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HR Policy Briefing 12/1/20


SHRM Releases Election Research on Workplace Policy Issues Most Important to
U.S. Workers

In a recent pre-election survey conducted three times between June and October 2020, SHRM asked working, registered voters which workplace policies they believed should be the focus of the next administration. The survey shows the majority (from 56 percent in June to 62 percent in October) said workplace health care was the most important issue. Additionally, a plurality of respondents believed workplace health care should be a top priority addressed by the incoming administration.

Among female participants, both workplace flexibility and leave and workplace equity ranked as personally important (60 percent and 62 percent, respectively, in October), while their male counterparts were less likely to personally prioritize either (43 percent and 47 percent, respectively, in October).

Nonwhite respondents consistently reported workplace equity to be a top issue (from 62 percent in June to 57 percent in October), while their white counterparts ranked the importance of workplace equity higher over the months the survey was conducted (from 40 percent in June to 54 percent in October).

The survey also found that among both male and female working voters, access to more employment opportunities based on skills and competencies was the top priority among workforce development policy concerns.

5 Issues on the Horizon for Workplace Policy

  1. Colorado Paid Family and Medical Leave Ballot Initiative:

    Dawn of a New Trend? Proposition 118 passed in Colorado on Election Day, paving the way for the state’s paid family and medical leave program. Colorado’s program provides 12 weeks’ paid leave—up to 16 weeks under certain circumstances—paid for through a payroll tax split 50/50 between the employee and employer. Employers have the option to cover 100 percent of the program contribution.

    What’s so unique about Colorado’s paid family and medical leave program?
    Proposition 118 was an initiated state statute. This means citizens collected the number of signatures required by law to place it on the ballot. Twenty-one states currently allow citizens to propose new state statutes via initiative: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Keep an eye out for this issue in your state.

  2. New Hampshire Right-to-Work Act

    New Hampshire was the sole state legislature to flip in the 2020 election cycle. The GOP gained control of the state House and Senate, forming a new trifecta with Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.

    What to watch for: During the abbreviated legislative session, the New Hampshire Right-to-Work Act was introduced in the state House (HB 622) and Senate (SB 651). The law would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join or contribute to a labor union. Both bills ultimately stalled in the Democratic-majority state legislature, but with the new trifecta, the proposal could be reintroduced in the 2021 legislative session.

  3. Utah Governor-elect Spencer Cox to Focus on Workforce Development

    During the 2020 election cycle, only two gubernatorial seats were open, due to term limits or retirement. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, won his race to become governor.

    What to watch for: One of the cornerstones of Cox’s platform is workforce development. His campaign message focused on the expansion of upskilling and reskilling opportunities, telework and telecommuting throughout the state, including rural areas.

  4. A Biden-Harris Administration

    President-elect Joe Biden has already begun building his Cabinet. Although Senate control has yet to be determined, Democrats will retain a small majority in the House of Representatives. A divided Congress will impact which legislation makes it to the president’s desk.

    What to watch for: Expect Biden to embrace Democratic legislative proposals that support upskilling and reskilling and that increase access to education and training for underutilized talent pools. The incoming administration will likely focus on workplace equity, as Biden has signaled strong support for proposals like the Paycheck Fairness Act, the Equality Act and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act.

    In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Biden called for an emergency paid-leave program that includes the proposed Healthy Families Act and 14 days of paid leave for those who are sick, exposed to the coronavirus or subject to quarantines. Biden and many congressional Democrats have also previously signaled support for 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave as outlined in the proposed Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act, and they could extend the paid-leave provisions originally passed in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

    Additionally, expect efforts to maintain and expand Affordable Care Act coverage, as well as immediate rescission of Trump administration executive actions and proclamations on immigration, including various travel bans and asylum restrictions.

    Explore SHRM’s Election Resources Center for new insight and up-to-date information on what to expect for workplace policy under the incoming Biden administration.

  5. California Proposition 22: The Bigger Picture

    California regularly sets precedent in workplace policy. In November, Californians voted to pass Proposition 22, a ballot initiative that legally classifies drivers of app-based delivery and ride-hailing services as independent contractors rather than employees.

