Employment Law Lessons: 2023 New Year’s resolutions edition
We’re all familiar with the proverbial New Year’s resolutions: clean your closets, spend more time connecting with family and friends, and the ever challenging, exercise more and eat better (ok, diet). After a long and trying year, resolutions are intended to get us back to looking good and feeling balanced.
Experts tell us that New Year’s resolutions can help motivate us to achieve our goals. And, those goals don’t have to be limited to personal aspirations. So, after a long and challenging year of hybrid adjustments, recruiting struggles, and the “quiet quitting” phenomena, business owners, legal counsel, and HR professionals could also use a reset in 2023 to help their workplaces look good and find balance.
With that in mind, here are suggestions for challenging, but attainable, 2023 human resources resolutions:
- Communicate with your employees. It’s no secret (or at least it shouldn’t be) that communication is the key to a good relationship - whether that’s personal or professional. Workplace communication builds trust and helps sustain a thriving culture. Regular and direct communication with your team undercuts the insidious whispers and gossip that can sap employee morale.
Think that you don’t have time for regular communication? Engaging with employees can come in all shapes and forms: periodic team meetings, a monthly newsletter, a phone call to recognize a job well done, and a walk and talk through the facility.
Remember, communication is a two way street. Don’t just talk (or write) at your employees. Take the time to listen to what they have to say about the workplace. Those insights could be invaluable.
Build these touchpoints into your regular routine and your organization will reap the benefits all year.
- Review employment policies, procedures, and practices. You know how good it feels to look around a clean closet, office, or even an organized cabinet (we need our goals to be attainable, right?). Well, you’ll get that same feeling when you clean up your employment law policies and practices.
Over the course of the pandemic, things may have sneaked up on us, resulting in the need to update various provisions in employee handbooks, policy supplements, and SOPs. Consider these areas as part of your review:
- New state laws. Over the last several years many states have made legislative changes impacting employment policies and practices. Ensure compliance with state laws that automatically adjust the state minimum wage on an annual basis. Also, take a look at policies addressing paid sick and leave time, pay transparency, and data privacy. And, don’t forget to consider laws that may impact remote employees in states outside your primary area of operation. This is a particularly high risk area for any employer with employees working remotely in California.
- New federal laws and regulations. In the waning days of 2022, we saw a number of new employment laws that employers will need to incorporate into policies and practices, including limits on confidentiality agreements in the Speak Up Act, pregnancy accommodations in the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, and practices for nursing employees in the PUMP Act. Over the course of the year, federal agencies have also issued guidance on topics covering federal contractor compliance, union activity, and religious accommodations – to name a few.
- Employment trends. In many workplaces, how employees work has undergone a schismatic change. Now is the time to take a hard look at how your business is operating to assess whether your practices and policies accurately reflect your current business realities. For example, do policies capture and reflect the needs of a hybrid workforce? In our new reality, job descriptions need to capture where and how employees work. Do yours?
- Training. This sounds like exercise for a reason. The best way to achieve your goal of having great looking HR practices, sparkling employment law compliance, and lowering the risk of employment claims is to ensure that that supervisors, managers, and HR professionals know and understand employment laws and regulations.
This is no longer a passive endeavor.With the proliferation of state laws and federal regulations, your managers and other professional must understand the employment laws that apply to the workplace and how to comply. We learn from case after employment law case that failure to train managers on how to identify and properly respond to the numerous employment law risks (think accommodation requests here, for example) leads to complaints, claims, and recently, an increase in union organizing activity.
Just like exercise, employers need to build training into their team’s regular routine and they need to vary it up with a combination of on-line, in-person, and practice-based options.Working through scenarios in a group setting is an effective way to get managers to share raise questions, share experiences, and work through challenging situations.
This is a master level resolution, but, of course, that’s what will make achieving it the most satisfying.
Just like your personal resolutions, if you set and keep these human resources resolutions, your team will look and feel better.
(Ok, now for my resolutions, I’m off to the gym.)