President Obama will give his annual State of the Union address (SOTU) Feb. 12, 2013 at 9 p.m. ET. This speech is important because the president will outline his key priorities for the year. President Obama is likely to use his speech to outline his legislative agenda, including deficit reduction, tax reform and immigration reform, among other issues.
The speech will come in the middle of another set of difficult budget negotiations between Congress and the administration. In his invitation letter to the president, House Speaker John Boehner said the country faces immense challenges and Americans expect the Congress and White House to work together on solutions. Boehner said cooperation will require a “willingness to seek common ground as well as presidential leadership.” There is no doubt a great deal of work lies ahead for the 113th Congress and President Obama.
Future decisions made on these initiatives will impact you and your workplace and may affect the way you prepare for what’s ahead, manage your employer’s risk and stay compliant. That’s why it is important for HR advocates to meet with their elected officials early in the year, before proposals are introduced, to discuss possible policy implications on the workforce.
Please join the SHRM Government Affairs Team (GAT) and @SHRMATeam at 8:30 p.m. ET on Feb. 12 for a live #SOTU #GATChat with special guests Lisa Horn (@SHRMLobbystLisa), Kathleen Coulombe (@kcnshrmga), Michael Layman (@SHRMLayman) and Chatrane Birbal (@SHRMAdvocacy). We’ll be chatting about the president’s legislative agenda and HR public policy issues in the current Congress and will provide an insider’s view to SHRM’s upcoming Legislative Conference.
The 2013 Employment Law and Legislative Conference, taking place March 10-13 in Washington, D.C., is an opportunity for SHRM members to continue the public policy conversation. This year’s conference, with the theme “Prepare, Manage and Stay,” offers an information-packed agenda for attendees. In addition to the latest compliance information, participants will hear about legislative issues pending at federal and states levels, and conduct Capitol Hill meetings with their lawmakers to discuss key HR public policy issues, including relevant proposals from the president’s State of the Union address.
Why should HR professionals #HaveAVoice during the SHRM Employment Law and Legislative Conference?
Do you have a strategy for advocacy engagement? What are the burning HR issues you would like to discuss with members of the 113th Congress?
Q1. What HR issues are you hoping the President will include in his SOTU address?
Q2. Are you attending this year’s Employment Law and Legislative Conference? If yes, why?
Q3. Have you attended the conference in previous years? What was your favorite part of the conference?
Q4. Hearing the SOTU, why is it more important than ever for HR professionals to engage in advocacy?
Q5. What are the HR public policy issues you’d like to discuss with lawmakers?
Q6. How has the E-verify process impacted operations in your workplace?
Q7. How might changes to the tax code such as retirement plans impact your employees?
By Lisa Horn (@SHRMLobbystLisa), SHRM’s Senior Government Relations Advisor
By now you’ve heard that this week (Feb. 5) marked the 20th anniversary of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). This landmark federal leave statute has no doubt afforded countless new parents opportunities to bond with children while allowing other employees time off to recover from major health issues or to care for seriously ill loved ones – all without fear of losing a job.
As someone who has twice benefited from FMLA leave, I can’t help but toast the statute’s 20th anniversary and the peace of mind it has provided to so many. On the other hand, I’m sympathetic to the HR professionals I serve, who routinely share with me the challenges they encounter administering FMLA leave.
So how did such a well-intentioned law end up being such a nightmare for organizations to implement? Unfortunately, what began as a fairly simple 12-page document has become 200 pages of complex regulations – a counter-productive attempt to anticipate and micro-manage every situation in every workplace in every industry – without regard for the evolving and diverse needs of today’s workforce, among other things.
Of all the rules and regulations HR professionals and their organizations must comply with, the FMLA may be the most vexing, which is probably why the SHRM Knowledge Center receives more inquiries about FMLA than any other federal statute. SHRM’s survey report illustrates many of the FMLA implementation challenges HR professionals encounter, with nearly half (47 percent) reporting difficulties when dealing with leave associated with an employee’s own medical condition, especially when the health issue is “episodic” in nature. The good news is that when it comes to FMLA leaves for births or adoptions, HR professionals experience far fewer challenges, likely because work operations can continue when absences are planned.
Given SHRM members’ experience with the FMLA, I was surprised (to put it mildly) to read this Department of Labor statement outlining key findings of its new survey “that shows employers generally find it easy to comply with the law, and misuse of the FMLA by workers is rare. The vast majority of employers, 91 percent, report that complying with the FMLA has either no noticeable effect or a positive effect on business operations such as employee absenteeism, turnover and morale.”
Whoa, what? How can that be when the HR professionals who are directly responsible for FMLA compliance have such a radically different experience?
To be clear, neither SHRM nor our members want to dismantle the FMLA and the benefits it affords American families. For years, SHRM has championed modifications and clarifications to the Act’s implementing regulations to improve leave administration in the workplace and to ensure the Act’s integrity by combatting misuse of FMLA leave. Simply put, after 20 years of experience, HR professionals continue to cite real challenges with certain (not all) FMLA provisions and SHRM believes these should be addressed.
At the same time, SHRM is leading a new conversation about workplace flexibility public policy in this country – one that is free of rigid government mandates so organizations can create innovative and more flexible ways to meet the needs of their employees. Our Principles for a 21st Century Workplace Flexibility Public Policy provide a roadmap to incentivize employers to voluntarily adopt flexible work arrangements and leave programs that may even go beyond FMLA benefits, ensuring public policy works for both employers and employees…….Now that deserves another toast!
