Workplace Policy in 2020

By SHRM Government Affairs team January 29, 2020
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US Capitol Building

​This promises to be another decisive year for workplace policy on Capitol Hill, in state legislatures and in discourse between candidates during the election. Below are areas where we could see significant movement in the coming year.

Workplace Health Care

In the second session of the 116th Congress, committees of jurisdiction over health care (Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Education and Labor in the House of Representatives; Finance, and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in the Senate ) will host hearings and consider legislative proposals regarding "Medicare for All," surprise billing, price transparency and lowering health care costs.

In addition, with the Affordable Care Act (ACA) taxes now fully repealed, other areas for consideration for HR professionals are:

  • modification of the definition of a "full-time" employee for purposes of the health care coverage requirement.  
  • changes to ease the compliance reporting requirements for employers that offer health insurance coverage to their employees.

On the regulatory front, court decisions affecting the health care industry, including the ACA individual mandate case, will likely impact the administration and Congress' action. In December, a federal appeals court struck down part of the ACA, ruling that its requirement that most Americans carry insurance is unconstitutional while sending back to a lower court the question of whether the rest of the law can remain without it. The Supreme Court announced recently that it will not expedite its review of the matter. This recent development makes it unlikely that the high court will rule on the health care law before the 2020 presidential election.

Workplace Immigration

The administration continues to work on a merit-based immigration proposal while the House Judiciary Committee remains focused on the administration's zero tolerance immigration policy and the practice of family separation. Immigration leaders in the House are expected to continue to look for opportunities to address workplace immigration, especially concerning a bill to eliminate employment per-country green card limits, a bill the House passed last July and is being discussed in the Senate.

Workforce Development

Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, has introduced legislation reauthorizing the Higher Education Act. The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee may consider the expansion of Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals. SHRM encourages employers to access untapped talent pools, including individuals with criminal backgrounds. Expansion of Pell Grant eligibility will assist these returning individuals.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y., chair of the House Small Business Committee, is interested in expanding apprenticeships and other training/educational programs that can help employees develop skill sets that are in demand. SHRM supports policies that foster and expand work-based learning opportunities to include apprenticeships and skill-based learning.  

In 2020, SHRM will take on a number of "policy in action" initiatives that include partnering with organizations that also have an interest in untapped talent:

The National School Board Association (NSBA) and SHRM have partnered on the "LifeReady Students" Coalition, comprising a growing number of business groups, to raise awareness about the skills gap and provide resources for school boards to help students become life ready. The coalition has identified six vital soft skills for success in life. Together, SHRM and NSBA will help provide a model of collaboration between the business community and public schools that will prepare our students to enter the workforce and compete in the 21st century economy.

With a shrinking labor pool and a booming economy, NDSS, Voya and SHRM believe Americans living with a disability deserve a fair shot at the American dream. They have joined forces to lead the dialogue and put forth recommendations on what the future of work, from Main Street to Wall Street, should look like. Individuals with disabilities are often overlooked yet they provide tremendous value to our workplaces. The organizations have created a CEO Commission that will provide research, information, and actionable steps and identify advocacy opportunities for organizations to easily access.

U.S. map showing states that require paid leave

Workplace Flexibility and Leave

The House Education and Labor Committee may consider mandatory paid family leave proposals, while the House Ways and Means Committee could examine a proposal to provide paid leave through a new payroll tax. Paid leave will continue to be a key issue for state legislatures too. Already, California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington state have paid family leave with many more states considering action in 2020. SHRM believes employers should have the ability to offer voluntary paid leave and flexible work arrangements.

Workplace Equity

Since the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act is unlikely to be considered by the Senate, most efforts to address equity in the workplace will take place at the state level with a priority in states that have Democratically-controlled legislatures and governorships. Proposals to limit employers' ability to access employees' salary history will likely be considered. SHRM asserts that salary history should not be the sole factor in setting an employee's compensation. Compensation decisions should be based on the value of the position to the organization, competition in the market and other bona fide business factors. Employers should be able, however, to discuss compensation expectations with a job candidate or employee as part of the pay-setting process.  

Policy in Action Initiatives 

In 2020, SHRM will take on a number of "policy in action" initiatives that include partnering with organizations that also have an interest in workplace equity.  These activities include:

Women2Women Conversations Tour. The W2W Conversations Tour is the first of its kind—a candid, unfiltered, organic conversation with women across the country on America's most pressing issues. The tour allows women to speak openly and honestly about their perspectives on issues that impact their work and family lives. It offers women an opportunity to engage with thought leaders who bring unique expertise to this interactive setting.

W2W conducts survey research during each tour, capturing the attitudes and perspectives of women in real time. W2W uses qualitative and quantitative methods to collect data and track trend lines throughout the country. It is this innovative approach to collecting data that really sets the W2W Conversations Tour apart from other survey research platforms. SHRM is partnering with the W2W Conversations Tour, and Emily M. Dickens, corporate secretary, chief of staff and head of government affairs at SHRM, will speak at some of the events.

Partnership with the National Foundation for Women Legislators. The mission of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL) is to provide strategic resources to elected women for leadership development, exchange of diverse legislative ideas, and effective governance through conferences, state outreach, educational materials, professional and personal relationships, and networking. NFWL encourages the election and/or appointment of women to public office. The group is excited to announce that Emily M. Dickens, corporate secretary, chief of staff and head of government affairs at SHRM, has joined the NFWL board.

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