Jul 6, 2017 1:15:00 PM / by John Duval
June marked the official beginning of summer—but that has not slowed down the happenings in the world of Human Resources. In our June edition of the HR Roundup, we’re bringing you news from Capitol Hill, the Department of Labor, and our friends at SHRM. So grab a limeade, and read about the latest workplace regulation updates and HR trends.
Senate GOP releases ACA repeal bill, vote delayed
On Thursday, June 22, Senate Republicans revealed their long-promised bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The proposed bill would make significant cuts to Medicaid and provide a capital-gains tax cut to the upper class. It would also allow states the option to drop many health care benefits required by the ACA. These include mental health treatment, maternity care, and even emergency services.
Originally set to go to vote the last week of June, the vote has been delayed until after the July 4th recess. Facing criticism for the bill from both parties, Senate Republicans fight to earn enough support to pass the vote.
DOL submits Request for Information on the FLSA overtime rule
During the Committee on Appropriations hearing on June 7, Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta announced the Department of Labor (DOL) would submit a Request for Information (RFI) on the FLSA overtime rule. On June 27, the DOL sent its official RFI to the Office of Management and Budget for review. This RFI is essentially the first step the Department is taking to rework the overtime rule. Once the OMB has reviewed and published the request, the public will have a chance to comment on the issue.
Federal agencies use a RFIs as a tool to get public input for developing a proposed rule. The public can weigh in on whether existing rules should change, new rules should be created, and what course of action should move the process forward. The DOL can use information gathered from the public to evaluate the FLSA overtime rule and salary threshold level. From there, the DOL can submit a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM). The NPRM should include what many employers would consider a more reasonable salary threshold.
Even before his confirmation as Labor Secretary, Acosta has voiced his stance on the FLSA overtime rule, calling it a “shock to the system.” He agrees that the rule has gone too long without updating for inflation. But, he believes the Obama administration’s salary level increase was too extreme. Instead of the $47,476 salary threshold, Acosta proposed a salary level closer to $33,000. Due to an eleventh-hour injunction from a Texas judge last November, that 'extreme' salary increase never went into effect.
If nothing else, the DOL could use the RFI as a way to wrap up litigation on the 2016 overtime rule and put it all to rest.
DOL withdraws informal guidance on joint employers and independent contractors
During Obama’s presidency, the DOL took a clear stance against misclassifying full-time employees and independent contractors. It also gave definition to employers for joint employment. In 2015 and 2016, the administration offered two interpretive bulletins t give guidance to joint employment and independent contractor classification. The bulletins served as informal guidance, not federal rules. These administrator interpretations defined employer broadly and independent contractor narrowly.
In June 2017, new Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta withdrew the informal guidance given by the Obama administration.
In a press release, the DOL stated that “removal of the administrator interpretations does not change the legal responsibilities of employers under the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act,” and “the department will continue to fully and fairly enforce all laws within its jurisdiction, including the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Migrant and Seasonal Agricultural Worker Protection Act.”
This move to revoke guidance shows steps toward a business-leaning DOL in contrast with the Obama administration who worked to expand worker’s rights like overtime pay.
SHRM survey reveals trending employee benefits in 2017
The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) recently released the findings of their annual employee benefits survey. In the last year, around one-third of organizations surveyed have increased their benefits offerings. Of all employee benefits, health and wellness benefits saw the highest growth. Respondents believe better benefits to be key in staying competitive when it comes to finding and retaining top talent.
In the report, SHRM measured both rising and declining benefits in the workplace.
Top benefits on the rise include:
- Free coffee
- Meal reimbursement for business travel
- Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
- Financial advice
- Meal flex (make up time for longer breaks or leave early due to shorter breaks)
- Standing desks
- Lactation rooms
Top benefits on the decline include:
- Medical flexible spending accounts (FSAs)
- Defined contribution plan hardship withdrawals
- Service anniversary awards
- Undergraduate and graduate educational assistance
- Defined contribution plan loans
- Shift premiums
- Compressed workweek
Despite growth over the last few years, spousal and domestic partner benefits may now be leveling off. Financial advice benefits seem to be showing the biggest upward trend. In 2014, only 28% of respondents reported financial advice offerings compared to 49% in 2017.
Some other benefits SHRM members plan to introduce in 2017 include wellness programs and health fairs. Some of these organizations indicated rewarding employees for completing health and wellness programs.
Staying competitive in the talent marketplace means knowing what employees want. How is your organization using benefits programs to keep employees engaged and productive?
Want to stay in the know about issues and regulations in the workplace? Get updates from our HR compliance tracker.
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