on the COVID-19 Vaccines, Hybrid Work and the Key Role of HR in a Pandemic

On March 16, Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, joined SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, in a members-only webcast. The discussion focused on COVID-19 vaccines, including the vaccine developed by Pfizer, and whether employers should require or incentivize employees to become vaccinated.

They also discussed the future of remote and hybrid work, business travel, the importance of HR during a pandemic, and how Pfizer’s more than 78,000 employees have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and motivated by vaccine development. SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., wrapped up the session with updated data on vaccines in the workplace from the SHRM Research department. Register and watch on demand starting March 17.

SHRM Certification has approved this webcast for one PDC toward SHRM-CP and SHRM-SCP recertification. A program code will be provided at the end of the webcast.

Watch the SHRM ‘Tune in Tuesdays’ Episode on Changes, Challenges in the Workplace

SHRM’s “Tune in Tuesdays” offers fresh perspectives from leading experts, curated news and solutions-based insights focused on all things work. In case you missed it, catch up on last week’s two-part episode highlighting both Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month and Women’s History Month, and featuring remarks from Wendi Safstrom, SHRM Foundation’s executive director.

The episode also features a conversation between Emily M. Dickens; Khadijah Sharif-Drinkard, senior vice president of business affairs at ABC News; and Elke Flores Suber, associate general counsel at Microsoft Corporation, on navigating professional transitions in the workplace.

Join Us at SHRM’s Workplace Policy Conference 2021

Do you want to influence workplace public policy? As a strategic HR leader, your voice is needed to help forge a future for better workplaces and a better world.

With a new Congress and administration in place, this is your moment to be a leading advocate and HR professional who shapes the future of workplace policy. Invest today in a can’t-miss opportunity to become an even more powerful advocate for your company, your career and the HR profession: The SHRM Workplace Policy Conference 2021.

NOW AN ALL-VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE

The Workplace Policy Conference 2021, taking place April 19-21, will be hosted entirely online. Your comprehensive virtual experience features:

  • Exclusive meetings with members of Congress and their staff.
  • Insights from policymakers on workplace issues on the horizon and how HR can be a resource.
  • Updates on workplace policy trends and implications for the workplace.
  • Opportunities for strategic relationship-building with HR peers, professionals and policymakers.
  • Persuasive communication tools and strategies crucial to making your voice heard.
  • And much more!

SHRM, WFPMA and BCG Launch Creating People Advantage Study

SHRM joined the World Federation of People Management Associations (WFPMA) and the consulting firm BCG to launch a study on people trends in organizations across the globe. The survey will be published June 2021. Participants will receive a copy of the final report, with highlights of the findings and insights on global trends in the HR profession available on the WFPMA and SHRM websites for download. HR professionals need not be part of SHRM to join the study—the survey is open to HR professionals around the world.

Please consider participating in the survey and sharing the link with other members of the HR community in your networks.

HR Resiliency: Equity in the Workplace

As we continue to elevate work, workers and workplaces, we cannot overlook the important role HR professionals play in building diverse, equitable and inclusive work environments. Last year, SHRM launched Together Forward @Work, a call to action to address racial equity in the workplace. In addition to providing tools and resources, we are compiling examples of organizations that are leading with innovation to create inclusive cultures that provide opportunity for all.

We want to hear how you are championing change in order to create better workplaces. Share your story about how you and your organization have taken steps to create equitable and inclusive workplace cultures.

Advancing Workplace Issues in 2021

SHRM is proud to be working with several organizations to highlight workplace issues in 2021. They include Fratelli Group, NAICU, Palladian Hill Strategies, Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Viatris.

As the Voice of All Things Work, SHRM pursues nonpartisan public policy to promote flexible, inclusive and equitable workplaces that help business thrive as talent is tapped, trained and empowered to reach its full potential. Policy not politics.


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