Human Resource Compliance Trends for 2021 and Beyond: Top Takeaways from Checkr’s Expert Webinar

April 8, 2021
Checkr Editor

Sometimes, problem-solving in HR is like a game of whack-a-mole: get one situation sorted, only to realize it has implications to a dozen other processes. In the last year, many HR teams have had to facilitate a pivot to remote work or hybrid work for most of their employees. From zoom fatigue to global talent pools, we’ve been taking the challenges and opportunities as they come. 

Now, with the vaccine being distributed and the situation stabilizing, there comes a new wave of considerations for HR. Companies are asking themselves whether they should go back to in-person work. And if so—how? It may even be more complicated than going remote in the first place when you take into account health policies, new hires, and compliance concerns.

To get a holistic view of the HR compliance challenges ahead (and some great advice), we teamed up with Tim Sackett, HR expert and President of HRU Technical Resources, Alex Flessel, Senior Manager, PMO at Greenhouse, and Jessica Benson, an HR Generalist at BambooHR. Watch the event in full here or read below for the highlights.

The Basics of HR Compliance Explained

Before we jump into the advice from our experts, let’s take a moment to review what human resource compliance means. When we say ‘compliance’ in a business environment we are talking about following the rules and regulations governing our business. For HR that looks like following federal, state, and local laws and adhering to regulations / guidelines relevant to our industry or the roles which we are filling. Some examples of HR compliance concerns could be data handling or fair hiring practices. It’s important to revisit these topics now as the COVID precautions such as remote work and vaccination have brought up new issues you may not have addressed in the past.

How should HR teams create and communicate Covid vaccination policy?

We asked our webinar participants to tell us what percentage of their employee base they expected to get vaccines, half said they expected 50-85% of employees to get vaccinated, while a third said they expected over 85% to get vaccinated. The question then becomes do we create a policy where employees must be vaccinated and how do we address concerns. 

Tim highlights three things your COVID policy should be: Intelligent, Clear, and Employee/Business First. You want to make sure workplace safety is guiding the design, clarity is guiding the delivery, and the impacts will work for employees/business. 

Covid Vaccine Policy Tips

It’s a difficult task, but Jessica Benson, an HR Generalist at BambooHR reminds us that the worst thing we can do is nothing, HR has to get in front of the situation.

“There’s so many moving pieces to this. I think it’s one of the reasons why we see so few COVID policies being drafted. My recommendation is to get out there, get a policy, but also understand that you’re going to have to go through revisions and changes. And that’s just the nature of a once in a lifetime issue that we’re facing with COVID. 

“HR Teams need to have a plan in place … that plan may shift and evolve, but it’s critical to get started.”

“It’s important to create a policy and not make any assumptions. HR Teams need to have a plan in place and, as Jessica mentioned, that plan may shift and evolve, but it’s critical to get started. In the webinar Tim laid out a formula for crafting your policy and ensuring it serves both the employees and the business. “

How does a company respect individual rights on the vaccine? Can I fire someone who refuses a vaccine? 

This is one many of us are curious about when it comes to HR compliance, it’s a delicate issue and one you will have to tackle with your legal team but HR Expert, Tim Sackett, gives us both the simple and nuanced answer.

“Short answer? Yes. The longer answer depends on a number of factors. Do they have a legitimate religious exemption, not one they’ve conveniently made up in the past day or so? Do they have a documented medical issue? Etc.

“The reality is employers have a lot of ground to stand on when forcing employees to get a vaccine or lose their job. Getting the vaccine becomes a workplace safety issue and the government and the courts have shown a willingness to back these protections.

Getting the vaccine becomes a workplace safety issue and the government and the courts have shown a willingness to back these protections.

“The more important question is, do you as an employer want to force employees to get the vaccine, or is there a better way to get the same result? This is really a company-by-company decision.”

How can organizations incentivize employees to get the vaccine? 

