HR pros are already running at full speed trying to keep up with the seismic changes brought on by the pandemic.
You’re charged with taking the concrete steps needed to realize employers’ increased focus on employee wellbeing while also maintaining company culture, collaboration and employee loyalty in a remote work environment.
And HR will be at the front lines in dealing with employment law-related compliance next year, including enforcing COVID-19 safety rules, crafting policies that support working parents, handling changes to the minimum wage and launching or expanding measures to address diversity, equity and inclusion.
Those are among the issues businesses say they are struggling to deal with now.
And, they told labor and employment law firm Littler’s Employer Pulse Survey, they expect to face those issues well into 2021.
Beyond workplace safety
COVID-19 safety begins with keeping people home.
Of the more than 1,000 HR professionals, in-house lawyers and executives who responded to the survey, 57% say their organizations plan to continue remote work arrangements at least through year-end.
As the survey report points out, many companies plan to keep as many employees as possible home until at least next summer.
Personal safety is the most obvious reason for the extended work-from-home schedule.
But employers expect they’ll need to continue accommodations for workers dealing with the pandemic’s impact on childcare, schooling and caring for elderly family members.
Other challenges for HR include:
- Strategies for top-to-bottom responsibilities and accountability
- Best practices for risk assessments for initial, business ramp-up and high-risk activities
- Steps for developing “new normal” safety protocols for employees & contractors
- Critical new, revised and interim safety and health requirements issued by federal and state regulatory agencies
For expert insight into developing a robust return to work program, join Premier Learning’s one hour workshop Return-to-Work Programs During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Compliance, Communications & Consistency (live on December 17, then available on-demand).
Lawsuits, oversight expected to rise
Beyond a focus on employee well-being, employers are nervous about potential COVID-related legal exposure when more employees return to on-site work.
More than three-quarters of respondents said they are concerned about lawsuits alleging labor and employment violations related to COVID-19.
With additional downsizing and workforce restructuring ahead, employers expect to see suits alleging discrimination, wage and hour, and other employment law violations.
Top compliance concerns are paid sick and family leave, healthcare changes and immigration issues.
Minimum wage and pay equity are also on employers’ 2021 radar.
About half of respondents expect changes to workplace discrimination and harassment regulations, which could trigger additional lawsuits.
In addition to potential lawsuits, employers expect the incoming administration to ramp up OSHA’s workplace safety enforcement. More than half of respondents are preparing for more and stricter oversight at the federal and state level.
Brad Hammock, Co-Chair of Littler’s Workplace Safety & Health Practice Group and a leader of the firm’s COVID-19 Task Force said, “There is virtually no doubt that there will be a push in the beginning of a Biden administration for OSHA to more aggressively enforce existing standards and the General Duty Clause as they relate to COVID-19. “
Hammock expects that OSHA will look at a new COVID-specific mandatory standard and tools that can be applied to future pandemics.
Not surprisingly, the level of regulatory concern was higher among respondents working for Legal, but 47% of HR pros agreed that OSHA activity will rise next year and beyond.
For our unparallelled coverage of OSHA, workplace hazards, injury prevention and training strategies, please visit Safety News Alert.