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Employment and Benefits Law Changes in 2023

On December 31st, 2022, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 was signed into law. This is a sweeping piece of legislation that provides funding for various federal departments and agencies and includes many changes to employee benefit programs. These changes expand unemployment benefits, as well as add stimulus payments and other provisions that will affect the lives of millions of Americans.

Here are the Employment and Benefits highlights.

New Non-Compete Agreement Regulations

Although noncompete agreements have become increasingly common in the workplace, recent changes to regulations have made it more difficult for employers to enforce these agreements. The proposed regulation would deem the use of noncompete clauses in an employment contract by employers as an unfair practice in terms of competition. If the proposed rule becomes final, it would extend to paid and unpaid workers including consultants and independent contractors.

Furthermore, employers would need to notify their employees that the non-compete provisions included in their current agreements would now be unenforceable. There are still several steps that must be completed before the rule becomes binding.

Although the new regulation doesn’t explicitly address similar contractual commitments like nondisclosure agreements, they might still be considered unlawful if they produce effects similar to those of noncompetes.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in CAA 2023

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA) was designed to protect the rights of pregnant workers by requiring employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers, such as providing additional breaks or light-duty tasks.

It also provides protections (similar to those found in the Americans with Disabilities Act for disabled employees) that prohibit employers from discriminating against pregnant workers, denying them job opportunities or promotions, and requiring them to take unpaid leave. The PWFA ensures that pregnant workers have the same rights and protections as all other employees.

It works to ensure that employers reasonably accommodate employees for circumstances like “pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions.”

Pump Relief for Nursing Mothers Act

This CAA 2023 provision expands on the 2019 Pump Relief for Nursing Mothers Act to ensure they have access to private and comfortable spaces in which to express breast milk during their workday. The law requires employers to provide reasonable break time and suitable private space, other than a bathroom, for nursing mothers to express milk.

This law also protects against discrimination and retaliation against nursing mothers who choose to take advantage of this benefit and extends the duration from up to one year after the child’s birth to two. The Pump Relief for Nursing Mothers Act is an important step toward creating an equitable workplace environment for all employees.

Additionally, nursing mothers are entitled to compensation for any time they spend working while expressing milk.

Telemedicine and HSA/HDHP Relief Under CAA 2023

CAA 2023 permits a short-term extension of Covid-era regulations that permit individuals to avail themselves of pre-deductible telemedicine benefits even if they are making HSA contributions.

Telemedicine has become an increasingly popular way for people to access medical care without having to leave their homes. Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and High Deductible Health Plans (HDHPs) are becoming more popular among employers as a way to provide relief from rising healthcare costs. HSAs allow individuals to set aside pre-tax money for qualified medical expenses while HDHPs offer lower premiums in exchange for higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs.

Telemedicine can be used in conjunction with these plans to help reduce costs associated with traditional office visits while still providing quality care. CAA 2023 temporarily eliminates the need for people to disqualify themselves from HSA contributions to receive these benefits.

Prescription Drug Reporting Relief

Prescription drug reporting relief provides financial relief for the enforcement of the system of laws and regulations that ensures individuals are receiving the right medication at the right time and in the right dosage, while also providing safeguards against fraudulent activity. CAA 2023 provided additional clarifications and flexibilities for the 2020 and 2021 calendar year reports including the removal of certain previous restrictions.

To address the confusion the new reporting requirements caused, federal agencies have asserted that group health plans using a reasonable interpretation of the rules in good faith will not be penalized for errors made in their 2020 and 2021 reports.

CAA 2023 MHPAEA Update

The CAA 2023 update to the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 (MHPAEA) to help fund state enforcement of comparative analyses requirements of nonquantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs). MHPAEA seeks to ensure that mental health and substance use disorder services are treated similarly to medical and surgical services.

The CAA 2023 MHPAEA updated this by requiring insurance companies to provide more coverage for mental health and substance use disorder services.

In Conclusion

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2023 has created several changes in the way employers provide benefits to their employees. This act is sure to have far-reaching implications for employers and employees alike as it affects everything from healthcare coverage to retirement options. Employers should understand how this act will impact employee benefits so that they can make informed decisions about their future.

4 Ways HR Helps Employees Plan for Economic Uncertainty

Although most business professionals do prepare for future economic hard times, it is vital for HR to aggressively plan for the potential impacts of this uncertainty on their employees and, therefore, the company. The COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing global economic downturn have put the financial condition of the U.S. in a state of turbulence.

