November 25, 2020

HR 2021: A Preview of Pending Employment Laws and a Look Back at 2020

 

 

Let’s just call it what it is: 2020 has been an absolute dumpster fire of a year. And for employers across the U.S., the potent cocktail of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic mixed with near-constant political unrest has manifested itself as a series of crises that just seem to compound as the days go on.

Of course, the COVID pandemic played the most prominent role with regard to unanticipated changes in employment laws and the basic day-to-day operations of running your business over the course of the last year.

But, with a presidential transition in process, the pandemic still surging, and a range of employee-friendly laws rolling out in several states, we expect 2021 to be pretty unpredictable, as well. 

Still, we wanted to provide whatever insight we could with respect to some of the changes employers can expect to see over the coming year in terms of employment laws and the workforce, writ large, and give you the chance to engage with some tools that will make your life as a business owner or manager a whole lot easier in the face of those challenges.

 

You already provide your team with PTO. But, if your timekeeping system doesn’t track that time for your employees automatically, you’re spending hours on tasks that should only take you minutes.

CEDR’s PTO & Time Tracking software can give you back that time, put lost revenue back in your pocket, and eliminate payroll errors for your business. 

Try CEDR’s Automatic PTO & Time Tracking System FREE for 30 Days!

 

How Presidential Policies Could Impact Employers

The outcome of a presidential election can result in sweeping changes to the types of employment laws that are passed, the way that certain laws are interpreted, as well as how — and even if — certain laws are enforced at the federal level.

Here’s a brief rundown of what we might expect from a Biden presidency when it come to the impact it could have on employers:

 

What to Expect When Joe Biden Takes Office

Traditionally, the democratic platform has been more favorable to employees than employers, supporting initiatives like increasing the federal minimum wage and mandating that Paid Time Off (PTO) benefits be provided to employees. 

We expect this trend to hold during a Biden presidency, though a Republican majority in the Senate would limit the new administration’s ability to pass substantially impactful legislation.

 

Possible Employment-Related Outcomes of a Biden Presidency

  • Extended Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) benefits
  • Reinstatement of supplemental unemployment benefits
  • Another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for business owners
  • Stricter COVID rules (though the president’s ability to enforce a national lockdown or mask mandate is questionable)
  • Stepped up OSHA standards and increased enforcement around workplace safety
  • Expanded protections for employee speech under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)
  • Attempts to broaden existing federal employment laws, which would decrease the need for the growing patchwork of state and local employment law legislation. For example:
    • Increased federal minimum wage
    • Increased salary threshold for exempt employees
    • Possible Paid Family Leave program offering twelve weeks of leave to bond with a new baby, recover from a serious health condition, or that of a family member.
    • Possible nationwide paid sick leave program (though this has been proposed many times and is unlikely to get passed in the near future)

 

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Increased Focus on PTO and Health Benefits

Regardless of which party controls the White House or U.S. Senate following the 2020 election, there are likely to be shifts in the workforce that stem directly from the unprecedented circumstances of the last year.

As you know, the biggest change regarding legally mandated paid time off in 2020 came in the form of the FFCRA. This was the law that requires employers with less than 500 employes to offer up to two weeks of paid time off for reasons directly related to potential exposure to the virus, and up to ten additional weeks of paid time off for parents whose access to safe child care was affected by the virus.

As it stands right now, FFCRA is set to sunset on December 31, 2020. That piece of legislation may well be extended into next year, but, as of now, that decision is still up in the air.

Other legislative efforts were made to support the struggling economy, as well. Reimbursements and some exemptions to the FFCRA were offered to help reduce the sting of emergency payments on employers; the CARES Act / PPP Loan Program was launched to help businesses stay open during the pandemic; and unemployment eligibility and payments were expanded to support employees who lost income due to the economic impacts of the coronavirus. 

Despite this initial wave of support from the federal government, many employers struggled to stay open during a health crisis that went on much longer than most people expected. Further, a second stimulus package stalled in the U.S. Senate and failed to move forward, despite ongoing negotiations by lawmakers.

Whether or not FFCRA is expanded in 2021, employees are now keenly aware of how vulnerable their jobs and sources of incomes can be in the face of unexpected circumstances and emergencies. As a result, you can expect those looking for jobs in the coming year to take a close look at your company’s offerings when it comes to PTO and health benefits, in particular.

 

 

Shifting Employee Priorities 

As companies were forced to temporarily (and, in some cases, permanently) shut down or otherwise adapt to new normals during the public health crisis, and as employees’ ability to work was compromised, the result was a dramatic reshuffling of the American workforce. 

