Advocacy as a Core Competency

By Christine V. Walters, JD, MAS, SHRM-SCP, SPHR; Government Affairs Director, Maryland SHRM State Council, Inc. Jun 16, 2017
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What's your HR kryptonite?  Is it tracking FMLA leave? Navigating the HR Bermuda triangle of ADA, FMLA and workers' comp? Figuring out who's an employee or independent contractor under the conflicting federal and state laws, regulations and guidance?  And how many times have we been in front of these issues trying to shape these important public policies before they became law? 

Here's to advancing the HR profession and ensuring the answer to that question will always be "100% of the time!"  But advocacy is not a core competency, you say? We think it should be. Why? Here's the short version of one SHRM state council's story.

In 2013, Maryland saw its first paid sick leave bill, the "Safe and Sick Leave Act." Each successive year, the bill has been re-introduced and seemingly garnered more and more support. Simultaneously, the concerns expressed by the HR and business communities grew as well. 

In 2014, the Maryland SHRM State Council, Inc. ("MD SHRM") added its voice to the chorus, partnering with our state chamber of commerce, local SHRM chapters and more. We contacted state senators and delegates opposing a one-size-fits-all mandate; urging incentives instead of mandates for employers to offer paid leave programs; and calling for a new dialogue and debate on a workplace flexibility policy for the 21st century.  We have continued that chorus each year since, including 2017. 

This year, MD SHRM became even more engaged. We partnered with a comprehensive business coalition and surveyed SHRM members in Maryland. As in prior years, we partnered with SHRM's Government Affairs team, testified again in opposition to the bill, sent letters and alerts delivered through SHRM's Policy Action Center to our state senators, delegates and the Governor.  On May 27th, and after much work on everyone's part, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan vetoed the bill which our General Assembly had passed.

The Governor's press release called for bi-partisan (we might suggest non-partisan) action moving forward that reflects the spirit of MD SHRM's message each of these last several years and with which we heartily concur. Among other things, our Governor calls for encouraging small businesses to offer paid sick leave by providing tax incentives rather than a mandate.

As of this writing, no one can say what the outcome will be. The General Assembly may vote to override the Governor's veto later. As of this writing, however, there are a few things we can say. 

We believe our voice and the voices of so many have been heard.  The Governor's proposal reflects the spirit of our message over these last several years. As of this writing, MD SHRM has been invited by representatives of Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing & Regulation and Department of Commerce to participate in this dialogue. And the dialogue will continue until the General Assembly reconvenes in January 2018. MD SHRM will (1) sustain our current momentum; (2) continue to seek new opportunities to foster a civil dialogue to help shape this important public policy; and (3) proudly ensure the HR Voice is heard. 

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