As experts attempt to anticipate whether or not the country can expect an official recession, people are struggling to afford the essentials. In addition to the nearly 10% price hike in necessities like food, fuel, and housing, employers are also seeing a substantial increase in healthcare costs. This rise has caused some corporations to consider methods to reduce expenses including tightening budgets and layoffs. The additional pressure on businesses to cut costs means that HR departments need to be more flexible and creative when it comes to helping their employees plan for economic uncertainty.

Here are four primary methods HR and benefits professionals can use to improve their employees’ financial well-being during uncertain economic times.

Communication and Transparency

HR departments are not just about hiring, firing, and benefits. They also provide safe spaces for employees to voice their concerns and get practical advice from experts in the field. With the global economy slowly recovering, HR departments need to help employees adjust their financial plans accordingly to avoid future problems.

Communication and transparency are critical for a business to thrive in an uncertain economy. Companies should have clear strategies to outline how they will communicate to their employees about important decisions involving their benefits, as well as the stability of the company. It should also have a plan for what to do in the event of a crisis.

Regular updates are often welcome, as they encourage employees to feel they are integral and valued members of the workplace. Open communication also allows them to make necessary decisions regarding their financial well-being in real-time. 

Help Managers Keep an Eye on the Big Picture

The role of an HR leader is to preserve the security of the employees, as well as the company. Although significant layoffs might seem to alleviate budgetary woes, they can result in long-term instability. They decrease the amount of institutional experience at the business, but they also destroy employee morale making it difficult to rebuild your workforce when the economy improves.

In fact, many companies that slashed their workforce during the recession in 2008 saw declining profitability. Another option is to offer programs like accident and illness insurance, identity theft protection, childcare benefits, pet insurance, etc. These provide value to the workers without really increasing company costs.

By keeping an eye on the big picture, managers can better tolerate the natural ebb and flow of the economy. 

Identify and Address Employee Mental Health Concerns

Although employee mental health is known to be affected by burnout, research indicates that over 40% of U.S. citizens are also negatively impacted by financial worries. This can result in a feeling of anxiety and overwhelm. Stress from money problems decreases workplace motivation and satisfaction, eventually leading to reduced levels of attendance and productivity. Plus, those individuals with existing financial issues will be even more vulnerable in times of economic uncertainty.

Companies should survey their employees to remain aware of their evolving priorities. They must prioritize their mental health and address economic concerns while providing them with a safe environment to voice the challenges they might be facing due to financial concerns. 

HR leaders can further build a community of encouragement including resource groups, recognition programs, and rewards.

Provide Resources to Promote Financial Literacy and Improve Retention

To prevent problems in productivity and improve employee satisfaction, companies can provide benefits that include money management coaching and financial planning workshops. Studies show that nearly 80% of workers dealing with money problems find themselves distracted while on the job. This can lead to a dip in productivity that results in further feelings of overwhelm and job dissatisfaction.

A financial planning program that provides access to financial advisors and education can help team members set realistic targets and save for the future at every stage of their careers. By connecting employees to resources, such as qualified coaches and peer groups, HR leaders can help employees navigate these tough times. 

The Risks of Cyber Security and How to Protect Your Business

In this ever-changing landscape of technological advances, it can be difficult to keep up-to-date on everything. However, when regarding cyber security, being knowledgeable about the latest protection is imperative. This can be a daunting task for any business. Larger corporations often have entire departments or outsourced workers to protect their online presence.

Because of these factors, a large portion of cyber attacks are focused on emerging businesses. More than 43% of cyber attacks are targeting growing businesses and the owners do not have the luxury of a dedicated tech team to handle this and find themselves navigating the world of cyber security on their own.

While most of these business owners are concerned about the threat of such attacks, education on the issue is lacking. There are a number of measures these owners could take and many recourses available. The issue seems to be the lack of knowledge about these measures businesses should take on proactively.

Cyber Insurance may not be widely known, but it is a viable option for any business. The concept of Cyber Liability Insurance recognizes the risks of online markets and breaches within the systems. When you leverage a Cyber Liability policy, your insurer focuses on covering the damage resulting from such an attack. A typical policy would assist with:

  • Informing customers when a breach in the system has occurred
  • Recovering such compromised data of the business and customers
  • Restoring the computer systems and security programs

Many providers also offer assistance for any monetary losses that the businesses or customers may have suffered as the result of a cyber attack.

Aside from the loss of funds and the breach of personal information, these attacks can further damage a company. The trust a customer has in the business can be demolished with such a cyber attack. The reputation and integrity of the company can be badly damaged and can cost further revenue in the future.

