The Year of HR

As we roll into December, typically companies would be looking back on the previous year, looking at what went well, and setting new goals for the following year. Well, not this year. Now in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, economic recession, and critical protests against racism; companies are still working full steam ahead. Drastic and unprecedented policies, coming out of the HR department, have had to been made quickly and updated frequently this year.

While it may feel as though your company’s handbook has been figuratively re-written this year, do you actually need to physically re-write it? Below are four main issues from 2020 that it is important you continue to focus on as we move into 2021.

Paid Leave of Absence

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), was the first federal paid leave law for private-sector workers in US history. The act is still the subject of continued litigation (read more here), and only applies to small businesses, with a sunset on December 31st. Many states have further created “gap laws” or other
policies to cover what the FFCRA did not. For example, California passed an order for workers in the food sector to receive supplemental paid leave for coronavirus related reasons.

These laws are perhaps the most significant development in HR in the past year. Many companies are hesitant to update their handbooks because these policies are expiring (and likely to be replaced with new ones). If you prefer not to update your handbook, make sure you have a separate policy that is distributed and employees have access to it.

Paid Time Off

This year, there is likely going to be an issue of employees wanting to use their PTO during the holiday season before they lose it. To avoid these headaches encourage your workers to use their time now, or add a policy to your handbook allowing rollover of PTO from 2020 to 2021. Read more on the vacation problem here .

Remote Work

The now-common phrase of a “new normal” is a severe understatement when it comes to most people’s work environment.  Remote work has become mandatory for most, and standards have to be set.

While some companies are planning to stay remote going forward, many are eager to get back to the office, and therefore do not want to update these policies formally. But you may want to consider revisiting your Work From Home policy to ensure that it has the flexibility to retain and recruit employees in the post pandemic world.

Also, employers need to pay special attention to employees working off the clock, working without overtime authorization, and receiving home office reimbursements. Having a set policy to fall back on here can be beneficial.

Policy

The issues of harassment and accommodations have not gone away, and need to continue to stay top of mind. Forget office dress code the reality of our new Zoom lifestyle has employers asking if employees are even fully dressed. Modify your harassment training to look for these and other video issues. Further, be sure to work with all your employees, to avoid undue hardships for those who may struggle with a remote workspace. These are areas, that again should be updated in your handbook.

Anti-Racist Policies

Talking about, and making a change are two completely different things. Change is difficult, but change is important, and here, necessary. If you, as an employer, have not already, you need to begin to introduce more inclusive policies. Further, you need to create an environment where employees will feel comfortable, and safe, reporting harassment, discrimination, and other similar issues.

Look to the issue of hair discrimination. While some states such as New York have already banned these laws many companies still have requirements that persons of color style their hair a certain way to conform to social “norms”.  The fact that this, hair, is still an issue in 2020, shows just how much change needs to take place.

Issues such as transparency, wage gaps, and other forms of discrimination will not be as easy of a fix but need to be top priority items. Your company needs to be bold here, and show your employees understand their values.

Communicable Disease Policy

As we in PA move into our second lockdown, it has become clear that this pandemic is not going away any time soon. You need to continue to update your handbook with information from the CDC, OSHA, as well as federal, state, and city policies. Short-term policies can be added to address issues such as personal and business travel restrictions during the times of COVID. Yet, long-term policies on cross-training may prepare you for any future disruptions.

In conclusion, HR took a front seat this year and is not planning on leaving it any time soon. If you need assistance with your company’s handbook, policies, or other HR issues please reach out. You can schedule a free consultation here.

In the words of Bruce  Sarchet “People will say they can get by with less HR…[but] you need more HR than you did last year”.

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