Reduce HR Compliance Risks as Your Business Begins Reopening

As you reopen your business, you’ll want to reduce HR compliance risks — which will help you avoid audits, lawsuits, and a dangerous work environment.

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Review these common HR compliance issues

HR compliance refers to a company’s best practices to ensure the business and employees follow all federal, state, and local laws and regulations. These laws can change during “normal times” on a pretty regular basis, but in the middle of a pandemic, changes can happen even faster. This is particularly true in terms of sanitizing, social distancing, and rules regarding masks. Before considering how to reduce HR compliance risks, it’s a good idea to review some of the most common HR compliance issues.

The first is anti-discrimination laws. These laws at a federal level prohibit any type of employment discrimination based on disability, age, sex, ethnic origin, race, color, culture, veteran status, and more.

There are a number of Acts that outline exactly what employers can and cannot due under this compliance issue including:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act
  • Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act
  • Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act
  • Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

Trends in anti-discrimination policies show that these laws will likely broaden. There has been a particular interest in sexual orientation and gender identification in recent years.

Wage and hour laws with HR compliance

Two of the most common compliance issues HR professionals address are wage and hour laws. These laws include requirements for overtime, minimum wage, child labor, meals/breaks, and hours worked. One of the laws HR professionals routinely turn to is the Fair Labor Standards Act that governs minimum wage and overtime on a federal level. However, different states also have different requirements. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 per hour but varies drastically state to state. Tips in the hospitality industry also vary.

One of the Acts HR professionals routinely turn to is the Fair Labor Standards Act that governs minimum wage and overtime on a federal level. However, different states also have different requirements.

HR compliance issues also regularly arise regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows most full-time workers to qualify for 12 weeks of unpaid leave annually without a risk of losing their job. This can include leave for biological children, adopted children, and foster children. It’s likely that this leave time will expand in order to better align with other western country standards. States can also expand this leave, and New York has thus far set the bar highest.

Immigration and benefits laws

Employers are required to verify if employees are legally available to work through various documentation requirements. However, they must be careful not to get into discrimination territory.

Another hot topic in HR compliance is immigration laws, and particularly the Immigration and Nationality Act as well as the Immigration Reform and Control Act. Employers are required to verify if employees are legally available to work through various documentation requirements. However, they must be careful not to get into discrimination territory. It’s clear that immigration has been a hot issue in recent years and that will likely continue. This is especially true given recent restrictions on visas for workers and students in the United States, related to COVID-19.

HR compliance officers also oversee benefits laws. These laws include the Affordable Care Act recently as well as the Employment Retirement Income Security Act and the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act. Safety laws and union laws are also scrutinized by HR professionals to make sure companies are staying abreast of all the latest changes to laws and enforcing them in the workplace.

What does all of this mean for reopening?

The majority of businesses reopening are doing so under very different circumstances than normal. Not only are work environments changing, but so are the laws at federal, state, and local levels. It’s tougher than ever for small businesses to make sure they’re keeping everything legal since so much has changed. COVID-19 has altered capacities for brick-and-mortar establishments and forced many small businesses to go virtual. There are also now rules in place regarding face coverings, gloves, and social distancing.

Not only are work environments changing, but so are the laws at federal, state, and local levels.
Ultimately, this means there are more instances where businesses could mistakenly be going against HR compliance — often without realizing it. Small business owners are worried about paying their workers and keeping their businesses operating. HR compliance issues usually aren’t a top priority even pre-COVID-19 for a lot of managers. That’s why HR professionals are the go-to resource for ensuring businesses are compliant.

However, most small businesses don’t have the ability or need to create an HR department, or even hire a full-time HR employee. That’s when outsourcing your HR solutions can be the right fit. This gives you coverage and peace of mind of knowing a professional will help you reopen and keep compliant.

One of the first things this HR pro will do is take a look at your employee handbooks and update them (or create one if it doesn’t exist). They work with business owners to clearly explain laws and regulations, and offer guidance on how to comply. It’s a preventative measure to help you avoid audits, lawsuits, and dangerous work environments. As businesses reopen, consider an HR compliance officer a key part of helping to do so safely and legally.

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