Today, we are still deep into the public health crisis caused by the spread of COVID-19 and there is no clear indication of when — or even if — things will ever get back to the way they were before the pandemic. 

Not surprisingly, the stability of the job market is therefore still in limbo. And, as a result, people who find themselves looking for a job (or considering leaving one) are likely to prioritize available PTO and health benefits when responding to job ads or choosing between multiple offers.

If your business does not offer PTO or health benefits to your team as a matter of policy, now is a good time to think about adding them if you want your business to remain competitive in the 2021 job market. 

Though you may not be able to provide a group health plan right now — which is the most attractive health benefit option for employees — our partners at Take Command Health have outlined ways that employers can offer a tax-free HRA benefit on a budget that you define yourself.

When it comes to PTO, there’s a good chance that you already provide some form of time-off benefit to your employees, whether paid or unpaid. But, if the timekeeping system you use in your office doesn’t automatically track PTO as it accrues for your employees, you are almost certainly spending more time managing those benefits and answering time-off questions for your employees than you need to, and that translates directly to lost revenue for your business.

The timekeeping system we use at CEDR keeps track of employee time off automatically and actually makes it easy for employees to find answers to the majority of their time-off questions on their own, without having to bring them to a manager at all. Over the course of a year, this software saves our managers many hours — and, in some cases, days — of their time, minimizing employee interruptions and allowing them to stay focused on other priorities.

CEDR Members already have access to this software as part of their membership, but we have also made that system available to the general public. If you are a CEDR Member and want to talk to someone about setting up automatic PTO & Time Tracking for your office, send us an HR Request from your Members Area.

If you are not a member, click here to learn more about our automatic PTO & Time Tracking system and start your FREE 30-Day trial.

 

Mandatory Time Off Is Becoming Increasingly More Common

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already have laws requiring employers to provide paid leave to their employees. They are:

  • Arizona: Small employers must provide at least 24 hours of paid sick leave per year, and large employers need to provide at least 40 hours.
  • California: All employers must provide at least three paid sick days per year, and many California cities require additional sick leave benefits. 
  • Connecticut: Employers with 50+ employees must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
  • D.C.: Employers with 100+ employees must provide seven paid sick days per year; Employers with 25-99 employees must provide five paid sick days per year; Employers with 1-24 employees must provide three paid sick days per year.
  • Illinois: Chicago and Cook County employers must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
  • Maryland: All employers need to provide at least 64 sick leave hours per year, and for employers with 15 or more employees that time needs to be paid.
  • Massachusetts: All employers need to provide at least 40 sick leave hours per year, and for employers with 11 or more employees that time needs to be paid.
  • Michigan: Employers with 50+ employees must provide 40 paid sick leave hours per year.
  • Minnesota: The cities of Duluth, Minneapolis, and Saint Paul have sick leave requirements.
  • Nevada: Employers with 50+ employees must provide at least 40 hours of paid sick leave per year.
  • New Jersey: All employers must provide 40 hours of paid sick leave per year. 
  • New York: New York City and Westchester Counties have had sick leave laws in place, though all employers in the state will now need to amend their time off policies due to New York instituting a statewide Paid Sick Leave Law which took effect on September 30, 2020. 
  • Oregon: All employers need to provide at least 40 hours of sick leave to employees. For employers with 10+ employees, that time must be paid. 
  • Pennsylvania: Both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have city-wide sick leave ordinances.
  • Rhode Island: Employers need to allow employees to use up to 40 sick leave hours per year, and for employers with 18+ employees that time must be paid. 
  • Vermont: All employers must provide employees with at least 40 sick leave hours per year.
  • Washington: State law allows employees to accrue 1 hour of sick leave for every 40 hours worked, with no limit on the amount an employee can accrue. Seattle has additional sick leave requirements. 

If your state already mandates that your business provide its employees with any form of leave, paid or unpaid, it’s important that you use a timekeeping system that tracks available leave automatically as it accrues (like the one available inside CEDR’s HR VaultⓇ software).

Not only will this save you immense amounts of time, but it also allows you to easily administer time-off requests without risking errors that could put your business at risk of a wage and hour violation.

The timekeeping system that we provide to CEDR Members is the same one we use in house. It’s fully customizable and is able to track employee time off automatically across multiple categories at any specified accrual rate. This takes the burden of tracking PTO off the shoulders of our management team and allows all of our time-off processes to run quietly in the background.

We have opened that software up to the public so, even if you’re not a CEDR Member, you can experience what it’s like to take the time-consuming task of PTO tracking off of your to-do list for good.