Some companies are considering incentives in order to encourage employees to get vaccinated. This could be especially effective if employees are concerned about taking time to get/recover from the vaccine. If you are thinking about implementing incentives Tim has some ideas:

“Let’s face it, the vast majority of most employees, at most employers, will actually want to get the vaccine and get back to life as ‘normal’ before the pandemic. So, anything you roll out to entice your employees to get the vaccine will be a bonus most probably didn’t need. That being said, here’s a few ideas: 

  • Cash bonus to get the vaccine within a certain time period. 
  • Vacation day bonus to get the vaccine within a certain time period.
  • Extra flexibility around their schedule.
  • Making it super convenient, like offering vaccines onsite at the workplace.

How should we handle ‘return to work’ and ‘workplace flexibility’ policy development?

With almost a year of ‘remote-first’ under our belts, we’re now looking at opening up and wondering how it’s going to go when many positions have been filled with remote workers. Is it possible (and do we want to) get people back in the office? Alex Flessel, Senior Manager, PMO at Greenhouse has some suggestions about how to go about this delicate operation.

“I think this one is a hard one to give a blanket answer to, you have to think about it on a case-by-case basis and coordinate with legal teams. Because it’s tough to say one thing [if someone has been hired remotely or made remote] and then completely shift gears.

“In both offer letters and in job descriptions, we’re going to have to really start to really think about our language and probably put some legalese into some of these really to protect and reduce the risk for organizations.”

How can we handle employees that think they should receive extra pay/benefits because their work is not conducive to working remote?

While some employees love the new remoe landscape, others are finding it difficult or even costly (setting up a remote office, extra utility usage, etc). It’s important to remember that not all employees are having an ‘easier’ time with remote work, whether it’s to do with the nature of their work or personal concerns like family etc. HR Expert, Tim Sackett helps put it into perspective for us.

“I’ll answer a question with a question: How should we handle employees who think they should get extra pay/benefits when they work remotely and not in the office? It’s the exact same scenario, right? The fact is, organizations are going to make market and position assessments on competitive compensation. If you make a determination that onsite employees don’t get extra pay, you will have to deal with the fallout or lack thereof, for your business decision. Some jobs can work remotely. Some jobs can’t. You handle this by being open and transparent. Some won’t like it, that’s okay, we will never be able to make a policy that makes everyone happy. But, we still want them and need them to come to work and be productive.”

How do you determine who can work from home and factor in fairness (other than ADA or health issues)? 

Many workers have gotten used to the flexibility of remote work and don’t want that to change as the world opens back up. It becomes hard to make these calls in a way that’s ‘fair’ which is why Tim Sackett suggests you take ‘fairness’ out of the equation.

“I don’t factor in fairness. I factor in business-need. Positionally, if they can work home, but the business needs one or a few of those positions in-office, we’ll work out a schedule, a sort of hybrid, that is fair to all. Some might use a traditional tenure model, but I’m not a fan of that.” 

Should we pay attention to the California Prop 22-type legislation gaining steam across the U.S.?

Remember that even if you aren’t in California or hiring gig workers (yet), it’s important to keep an eye on industry news. Tim Sacket predicts this legislation specifically will be important to keep an eye on for human resource compliance:

HR leaders need to keep an eye on gig worker legislation in 2021 and beyond, and its impact on the future dynamics of our total workforce.

“California’s Prop 22, the rideshare proposition, has ramifications for organizations that extend well beyond California. HR leaders need to keep an eye on gig worker legislation in 2021 and beyond, and its impact on the future dynamics of our total workforce.” 

What should we look at with remote work HR compliance requirements for 2021 including I-9 employment verification flexibility?

For now the DHS has suspended the need to view employee verification documents in the physical presence of the person. This extension continues on a month-by-month basis and direct instructions should be checked by the employer and their legal team. Find more information here on the DHS Website.

More questions about 2021 HR Compliance Trends?

If you want to go more in depth on some of these human resource compliance topics including Covid vaccine policy development, return to work and workplace flexibility, and I-9 employment verification then be sure to watch the entire event here. Our experts go even more in-depth on all these subjects and share their experiences from the last year. Make sure to stay tuned to the end for a Q&A!

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