Senior Executive Lookahead: Counting Down the Top Five Issues for 2022

The COVID-19 pandemic presented historic challenges for employers—from remote work to vaccine and mask mandates to increased pressures on workers coping with upheaval in their homes and communities. Organizations across the economy were forced to adapt and reinvent themselves amid uncertainty.

With the arrival of new COVID-19 variants, continued supply chain disruptions and the ongoing Great Resignation, change will remain a constant in 2022.

At SHRM, we’re paying particular attention to five issues that should be on every human resource and business leader’s radar in the months ahead. This is the first in a series of blog posts exploring each topic.

Issue One: Executive Branch administrative actions will impact the employee-employer relationship.

Employers must be ready for Executive Branch guidance, regulatory actions and policy changes that might shift the employee-employer landscape.

The Department of Labor (DOL) is likely to increase its scrutiny of employers’ use of contract workers and arbitration agreements, weigh in on state vaccine and testing mandates for large employers, encourage union organizing, and expand overtime eligibility in 2022.

Worker discontent over wages, working conditions and employee treatment has led to a resurgence of employee organizing and unionizing. In 2021, the Labor Action Tracker from the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University counted 178 strikes compared with 25 work stoppages in 2019 and only seven in 2017.

The Biden Administration has prioritized union organizing as a viable means to create policy that helps employees directly or repeals laws that are not considered advantageous toward employees.

Federal labor organizations are focusing on employers who discourage union participation. For example, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has stated an interest in re-evaluating the legal framework it uses to assess whether workplace rules violate federal labor laws.

The NLRB is also looking to revise its joint-employer decisions, which could affect a company’s exposure to potential liability and joint duty to bargain with unions, and the board is examining the use of confidentiality requirements in mandatory arbitration agreements.

Beyond union participation, major labor organizations are analyzing other issues related to the employee in the workplace. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently increased penalties for workplace violations and has encouraged state OSHA agencies to do the same.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced an initiative to study the effects of artificial intelligence and whether it leads to bias in hiring decisions. Additionally, the EEOC is part of another initiative to better address workplace discrimination and retaliation. And the Federal Trade Commission has stated an interest in the employer misclassification discussion.

The DOL’s Wage and Hour Division and the NLRB also began a joint initiative to investigate and share information on potential labor law violations, with a particular interest in low-wage earners and independent contractor misclassification.

Employers should view the changing landscape as an opportunity to make positive and lasting changes to their employee experience.

In 2022, it is imperative for employers to proactively monitor workplace culture and invest in the employee experience to create workplaces that attract and retain workers while remaining compliant with current and emerging legal standards.  

As an advocate for the HR profession, you have a unique and valuable perspective on the changing world of work and how advocacy can make an impact with policymakers and in your workplace. Are you a member of SHRM’s Advocacy Team? Join today or text ATEAM to 52886.

This is the first blog of a five-part blog series. 

The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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