Monday, January 4, 2016

Five Developments to Watch in 2016

It’s a new year and a fresh start. Many employers consider reviewing and updating their employee handbooks around this time to include important new laws that change the employment landscape and to stay current with employment trends.  Here is our top five to watch:

1. Transgender issues. This issue is positively exploding in the media, in our society as a whole and in the workplace.  The EEOC has already declared that discrimination based on gender identity is gender discrimination prohibited by law. In Illinois, the Illinois Human Rights Act prohibits adverse employment actions based on gender identity. Employers need to not only implement policies which protect individuals from gender identity discrimination but must train their staff on these issues asap.
2. The ACA. At the end of 2015 the implementation of the “Cadillac Tax” was postponed for two years. Many employers rejoiced, and for good reason!  It may in fact signal the permanent demise of that tax. The presidential election may ring in further ACA reform.
3. Overtime Regulations. Employers spent a significant amount of time preparing for changes to the regulations in 2015 based on the DOL recommendations to almost double the minimum salary necessary to meet the salary basis test component of white collar exemptions to overtime. The expectation was that the new regulations, which might also include changes to the duties test of these exemptions, would occur by year end of 2015. The new date for adoption of these changes is Summer 2016.  Clearly, as an Obama initiative, these changes could be further modified after the presidential election.
4. Minimum Wage. Increasing the minimum wage is an issue that is also not going away. While some local governmental entities and private employers have voluntarily implemented an increase to $15 an hour, a change to state or federal minimum wage laws might be on the horizon. Clearly, the issue of the “working poor” is one that must be addressed, leaving HR professionals and employers in general with the task of figuring out how to pay for it either with or without staff reductions.
5. Paid Sick Leave.  European workers have enjoyed generous paid time off benefits for decades. Public employers, as well, generally have offered a significant amount of paid benefit time to offset what once was a lower pay scale across the board. Unions have historically fought for guaranteed paid leave as well. Now, private sector workers and representatives have made paid sick leave one of their top priorities. With more focus on the connection between work stress and wellness, and work/family balance, employers should expect to hear this demand at the bargaining table as well as from non-unionized employees.  Whether states or the federal government adopts paid sick leave laws, more paid time off is one of the more sought after benefits among the newer generation of workers.