114th Congress Update

HR Issues Top of Mind for New Congress

Jan 30, 2015

It’s only January, but HR public policy issues are already being debated in the 114th Congress—suggesting that 2015 will be an ambitious year for workplace policy. In just three weeks’ time, numerous workplace bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House relating to changes to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Legislation requiring greater transparency around Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforcement activities is also being discussed.

Below are brief summaries of three key advocacy efforts already moving in the new Congress that SHRM is currently championing.

More Scrutiny of ACA’s Definition of ‘Full-Time Employee’

Last week, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee held a hearing to examine the ACA’s definition of a “full-time employee” as one working 30 hours or more per week.

The hearing comes on the heels of passage of the SHRM-supported “Save American Workers Act” (H.R. 30) on January 8 and the introduction of the “Forty Hours is Full Time Act” (S. 30). Both proposals would amend the Internal Revenue Code to redefine the term “full-time employee” as an employee who is employed, on average, for at least 40 hours of service per week.

Under the ACA, employers with 50 or more full-time employees are required to provide health care coverage to their employees or pay a penalty. The ACA defines a full-time employee as one who works at least 30 hours a week or averages 120 hours per month. SHRM has been actively advocating for use of the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employee, given that the ACA’s definition is inconsistent with standard employment practices and benefits coverage requirements in the U.S. and that it conflicts with other federal and state laws. SHRM submitted a statement for the hearing in support of modifying the ACA’s 30-hour definition.

In all likelihood, the 114th Congress will consider a number of proposals to address health care reform implementation issues that continue to arise, including employer-related provisions. For example, on January 29, the Senate HELP Committee examined employer-provided wellness programs as a strategy for improving employee health and lowering health care costs. SHRM sent a letter to the Committee highlighting the importance of incentive-based wellness programs to an organization’s health care cost-containment strategies. SHRM encouraged Congress and the federal agencies to provide clarity and consistency to employers on requirements for wellness programs.

SHRM-Supported Comp Time Bill Introduced in New Congress

Representative Martha Roby (R-AL) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) recently introduced the Working Families Flexibility Act(H.R. 465/S. 233), also known as the “comp time” bill. The legislation, if enacted, would remove a federal restriction on the private sector and help Americans better address family and work needs. The bill would allow—but not require—private-sector employers to offer non-exempt employees the choice of taking overtime in cash payments, as they do currently, or in the form of paid time off, also known as comp time.

A growing number of employees report challenges in negotiating the dual demands of work and family. As a result, more and more organizations compete for talent in today’s economy by adopting workplace flexibility strategies as a way to recruit and retain valuable employees. Enactment of comp time legislation would provide companies with an additional flexibility tool to offer employees so that employers can remain competitive in our global economy.

In the previous Congress, SHRM actively supported the Working Families Flexibility Act, including by providing member testimony at a subcommittee hearing and engaging the SHRM Advocacy Team. SHRM’s involvement ultimately helped the bill pass the House, but no action occurred in the Senate.

Get involved! SHRM encourages HR professionals to contact their representative and senators to request co-sponsorship of the Working Families Flexibility Act. Stay tuned to future editions of HR Issues Update for the latest developments on this legislation.

Retirement Security Again Teed Up in Congress

On January 27, the Retirement Security Act of 2015 (S. 266 / HR 557) was introduced in both the House and Senate. In short, the legislation would help facilitate the adoption of private multi-employer pension plans among small employers. The legislation would encourage defined contribution plans to adopt auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features, as well as allowing employers to use a “stretch match” to incent employees to save for retirement. Additionally, the bills would expand tax incentives for small businesses to offer retirement plans and make it easier for more individuals to access the Savers’ Credit.

SHRM supported similar legislation in the 113th Congress and supports this legislation in this Congress as well. To read SHRM’s letter of support, please click HERE. Nearly all the co-sponsors on the legislation are members of the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance, the two committees with jurisdiction over tax measures, signaling the legislation will likely be acted upon this Congress.

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