CBS’ new show THE JOB is adding a reality spin to the job seeking process and offering a glimpse into the hiring process for the world to see. We asked some of our HR professionals, many of whom are hiring talent on a daily basis to share some tips for job seekers looking to find a new job or get back to work.
By Nancy Davis, editor, HR Magazine
With Congress in a stalemate on the deficit and federal budget, it’s full steam ahead for many of President Obama’s agencies when it comes to creating and enforcing U.S. regulations that define the employer-employee relationship. In our February cover package on regulatory compliance, contributing editor Robert Grossman spells out the agencies and laws that HR professionals must be mindful of on the cusp of a new administration and a new Congress. And there’s more:
• Lawyer and contributing editor Jonathan A. Segal offers up his personal list of the 10 most troublesome federal regs.
• The federal level of government is no longer the only one fashioning employment law and supervising employers:
Facing a laggardly Congress, state legislators are moving to levy prohibitions, injunctions and requirements on employers in a host of areas including minimum wages. SHRM senior writer Dori Meinert and senior legal editor Joanne Deschenaux, J.D., identify those trends and list the states where they have emerged.
• Reporter Susan Heylman shares an essay that explains how employment laws become codified in the European Union and presents a map showing emerging employment law trends worldwide.
• Reporter Dave Zielinski shows how technology can reduce the regulatory burden with, for instance, time-tracking systems that play a key role in complying with wage and hour laws and in reducing compensation claims.
This cover package has been months in the making and was a collaborative project for many of us in the SHRM newsroom including SHRM’s manager of workplace law content, Allen Smith, who shared planning and editing responsibilities with me.
If you have suggestions for other regulatory compliance topics you’d like to see covered in HR Magazine, please write me at email@example.com, and thanks for contributing to HR Magazine.
The 113th Congress is official, redistricting is over, and now it’s time to get reacquainted with lawmakers. It is also an opportunity to begin developing relationships with more than 90 new members of Congress. It is critically important that HR advocates reach out to elected officials (new and returning) to educate and inform them of the role HR plays in today’s workplace. Soon, Congress will begin discussions concerning comprehensive tax reform and immigration reform. The only way we can ensure a positive legislative environment in which the HR profession can continue to grow is by amplifying our voice both in Washington and in state capitals across the country.
It’s not too late to make another New Year’s resolution: to join the SHRM Advocacy Team (also known as the A-Team). The A-Team is a way to assist HR advocates—professionals like you — in making their voices heard on public policy issues that affect the workplace. The Advocacy Team is a crucial component of SHRM’s advocacy efforts and works with you to advance the interests of the HR profession at both the federal and state levels. As a member of the Advocacy Team, you will join the ranks of other HR advocates committed to moving the HR profession forward and be the voice of your profession.
Although SHRM’s Government Affairs Team meets with lawmakers and their staffs regularly on Capitol Hill, here are a few reasons why YOU should join the A-Team:
● Lawmakers prefer to hear from their HR constituents.
● Lawmakers are more likely to be swayed by voters who visit, write or call than by the efforts of lobbyists.
● Congressional staff have an incentive to represent their bosses in a favorable light and to listen to constituents’ opinions.
● Lawmakers prefer to hear personal stories and anecdotes of how policy would affect constituents.
We encourage all HR professionals nationwide to join the A-Team. In 2013 we are seeking volunteer HR advocates from the following states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina and Vermont. To sign up, click HERE.
For questions about an HR advocate’s duties in supporting SHRM’s advocacy efforts, please contact David Lusk, SHRM’s senior associate for member advocacy, at (703) 535-6158 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chatrane Birbal, SHRM’s senior specialist for member advocacy, at (703) 535-6476 or email@example.com.
The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, legislation to prevent the United States from going over the so-called fiscal cliff, included several provisions of importance to HR professionals, including making permanent the tax code supporting employer-provided education assistance.
SHRM has advocated for 10 years in support of Section 127 of the U.S. tax code (which allows an employee to exclude from income up to $5,250 a year in educational assistance at the undergraduate and graduate level regardless of whether the education is job related) and has co-chaired the Coalition to Preserve Employer-Provided Education Assistance, a broad-based group representing business, labor and education organizations dedicated to making Section 127 a permanent tax benefit.
Throughout 2012, SHRM actively advocated on issues of significance to the HR profession. Most recently, SHRM took the lead for the employer community before Congress on such issues as employer-provided education assistance, employer-provided on-site childcare and employer-provided retirement plans. These all were included in the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which was passed by Congress in rare New Year’s sessions and signed into law by President Barack Obama on Jan. 2. For an overview of other HR-related provisions included in the bill click HERE.
SHRM communicated directly with members of Congress and their staffs, brought hundreds of SHRM members to Capitol Hill to share their views and expertise with congressional offices, and generated thousands of letters to Congress on critical issues. In a late-year letter to Congress, Vice President of Government Affairs Mike Aitken urged lawmakers to pass a bill that would include provisions to support the HR profession and avoid plunging the country over the fiscal cliff. Click here to see the letter.
SHRM appreciates the many HR advocates for their support, time and assistance on the many public policy priorities that SHRM has discussed on Capitol Hill. The engagement in these issues not only has raised the visibility of HR on Capitol Hill but also has resulted in Congress coming to a consensus as it works toward building the economy. This win demonstrates that the HR voice is critical and has been heard.
The SHRM Government Affairs Team will provide an analysis of the provisions included in the legislation in the next issue of the HR Issues Update e-Newsletter.