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6 Compliance Topics for 2021

2020 was a year filled with rapid, often sweeping legislative changes, and 2021 looks likely to be as well. Considering how quickly those changes have been implemented, organizations should always be cognizant of ensuring your workplace remains compliant.

As Paycom’s director of governmental affairs, I recently discussed compliance trends for the new year on a webinar, which you can listen to on demand here. From new stimulus measures to raising the minimum wage, here are six topics businesses should be aware of throughout 2021.

Stimulus legislation

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, was signed into law on Dec. 27, 2020. The act allows for numerous stimulus measures, including:

  • adding funds to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which allows businesses to qualify for forgivable loans, and extends it through March 31
  • extending employer-side Social Security payroll tax credits — available to businesses that choose to provide paid sick and family leave to employees
  • expanding the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act employee retention credit, which encourages businesses to keep employees on the payroll, extending it through July 1
  • creating a qualified disaster relief payroll tax credit for tax-exempt organizations impacted by a federally declared disaster other than COVID-19
  • extending the repayment period for employees who elected to defer Social Security taxes from Sept. 1, 2020, through Dec. 31, 2020, meaning taxes that were supposed to be paid beginning Jan. 1, 2021, are now not due until Jan. 1 of next year

You can learn more about the $900 billion act in our blog post.

Paid sick and family leave

Eight states and Washington, D.C., have paid family leave legislation, with Colorado becoming the latest state, as voters approved the law in November 2020. There are no permanent federal requirements for paid leave.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) which took effect on April 1, 2020, changes paid leave regulations for many businesses. The FFCRA gives U.S. businesses with fewer than 500 employees funds to provide employees paid leave, either for the employee’s own health needs or to care for family members. As of Jan. 1, this leave is optional and not required of employers.

Learn more about the FFCRA.

Pre-employment screenings

A candidate’s history and qualifications can be important factors contributing to whether a company hires them. Things like driving history, criminal records and education history may be taken into consideration — especially since, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, it’s estimated to cost $4,425 to hire an employee.

‘Ban the box’

Legislation referred to as “ban the box” removes questions about criminal history on job applications. The goal is to prevent employee discrimination for those with criminal records. “Ban the box” specifics are determined by state. More than 20 states and multiple municipalities already have such a law in place.

Salary history ban

In an effort to address pay equity and create fair workplace policies, some states have banned pre-employment questions related to a candidate’s salary history. Since Massachusetts enacted the first ban in 2016, many others have passed their own versions. Asking candidates about their current or past compensation is illegal in 19 states and 21 municipalities.

Read more about current pre-employment screening trends in our blog post.

Minimum wage increase

The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, an amount that hasn’t been raised since 2009. However, 29 states and the District of Columbia have a wage exceeding that amount. And more are to come.

Seven states — including California, New York and, most recently, Florida — along with various municipalities have passed laws that will eventually bring their minimum wage to $15. As other states consider the amount, it’s something to keep an eye on for how it may impact your employees and organization.

Predictive scheduling

Predictive scheduling laws, also referred to as “fair workweek” laws, are intended to give hourly employees the benefit of planning their lives beyond work, especially in the unpredictable worlds of retail and hospitality.

The Department of Labor doesn’t have a federal requirement regarding predictive pay, but some state and local scheduling laws financially penalize employers for changing an employee’s schedule without providing the required advance notice, even if the number of hours remains unaltered.

Legislation varies by jurisdiction, with some providing guidelines for when employees should be made aware of their schedule as well as how they receive shift requirement information, while others have full-blown predictive scheduling laws.

Giving reasonable advance notice of schedules allows employees to plan their lives around their shifts. Consider also giving them mobile access to their schedules instead of just a paper posted in the break room.

Expanded sexual harassment protections

Sexual harassment continues to impact businesses worldwide. In the U.S., according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), 2019 brought more than 12,500 allegations worth $68 million in settlements.

Sexual harassment laws vary by state, so it’s crucial to know and understand your state’s laws in order to establish a strong cultural awareness of sexual harassment in your workplace. Learn more about the EEOC and the Department of Justice’s stance against harassment.

To help create a safe environment for your employees, consider creating a robust anti-harassment policy and sharing it with your employees. In addition, requiring anti-harassment training for your entire workforce, preferably in a mobile-friendly manner that makes it convenient for them, is another great way to help mitigate risk. When compliance is the issue, assigning training isn’t enough, so be sure you have a learning platform that allows you to ensure consistency and monitor completion rates.

The information provided herein does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional legal, tax, accounting or other professional advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation and for your particular state(s) of operation.