This Week in HR Policy

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HR Policy Chair Pam Kimmet of Manulife Financial Corporation challenged members by asking “we can—so will we?” in kicking off the Association’s 2020 Washington Policy Conference, which covered racial justice, the response to COVID, and the policy agenda following the November elections. “How we engage with each other and understand the tasks in front of us is pivotal to setting our strategy going forward," said Association CEO Tim Bartl. Please click here for a recap of the meeting and resources
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The Association called for a voluntary federal paid leave standard and detailed the significant compliance problems posed by the proliferation of state and local paid leave laws in comments to the U.S. Department of Labor anticipating a potential federal paid leave law. An end to the patchwork: HR Policy’s comments on state and local paid leave laws noted, “These laws…vary in scope and administration with very little overlap, and are typically enacted without meaningful consideration of their interaction with other paid leave laws.” The Association highlighted the problems multistate employers face complying with requirements in the different jurisdictions, ...
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HR Policy urged Congress to pass the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), which would ensure “employers have clear and flexible options to ensure pregnant employees can remain at work for as long as they wish to do so.” The House passed the PWFA ( H.R. 2694 ) with a 329 to 73 vote. 103 Republicans voted for the measure. The PWFA uses an interactive, reasonable accommodation process similar to the Americans with Disabilities Act and specifies a pregnant employee may take leave only after the employer and employee have exhausted the possibility of other reasonable accommodations. The coalition letter , spearheaded by HR Policy and joined by six ...
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The August "Mental Health Index: U.S. Worker Edition" shows U.S. workers are on their sixth consecutive month of increased rates of mental health issues, including stress and anxiety, since the pandemic began. The chronic state of stress and anxiety is negatively impacting employees’ cognitive performance. The latest Index , released yesterday, shows that sustained attention, which drives task completion, is down 31% in August, and planning capability is down 15% compared to pre-pandemic rates in February. Millennials are the most emotionally vulnerable group with a 39% decline in sustained attention and a 30% decline in planning. Our American ...
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HR Policy’s Future Workplace Policy Council featured member perspectives on the significant changes to immigration policy likely ahead in kicking off our webinar series exploring the November elections’ impact on public policy areas most pressing for CHROs. In kicking off the call, Council Chair Johnna Torsone of Pitney Bowes said, “Although this is an area that has seen a lot of vitriol over the years, we may now be looking at election results that open the door for positive changes and opportunities to work together.” The November elections are only seven weeks away, and several immigration issues with significant implications for employers hang in ...
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Employer hiring plans are rebounding, but companies in just 22 of the 43 countries surveyed by ManpowerGroup expect to add to payrolls in the fourth quarter of 2020. However, U.S. hiring plans are among the strongest for now, with the number of U.S. job openings having jumped back to recovery levels. The latest ManpowerGroup global hiring report finds the strongest hiring pace is anticipated in Taiwan, the U.S., Turkey, and Japan, while Panama, Costa Rica, South Africa, and Colombia forecast the weakest labor markets. U.S. hiring plans have increased across all 12 industry sectors, with 20% of employers expecting to grow payrolls in the ...
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The Trump administration acted to tie Medicare payments for outpatient and pharmacy drugs to the lowest price offered in comparable developed countries, which could significantly increase the prices employer plans pay. The order directs HHS to implement a Medicare demonstration project to test a payment model where the program would pay no more than the most-favored-nation price for certain high-cost prescription drugs and biological products covered by Medicare Part B. It also directs HHS to publish a rule for Medicare Part D so seniors pay no more than the most-favored-nation price at the pharmacy counter. Impact on employer costs? The ...
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Just months after the EU high court invalidated the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield for not adequately protecting the privacy of EU citizens’ personal data, a Swiss privacy regulator arrived at the same conclusion for the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield. BEERG’s Derek Mooney writes: "Though Switzerland is outside the EU, it has adopted data protection rules that closely mirrored the EU’s GDPR. Following the July Schrems II decision, the Swiss Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner (FDPIC) undertook its own review and arrived at the same conclusion." The paper the FDPIC published last week advised Swiss data controllers that the Swiss-U.S. ...
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Whether and how schools will return to in-person education this fall will determine how soon parents can return to work, but the decision lies with thousands of state and local officials. About 41% of U.S. workers between 20 and 54 have at least one child at home . Single parents are more likely to rely on child care and education options in order to work. Reopening by the numbers: Forty-one states have closed school buildings for the 2019-2020 academic year, with seven states recommending closure for the remainder of the year, and two leaving the decision to schools/school districts. Twenty-one states are allowing childcare facilities ...
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As COVID-19-related lawsuits against employers continue to rise, several states have adopted laws providing some liability relief against claims based on exposure to the disease, while avoiding protections for non-exposure claims, such as discrimination. Lawmakers in Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Wyoming have passed laws that vary in approach. Following guidance is key: The laws generally provide immunity from liability from COVID-19-related claims where the employer is acting in good faith in accordance with federal, state, or local guidance, and where the employer is not intentionally or recklessly negligent. ...