Click here for more information on CEDR’s automatic PTO & Time Tracking System — you can even try the software FREE for 30 Days!

Even if your state is not included on the above list (yet), it’s important to note that the trend is now well established. State-mandated leave provisions have been rolling out consistently across the U.S. since Connecticut passed the nation’s first paid sick leave law in 2011, and all indications are that more and more states will continue to follow their example in the coming years.

In fact, five states recently passed additional Family and Sick Leave provisions that will take effect at the beginning of 2021. What follows is a brief summary of the changes in each state set to take effect at the beginning of next year.

 
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States Expanding Time-Off Benefits in 2021

 

California

When it was originally passed in 1993, the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) required employers with 50 or more employees to provide 12 weeks of unpaid family leave to employees who were welcoming a new child into their home, who were dealing with a serious health issue, were helping care for a family member with a serious health issue, or were faced with a military exigency in the family.

Employees have to work for their employer for at least one year and perform at least 1250 hours of work over the course of that year to qualify for CFRA benefits.

As of January 1, 2021, CFRA will be expanded to apply to all employers in the state with five or more employees. 

If you are in California and you have more than four employees, you need to be prepared to track and administer CFRA leave for your team, determine when your new employees have crossed that 1250-hour eligibility threshold, and continue tracking all other forms of leave required in your state (and, in many cases, your city) at the beginning of next year.

If this sounds like a lot to keep track of, that’s because it is.

If you are an employer in California and you are not already using a timekeeping system that automatically tracks available leave for your employees, now is the time to upgrade.

The PTO & Time Tracking System inside HR Vault is programmed during setup to keep track of all of these variables for you, saving you time and stress, and making compliance with the laws automatic.

It’s also the same timekeeping system that we provide to our Solution Center Members and use in house. Click here to learn more about that software and to start your FREE 30-Day Trial.

The expansion of CFRA will also affect the employee handbook policies of all employers who find themselves subject to the law. 

If you are a CEDR Member, we can help you update your handbook policies, walk you through how to handle CFRA leave issues when they come up, and help you set up PTO & Time Tracking for your office. Click here to submit an HR Request to the CEDR Solution Center.

If you are not a CEDR Member, click here to sign up for a free HR consultation to learn how CEDR can help you prepare for this change and keep your business compliant.

 

Colorado

While employers were in the throes of learning how to cope with the legal and logistical challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, the state of Colorado passed a law in the late spring of 2020 mandating that employers begin providing employees with paid sick leave benefits.

Under that law:

  • All employers in the state will have to provide up to 48 hours of paid sick leave for their employees.
  • Both full-time and part-time employees will be eligible for benefits.
  • There is no waiting period before new employees can begin accruing and using benefits.
  • The law requires specific written communication with employees and updated policies related to the availability of paid sick leave.
  • Employers with 16 or more employees will be subject to the law on January 1, 2021.
  • Employers with fewer than 16 employees will be subject to the law beginning January 1, 2022.

In addition to this new sick leave law, Colorado also voted to approve a statewide Paid Family Leave program which will roll out over the next few years.

If your business is located in the state of Colorado, you need to be prepared to track and administer mandatory sick and family leave for your team as soon as possible! The best approach is to switch to a timekeeping system that tracks PTO for your employees automatically.

The PTO & Time Tracking System inside HR Vault is programmed during setup to keep track of your employees’ available PTO for you automatically, and to allow employees to earn that time at the rate specified by state law. That automation serves two purposes: 1) it saves you and your managers the time and stress associated with trying to keep track of these variables yourselves, and 2) it makes compliance with leave laws automatic.

Not only is that timekeeping system the same one that we provide to our Solution Center Members, it’s also the one that we use in house. Click here to learn more about that software and to start your FREE 30-Day Trial.

What’s more, even if you already offer generous paid sick leave benefits at your business, this new law will require you to make changes to your existing time-off policies to ensure that they remain compliant with the new law.

If you are a CEDR Member, we can help you update your handbook policies, walk you through how to handle leave issues when they come up, and help you set up PTO & Time Tracking for your office. Click here to submit an HR Request to the CEDR Solution Center.

If you are not a CEDR Member, click here to sign up for a free HR consultation to learn how CEDR can help you prepare for this change and keep your business compliant.

 

Maine

Maine’s Earned Employee Leave Law takes effect on January 1, 2021.

This is a first-of-its-kind piece of legislation in that, where most leave laws cover specific types of leave to be offered under very specific circumstances such as personal illness or illness in the family, Maine’s Earned Employee Leave can be utilized by employees for any reason, including illness, vacation, sudden necessity, or emergencies.