    What to watch for: Proposition 22 overturns provisions set forth in AB 5 legislation implemented in January 2020, which expanded the legal definition of what qualifies workers as “employees” and required employers to provide certain baseline benefits to workers who met the new standards. As state legislatures convene in the early months of 2021, some may look to the precedent established by Proposition 22 and seek to implement similar policies in their states.

Watch a New SHRM Series: ‘Spotlight on Policy’

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Make plans to watch a new SHRM series, “Spotlight on Policy”—an engaging video series with state lawmakers. Hosting one-on-one conversations with policymakers across the country, SHRM’s Chief of Staff, Head of Government Affairs and Corporate Secretary Emily M. Dickens will take a deep dive into issues impacting work, workers and the workplace.

Stay tuned for the first episode featuring New York State Assemblywoman Alicia L. Hyndman, coming soon. If you have working relationships with state lawmakers who you’d like to see on the program, contact C. Mitch Taylor, SHRM director of public policy, at [email protected].

SHRM Hosts Webinar on Supreme Court ACA Cases

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments on whether the reduction of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) individual mandate renders that provision and the entirety of the law unconstitutional. The court is expected to rule on the matter before its term ends in June 2021. Depending on the ruling, there may be significant changes coming to the employer-based health care system.

SHRM’s general counsel, Jim Banks, hosted a webinar with Ben Conley, a partner at law firm Seyfarth Shaw, to provide an overview of the case, an analysis of potential Supreme Court decision options and possible changes for employer-sponsored health plans. View the webcast on demand through February 2021.

2021 California Public Policy Outlook

This year, Democrats gained more seats in the California Legislature, adding to their supermajority. Workplace policies will likely be at the forefront when the Legislature returns early next month.

The Legislature typically sends the governor over 1,000 bills for approval; however, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to meet strict deadlines while working remotely for most of the year, the Legislature sent only 428 bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2020. Many bills that were ready to move in early March but were shelved once the pandemic hit are likely to be reintroduced in 2021.

This includes a predictive-scheduling bill requiring employers to provide employees with a work schedule at least seven days prior to the first shift on that work schedule, and a bill that would make employers responsible for harassment by contractors.

Additionally, new COVID-19-related legislation that adds more protections for essential workers and assists those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic could be introduced. Finally, expect to see more bills introduced that exempt specific industries from the AB 5 provision that requires many employers to classify workers as employees, not independent contractors.

SHRM actively advocates relevant workplace legislation introduced in California. For questions on any California legislation, contact Jason Gabhart, director of state affairs for California, at [email protected].

California State HR Public Policy Webinar, Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. PT

The results of the 2020 national and California state elections will have a significant impact on issues of importance to California employers. Find out how these issues could affect you and your organization during SHRM’s California State HR Public Policy and Outlook Webinar on Dec. 10 at 1 p.m. PT.

Whether your business is based in California or you have only a few employees in the state, this program will help you understand what you need to do to comply with the new laws set to go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

The webinar will be presented by Chantelle C. Egan, a partner at Seyfarth Shaw, and Jason Gabhart.

SHRM VLBM Capitol Hill Virtual Advocacy Day

On Nov. 19, SHRM hosted its first virtual Capitol Hill Advocacy Day as part of the annual Volunteer Leaders’ Business Meeting (VLBM). This was SHRM’s largest Hill Day to date, with over 550 HR professionals meeting virtually with lawmakers and their staffs to discuss COVID-19 relief legislation and important year-end legislative priorities. SHRM members from across the country discussed several topics with policymakers, including the following:

  • Expanding the Paycheck Protection Program to include all nonprofit organizations.
  • Ensuring that any extension of Families First Coronavirus Response Act temporary paid-leave provisions includes assistance for employers and employees and avoids new leave requirements.
  • Allowing maximum flexibility for health spending accounts.
  • Extending the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act provision that allows continuation of employer-provided loan repayment as a benefit.

