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What You Need to Know to Prepare Your Business For 2021 And Beyond

December 31, 2020

Key HR topics including workplace culture, vaccine policies, navigating the pandemic and diversity in leadership. 

As we prepare to ring in the new year, one thing is certain, small and medium size business (SMBs) owners have their plate full. As they adjust their business to meet the changing climate, they must also keep up with the changing HR landscape in 2021.

With the workforce now likely remote and potentially spread across multiple states, compliance can get complex. We recognize that it can be overwhelming, and that is why we compiled a list of upcoming HR topics that can help you navigate the new year.

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Vaccination Policies

As we transition into the new year, the world still faces a global health crisis. Even though much is the same as we begin the new year, we hope that a COVID-19 vaccine will be readily available to people across the country sometime in 2021. Once the vaccine is widely available, employers should evaluate what type of vaccine policy and support will be best for their company. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) published information for employers and employees titled, “What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act, and Other EEO Laws”. The information outlines how the COVID-19 vaccination interacts with legal requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA). It also includes issues related to medical pre-screening questions and employer accommodations for those unable to receive the vaccination. Vaccination policy requirements and recommendations will continue to evolve during 2021 and employers should continue to monitor this topic.

Training

Employers with employees in Connecticut and Washington have additional training requirements for 2021. The requirements for Washington are industry specific.

Washington’s training requirement is part of a sexual harassment prevention law for workers in specific industries (covered employers include hotel, motel, retail, security guard, and property services) who primarily work alone. It not only includes training on how to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace, but employers must also provide a panic button device for employees to use which summons immediate assistance, among other requirements.

California’s SB 1343 has been in full effect and requires employers with five or more employees to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all employees every two years by January 1, 2021. We will likely continue to see more states and localities enacting legislation requiring sexual harassment prevention training.

Connecticut employers are now required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to supervisors as well as employees if the company has three or more employees, among other requirements. The training requirement was supposed to be met by October 1, 2020, but was extended until February 9, 2021, due to COVID-19.

Paid Leave

We continue to see state and local municipalities establishing paid leave programs. On January 1, 2021, Maine will join Nevada and require certain employers to provide paid leave to covered employees. This leave may be used not just for sick time reasons but can be used for any reason whatsoever.

Colorado, Massachusetts, New York, and California also added or expanded paid sick leave and/or paid family and medical leave programs for 2021.

On January 1, 2021, New York’s paid sick leave law allows for eligible employees to begin using their sick leave that they either accrued or were frontloaded since September 30, 2020, for qualifying reasons. New York also expanded their paid family leave duration and increased the wage replacement benefit and employee contribution, effective January 1, 2021.

California expanded the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) for 2021. The CFRA provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid protective leave for qualifying reasons. The CFRA currently only covers companies with 50 or more employees. On January 1, 2021, CFRA will cover employers with five or more employees. The state also expanded the definition of “family member” to include siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren.

Colorado also joins other states in adopting paid sick and safe leave. The Healthy Families and Workplaces Act (HFWA) is effective January 1, 2021, and will, among other provisions, require employers with 16 or more employees to provide up to 48 hours of sick and safe leave to eligible employees. The HFWA will apply to all employers on January 1, 2022.

Marijuana and the Workplace

On January 1, 2021, New Jersey and Montana become the newest states on a growing list to allow for recreational marijuana use. Alaska, California, Colorado, Washington, D.C., Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, and Michigan also allow for recreational marijuana use. Businesses with employees in these locations should review their Drug Free Workplace policies for compliance.

Diversity in Leadership

In 2018, California passed SB 826, which requires boards of California based publicly held companies to have at least one female director by 2019 and to increase this in 2021, depending on the size of the board. The state then passed AB 979 in 2020, which will require boards to add members of “underrepresented groups.” AB 979 defines “underrepresented groups” as someone who identifies as “Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian, or Alaska Native, or who self-identifies as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.” Washington also passed the Women on Corporate Boards Act, effective June 2021, which will require more “gender-diverse” boards by January 2022. As many businesses look to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in 2021, we may see more states follow California and Washington’s lead and establish similar regulations.

This communication is for informational purposes only; it is not legal, tax or accounting advice; and is not an offer to sell, buy or procure insurance.

This post may contain hyperlinks to websites operated by parties other than TriNet. Such hyperlinks are provided for reference only. TriNet does not control such web sites and is not responsible for their content. Inclusion of such hyperlinks on TriNet.com does not necessarily imply any endorsement of the material on such websites or association with their operators.

By Kelly Pacatte

Kelly Pacatte is a senior employee relations consultant with TriNet.

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