Under the law, employers with 11 or more employees will be required to offer up to 40 hours of paid time off to all of their employees, including part-time and temporary employees. Available PTO may be front-loaded or can be set to accrue at the rate of one hour of leave for every 40 hours worked.

There is a 120-day waiting period in place before employees can begin using their earned time off under this law, though time-off accrual must begin on day-one of a new hire’s employmentThere is also a poster related to this law that employers must post in their office somewhere that all employees can easily see.

If you are an employer in Maine and you have more than ten employees, you need to be prepared to track and administer mandatory  leave for your team at the beginning of next year! The best approach to this problem is to switch to a timekeeping system that tracks PTO for your employees automatically.

The PTO & Time Tracking System inside HR Vault is programmed during setup to keep track of your employees’ available PTO for you automatically, and to allow employees to earn that time at the rate specified by state law. That automation serves two purposes: 1) it saves you and your managers the time and stress associated with trying to keep track of these variables yourselves, and 2) it makes compliance with leave laws automatic.

Not only is that timekeeping system the same one that we provide to our Solution Center Members, it’s also the system that we use in house. Click here to learn more about that software and to start your FREE 30-Day Trial.

This new leave provision is also likely to have a major impact on the leave policies you might already have in place in your employee handbook. It’s important that you work with a qualified HR or employment law expert to ensure that any updates you make to your current policies are in compliance with this new law.

If you are a CEDR Member, we can help you update your handbook policies, walk you through how to handle paid leave issues when they come up, and help you set up automatic PTO & Time Tracking for your office. Click here to submit an HR Request to the CEDR Solution Center.

If you are not a CEDR Member, click here to sign up for a free HR consultation to learn how CEDR can help you prepare for this change and keep your business compliant.

 

Massachusetts

Employees for all businesses across the state will be able to begin taking time off under Massachusetts’ Paid Family and Medical Leave Program beginning on January 1, 2021.

Employers should have been making deductions from employee paychecks and submitting payments to this state program since October of 2019.

Under this law, all employers in the state will need to provide between 12 and 26 weeks of unpaid leave to employees, depending on the reason for the leave request. Employees will then be able to submit an application to the state program to receive partial wage replacement during approved leave.

Eligible reasons for collecting paid family and medical leave include:

  • Baby bonding
  • Dealing with a serious health issue
  • Caring for a family member with a serious health issue
  • Military exigency

If you are an employer in Massachusetts, you need to be prepared to track and administer paid family and medical leave for your team at the beginning of next year while also continuing to track mandatory sick leave as required by state law.

If you’re thinking that tracking all of this leave is going to get complicated, you’re right.

For this reason, you will also want to make sure you are using a timekeeping system that allows you to easily implement and automatically track available leave. If you are an employer in Massachusetts and you are not already using a timekeeping system that automatically tracks time off for your employees as it accrues, now is a good time to upgrade.

The PTO & Time Tracking System inside HR Vault is programmed during setup to keep track of state-mandated leave for you across multiple categories at the accrual rates specified by law. This both saves you time and stress, and makes your compliance with Massachusetts leave laws automatic.

It’s also the same timekeeping system that we use in house and provide to our Solution Center Members. Click here to learn more about that software and to start your FREE 30-Day Trial.

This law has rolled out over the last several years and is especially nuanced and complicated, making it easy to miss or misinterpret certain provisions of the law without help from a qualified HR or employment law expert. 

In addition to upgrading your timekeeping systems, employers in Massachusetts will also need to update any Leave of Absence Policies (and other relevant policies) in your employee handbooks to remain compliant after the law takes effect at the beginning of next year.

If you are a CEDR Member, we can help you update your handbook policies, walk you through how to handle family leave issues when they come up, and help you set up automatic PTO & Time Tracking for your office. Click here to submit an HR Request to the CEDR Solution Center.

If you are not a CEDR Member, click here to sign up for a free HR consultation to learn how CEDR can help you prepare for this change and keep your business compliant.

 

New York

New York has passed a statewide Paid Sick Leave provision that will affect all employers in the state beginning on January 1, 2021.

Beginning on January 1 of next year, all employers in the the state will be required to provide sick leave to their employees and, for the majority of employers, that leave will need to be paid time off.

If you are an employer in the state of New York, you need to be prepared to track and administer mandatory paid sick AND family leave for your team at the beginning of next year.

Under the new law, employers of different sizes will have to administer paid sick leave in very specific ways:

  • employers with more than 100 employees will be required to provide all of their employees with up to 56 hours of paid sick leave
  • employers with fewer than 100 employers will have to provide all employees with up to 40 hours of paid sick leave. 
  • Those with four or fewer employees and whose business nets less than $1 million in revenue still need to provide sick leave, but it can be unpaid time.

