At the SHRM Annual Conference there is a lot going on. You can see most of it right in front of you. The sessions, the exhibit hall, the SHRM Store and the like. But what you may not know, because you don’t see it is this. Pretty much every day the SHRM Government Affair’s team is working to represent our collective business interest in Washington D.C.
SHRM has a staff of 12 people in the government affairs department who work with Congress and many of the federal agencies (and even in Sacramento, CA) to understand and shape public policy. This is a time consuming laborious task and most folks don’t understand how it works.
At this year’s conference Mike Aitken Vice-President of Government Affairs, discussed some legislation that SHRM has been working on since 2010. This intrigued me because I have been involved in this. I was invited to a focus group lunch event in 2015 at the Volunteer Leader’s Summit, where the team talked with SHRM members about their leave policies. The group provided SHRM with a framework for what is common practice at many employers.
This is a gloss-over of a whole bunch of details, but the bottom line is this: Employers who voluntarily choose to provide their employees a federal minimum standard of paid time off and options for flexible work arrangements, will qualify for a federal safe harbor and be deemed to have satisfied state and local paid sick leave laws. SHRM has been working on getting this legislation introduced and then passed to provide employers with some relief when it comes to consistency in paid time off laws. It is loosely being referred to as the Workplace Flex Bill. There have been many cities, counties and state regulations that have passed laws/ordinance mandating certain amounts of paid time off. Of course, they are all different so they change from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
Imagine you have employees in New York, San Francisco, and Washington DC, and these cities have their own rules on time off. It can be very difficult to put policies in place that address the differences in each location. SHRM has attempted to address this legislatively.
The measure now has a sponsor Mimi Walters (R-CA). Hopefully the measure will be introduced in July and then move through Congress and be signed into law by the President. This would provide us in HR with some better rules to deal with, while leveling the playing field for all employers across the country.
This is all good, but my point is this. It has been several years since this conversation began. Laws and legislation do not move quickly.
This whole process of staying on top of legislation is a long game. So, while you don’t see the Government Affairs folks doing all the “fun” stuff. They are working for us behind the scenes day in and day out, looking out for the members’ interest, watching what is going on and trying to address the hodgepodge of law from DC to each state capitol to each county board.