But a significant portion of his address was dedicated to “beginning to restore the dignity of work.” He called for increased benefits and workers’ rights. Here’s what you need to know from the State of the Union address and how it may affect HR.
After advocating for a living wage, President Biden’s address touched on support for working parents, saying, “Let’s also make sure working parents can afford to raise a family with sick days, paid family and medical leave, and affordable child care that will enable millions more people to go to work.”
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) just recently passed its 30th anniversary, which the White House commemorated with a statement that called for improved access and awareness of paid leave. Specifically, he called to:
- Ensure military personnel have access to 12 weeks of paid parental leave
- Support paid leave efforts in states, and
- Help employees impacted by cancer know their rights under the FMLA.
How it could affect HR: Caregiver benefits are a hot topic amid an unstable economy and more conversations around burnout and stress. If you’re not already allocating resources to help working parents, now may be the time to start as the White House sets its sights on improving support for working parents.
In his State of the Union, Biden said that he would be banning noncompete agreements “so companies have to compete for workers and pay them what they’re worth.”
“For too long, workers have been getting stiffed,” said Biden. “For example, 30 million workers had to sign non-compete agreements when they took a job. So, a cashier at a burger place can’t cross the street to take the same job at another burger place to make a couple bucks more. Not anymore.”
Biden’s stance on noncompetes comes after a recent proposal from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban noncompete agreements. The FTC estimated that a noncompete ban could increase employee earnings somewhere between $250 billion and $296 billion.
How it could affect HR: A noncompete ban can have significant effects for HR. The FTC’s proposal, in addition to prohibiting companies from entering into noncompetes, prohibits employers from maintaining noncompetes. However, it wouldn’t apply to other restrictions such as non-disclosure agreements.
Biden was upfront about his support for unionization, saying, “I’m so sick and tired of companies breaking the law by preventing workers from organizing.” He went on to encourage the passage of the PRO Act, “because workers have a right to form a union.”
The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act was introduced in 2021 and aims to expand labor protections, giving workers the right to organize and collectively bargain. The PRO Act prohibits employers from requiring employees to attend meetings that discourage union membership, replacing or discriminating against employees who participate in strikes and taking adverse actions against employees who are participating in protected activities.
How it could affect HR: Unions can be a tricky topic that comes with a lot of legal limits. Passage of the PRO Act could change the game even more, making big changes that affect HR, such as expanding the definition of an “employee” versus an independent contractor and weakening some right-to-work laws.