There is no waiting period for new employees to be eligible for time-off benefits under this new law.

If you’re worried about how you’ll manage to keep on top of all of these variables for each employees at your business, CEDR has you covered.

The PTO & Time Tracking System inside HR Vault is programmed during setup to keep track of all of these variables for you, saving you time and stress, and making compliance with the laws automatic.

It’s also the same timekeeping system that we provide to our Solution Center Members and use in house. Click here to learn more about that software and to start your FREE 30-Day Trial.

The law actually took effect on September 30 of this year, so employees in New York will need to adjust their time clocking records to account for the accrued time through the end of the year. Employees will not be able to use that time until January 1, 2021, however, so you have about a month to figure out exactly how this law will apply to your business and how to implement the accrual process for your employees.

New York employers will want to make sure they are using a timekeeping system that allows them to easily implement and automatically track available leave as it accrues. Click here to learn more about CEDR’s automatic PTO & Time Tracking software and start your 30-Day FREE Trial.

If you are a CEDR Member, we can help you update your handbook policies, walk you through how to handle sick leave issues when they come up, and help you set up PTO & Time Tracking for your office. Click here to submit an HR Request to the CEDR Solution Center.

If you are not a CEDR Member, click here to sign up for a free HR consultation to learn how CEDR can help you prepare for this change and keep your business compliant.

 
Click here to get free tools and tips to help you hire better from cedars free hiring guide

 

Conclusion

It’s been a whirlwind of a year when it comes to changes in employment laws and the state of the workforce, in general.

Not only did the coronavirus pandemic lead to the passage and implementation of a number of temporary laws and benefits to help see employers and employees through this crisis, but a presidential election is also adding to the uncertainty with respect to what federal employment laws will look like and how they will be enforced over at least the next four years.

The pandemic also led to a reshuffling of the workforce, including a massive uptick in the number of displaced and unemployed workers in the United States. 

With the health crisis still in full swing, employees will continue to deal with issues like potential exposure to the virus and a lack of access to safe child care, which will likely lead them to seek additional security from future employers in the form of health care and paid time off (PTO) benefits.

If you are not offering health care or PTO benefits to your team right now, it’s a good time to explore your options for doing so to make sure you are able to remain competitive in the job market moving forward.

States across the country are also continuing to roll out Paid Sick and Family Leave programs for employees. 

Specifically, employers in California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, and New York can expect major changes to the leave laws in their states, all of which will take effect in one form or another on January 1, 2021. Maine even rolled out a first-of-its-kind law requiring employees to provide paid leave to employees that they can use for any reason they want, including illness, vacation, or sudden necessity. It will be interesting to see whether other states follow this example and implement similar programs in the years to come.

The need for employers in the states listed above to 1) use a timekeeping system that automatically tracks available PTO as it accrues for their employees and, 2) work with a qualified HR or employment law expert to ensure that their company policies are in compliance with the shifting legal landscape is more evident now than it has ever been.

Even if your state, county, or city does not mandate that you provide any form of paid leave to your employees, providing PTO benefits is a great way to make your business stand out to qualified applicants on job boards. 

What’s more, the number of states and localities that do require employers to provide some form of paid leave is on the rise. And, if previous trends are any indication, you can expect additional paid leave laws to pass in more and more jurisdictions as time goes on.

Most employers already offer their employees PTO in some form, whether it’s required of them or not. But, if that time isn’t being tracked automatically in the background each time your employees clock in and out, not only are you spending hours on administrative tasks that should only take you minutes, you’re also leaving your business vulnerable to costly payroll mistakes and wage and hour violations.

By setting your business up with a timekeeping system that tracks these variables automatically and makes it easy for managers to implement and track that leave when employees need to use it, you can stay ahead of the legislative curve and get a jump on competing businesses in your area.

 

CEDR’s PTO & Time Tracking software saves you time, puts lost revenue back in your pocket, and eliminates payroll errors for your business. 

Try CEDR’s Automatic PTO & Time Tracking System FREE for 30 Days!

 

2020 has been an overwhelming and unpredictable year in the realm of employment laws, and 2021 is shaping up to present its own set of legislative surprises.

Now is the time to work with an HR professional to bring your business into compliance today and for the foreseeable future. If you’re ready to start the conversation, click here to schedule a free consultation with a CEDR account specialist

 
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This post updated November 25, 2020; originally published November 20, 2020.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.