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In an effort to unite Democratic moderates and progressives, a task force of Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supporters released a number of consensus proposals, including several health care reform ideas that could form the basis for legislation in 2021. Notably, the plan does not call for a single payer system, but instead focuses on public options to implement universal coverage, while providing little detail. The unity task force plan recommends: Making available a public option to all Americans, including those with employer-sponsored insurance. The option would be administered by Medicare without deductibles ...
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said recently that he is leaning toward five-year liability protection for businesses as part of the next COVID-19 relief bill. The potential parameters of a liability shield were a significant addition to the consistent message the leader has been giving for many weeks: a go-slow approach and that the legislation will be written “in his office” before the time comes to begin talks with the Democrats. Window closing: While there is a smattering of virtual committee hearings next week, neither house returns to Washington for votes until July 20, setting up a short time frame to conclude work on the next COVID-19 ...
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The Biden campaign released an “emergency action plan” outlining steps the former Vice President believes should be taken to address the pandemic, including limited student loan forgiveness and a paid sick leave right for employees of companies of all sizes. The Biden plan calls on Congress to: Keep as many people on the payroll as possible and make Americans whole for lost hours and wages by maximizing work-sharing programs and extending the extra $600 per week in UI benefits as long as public health and economic conditions call for it. “Keep small businesses in business” with an additional $377 billion in loan guarantees for small businesses ...
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EU/UK Brexit negotiations, the first face-to-face negotiations since the outbreak of the pandemic, ended last Thursday with both sides citing “significant disagreements" and giving little cause for hope of avoiding a no-deal Brexit. Last week, the July 1 deadline for agreeing upon an extension to the “transition arrangement” passed, which means that the UK is now scheduled to leave the EU economically on December 31. Unlike a typical trade deal, the raison d’etre of Brexit is to create divergence, a lose-lose proposition for both sides. It is for the UK to put borders in place where none now exist, to end the free movement of people, to diverge ...
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced two six-month pilot programs to expand opportunities for parties to voluntarily resolve charges through mediation and increase the accountability and effectiveness of the conciliation process. The Commission has used mediation for 20 years to resolve disputes as an alternative to the EEOC’s traditional conciliation and litigation process, but previously charges were referred to mediation only at the beginning of the investigation process. The mediation pilot expands the categories of EEOC charges eligible for mediation and, generally, allows for mediation throughout an investigation. The EEOC ...
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The Association urged President Trump to consider the positive economic impact of nonimmigrant work visas as the Trump administration suspended many such visas through the end of 2020. HR Policy will continue to work to narrow the ban, especially protecting H-1B visas for highly skilled workers. The Trump administration’s executive order suspends most new H1-B visas for highly skilled workers, L-1 visas for internal company transfers, H-2B visas for seasonal workers, and J-1 visas for work-and-study based exchange visitor programs through the end of 2020. The EO cites high unemployment numbers and the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic ...
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A federal judge has upheld the Trump administration’s policy requiring hospitals to publish previously secret prices for health care services, giving the administration a major win in its quest to increase price transparency. The transparency rule , scheduled to take effect in January 2021, requires hospitals to publicly release the rates they negotiate with insurers for all services or face a penalty of up to $300 per day for violating the policy. The American Hospital Association claimed in a lawsuit that the administration did not have the authority to require publication of privately negotiated prices and in doing so, violated the industry’s ...
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The Trump administration released guidance enabling large employers to offer telehealth benefits to employees who are not eligible for any other health plan and stating insurers are not required to cover COVID-19 tests when employers require them as part of their return to work policies. According to the guidance, in light of the critical need to minimize the risk of exposure to and community spread of COVID-19, for the duration of any plan year beginning before the end of the public health emergency, large employers are allowed to offer telehealth or other remote care services to employees who are not eligible for any other health plan offered by ...
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The U.S. Department of Labor published proposed rules that would prohibit ERISA plan fiduciaries from investing in ESG funds if the “underlying investment strategy of the vehicle is to subordinate return or increase risk for the purpose of non-financial objectives.” “Private employer-sponsored retirement plans are not vehicles for furthering social goals,” said Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia in announcing the proposal. According to the release on the DOL website , the proposal is designed to clear up confusion from previous sub-regulatory guidance and make it clear that plan managers have a duty to prioritize risk and return over non-financial ...
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Both Presidents Obama and Trump have made extensive use of executive orders to achieve goals stymied by congressional gridlock. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) signals what a new Democratic administration could mean for federal contractors. Presidents can use executive orders to impose conditions on federal contractors, such as President Johnson’s executive order 11246 establishing affirmative action requirements on federal contractors, which is strongly supported by HR Policy member companies. However, in recent years such orders have been used by Presidents to establish additional requirements for federal ...
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