Research shows that one of the most effective ways to elevate your voice with policymakers is through in-person or virtual meetings. Don’t just take it from us—see what our SHRM members thought about this brand-new experience at VLBM:

“While Hill Day looked very different this year, there was still a valuable impact on both sides. By participating in SHRM’s Advocacy Day, plus the HR Florida Legislative Conference, we have formed long-term relationships with our senators, representatives and their staff. When we have visits now, in person or virtually, there is a history with us as individuals, HR Florida and SHRM. For local legislation, we receive calls from our elected officials while preparing bills so they know how it will affect the work, workers and workplace. Advocacy Day is an activity you don’t want to miss!”

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—Heather Deyriuex, President, HR Florida

You can help build on our virtual discussions and continue the conversation with policymakers about COVID-19 relief legislation and year-end legislative priorities. Visit the SHRM Advocacy website to contact your legislators about these important issues today.

SHRM Contributes to B20 Future of Work & Education Policy Report

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The Group of Twenty (G20) summit was held virtually this year on Nov. 21-22. Saudi Arabia hosted and presided over the meeting. The summit brings together heads of state or government from 19 countries and the European Union. Leaders of guest countries and representatives of invited regional and international organizations also participate.

As part of the B20 Future of Work & Education Taskforce (FOWE), SHRM contributed to the final policy recommendations presented to the G20 leaders and introduced language reflecting the interest and point of view of the HR profession—such as including untapped talent pools in the workforce, supporting strong employee mental health and upskilling workers. Find the full FOWE policy report here.

Record Number of Women Elected in 2020

To date in this election cycle, 141 women have been elected to Congress—breaking the 2019 record of 131 female lawmakers elected, according to 131 & Counting. One of the most notable achievements for female policymakers is the election of Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., who is the first woman to be elected vice president.

In addition, 3,444 female candidates ran for seats in state legislatures, eclipsing 2018’s record of 3,418. As of Nov. 23, 410 women have won races in state legislatures, and at least 21 women won statewide elected executive offices this year. SHRM will continue to monitor and provide updates as states continue to certify and post results.

Your Workplace. Your Voice. Your Opportunity. Register for SHRM’s Workplace Policy Conference 2021 Today.

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Meet the moment at the SHRM Workplace Policy Conference 2021 in Washington, D.C., March 22-24. This is your opportunity to rise to the occasion and shape the future for your organization and the HR profession.

Learn how to influence federal and state laws and regulations that impact your employees and workplace—and gain the skills and knowledge you need to be an even more strategic HR leader.

  • The program will include a robust focus on public policies impacting workplaces.
  • You will hear from and work with experts to learn what’s on the horizon and get the training you need to shape workplace policy.
  • You will enhance your skills to become a more powerful advocate for your career, your organization and the HR profession.
  • Through a “roll up your sleeves” experience, you will put your advocacy skills into action with members of Congress and their staffs.

Register today for the Workplace Policy Conference 2021 and invest in your company, your career and the HR profession.

SHRM and CEO Commission for Disability Employment Discuss Disability Inclusion in the Workplace

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On Nov. 12, Wendi Safstrom, executive director of the SHRM Foundation, and other industry experts participated in a virtual roundtable with the CEO Commission for Disability Employment for an important conversation on fostering the inclusion of people with disabilities in the workplace.

Safstrom discussed the importance of employee resource groups, steps employers can take to improve accessibility and how HR professionals can help employers build a more inclusive culture.

To strengthen the skills and abilities of HR professionals to hire, develop, advance and retain individuals with disabilities in their workplaces, SHRM is providing members with free access to the Employing Abilities @Work Certificate.

SHRM Highlights HR Resiliency

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HR professionals have played a critical role in leading their organizations through some of the toughest workplace challenges they’ve ever faced. As we prepare for a new legislative session and new administration, public officials now need to hear from HR professionals about how your organizations are adjusting business practices and providing innovative solutions for the world of work. We want to hear from you.

Tell us how your organization has been resilient.

Advancing Workplace Issues in 2020

SHRM is proud to be working with several organizations to highlight workplace issues in 2020. They include AARP, Berry Appleman & Leiden LLP, Fakhoury Global Immigration USA PC, Fratelli Group, Mylan, NAICU, Palladian Hill Strategies, Seyfarth Shaw LLP and Tulane University Law School.