The first line of defense for these companies is programs and ransomware designed to protect them from such attacks. However, the better the programs become, the craftier hackers will become. While these systems provide the first line of defense and insurance acts as a safety net should the worst occur, there are further measures a business could take to ensure their information remain safe. The FCC provides a comprehensive list of additional steps an owner can take to keep these hackers at bay including:

  • Providing firewall security for your internet
  • Making backup copies of important data and information
  • Keeping employees informed on safe cyber practices
  • Limiting who can install software on computers

The knowledge and education of these tools are pivotal to maintaining a company’s security in the ever-changing technological landscape. Most importantly, working with a trusted business insurance provider can ensure your business has the right Cyber Liability coverage to meet your needs.

HR Compliance Overview Regarding 2023 State Minimum Wage Rates

 The United States minimum wage has been a topic of debate for decades. As the government continues to seek a way to reduce poverty and provide a living wage for the people of America, the new minimum wage limits for 2023 are set to be announced on January 1st

Although most people have opinions regarding minimum wage increases, many are unaware of how minimum wage is set in their state.  

Fair Labor Standards Act and Minimum Wage Rates

In 1938, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation created the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to set rules governing employee compensation, among other things. Basically, the FLSA governs overtime pay, child labor, and record-keeping. It also sets the federal minimum wage. This was established to create a minimum standard rate of pay for the majority of the workforce.

Over the years, the FLSA has been periodically amended to increase the minimum wage and extend coverage to more workers.

FLSA and Minimum Wage Basics

In the United States, the minimum wage is determined by individual states. Minimum wage rates vary from state to state, with some areas having a higher minimum wage than others. This is primarily to account for the cost of living discrepancies between different locations.

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and is set to increase annually with inflation. The federal law does not require states to increase their own minimum wages but most have done so to keep up with the cost of living and adequately provide for their residents.

Federal law also does not require employers to pay employees on commission or tips on top of their salary if they earn more than $30 per month in tips or commissions. Many employers, however, choose to do so voluntarily. This is done as an additional way of compensating employees who are providing good customer service or quality workmanship.

What’s New for 2023 State Minimum Wage Rates?

The minimum wage in the United States has been a topic of contention for years. This is unlikely to change. Regardless of personal opinions, however, employers are required to adhere to the regulated standards. 

The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, but many states have their own minimum wage rates. As of January 1, 2023, there are 18 states with higher minimum wages than the federal rate. 

These include the following states that have announced new wage rates to begin in 2023:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Illinois
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • South Dakota
  • Virginia
  • Washington

In situations where both the federal and state minimum wage rates apply, employers are required to pay the higher rate. Therefore, as of January 1, 2023, there will be a higher minimum wage in every state in the country.

Launchways had produced an in-depth compliance bulletin with a chart of all minimum wage requirements state-by-state. DOWNLOAD THE COMPLIANCE BULLETIN.

Surviving the Great Reshuffle: Top Tips for Employee Retention

The American workplace has long been an evolving landscape. From the industrial revolution to our contemporary global arena, businesses have had to become more flexible to adapt to the recent challenges. Since the pandemic, more than half of the workforce demographic of 18 to 25-year-olds have been questioning whether they are in the right occupation.

In fact, studies show that not only are 54% of Generation Z workers considering a new career, but 41% of the global workforce may also be handing in their resignation. 

Since employee retention is a key factor in the success of any company, it’s important for employers to make sure that their employees are happy and satisfied with the work they do.

What Is the Great Reshuffle?

The Great Reshuffle is the process of adapting to the changing workplace. It is a natural consequence as workers search for jobs they feel better suit their lifestyles, values, and needs. Although individual requirements vary, having a flexible work environment has become one of the primary considerations for many.

If companies want their employees to stay, they need to make workers feel like they are appreciated and are part of something bigger. To keep employees happy, consider the following tips.

Offer Competitive Salaries and Benefits

A company should offer competitive salaries and benefits to their employees. Offering competitive salaries is one way that employers can help attract and retain the best talent. Higher pay means a higher quality of life, which in turn leads to more motivated workers who are more productive.

Receive and Respond to Feedback

Feedback is a two-way street. Employers should not only be giving feedback to their employees, but they should also be receiving feedback from them. Feedback can help employers learn what they are doing well and what they need to improve on. It also provides them with information regarding employee needs.

Employees are more likely to feel engaged in their work when they have the opportunity to give feedback to their employer and know that the employer is listening and will take it into consideration. This can lead to increased productivity, better morale, and a stronger sense of community among the employees.

Offer a Flexible Work Environment

The workplace should be a place where employees can work in an environment that is most suitable for them. The environment should be flexible and offer the employee the opportunity to work remotely if possible.

The benefits of a flexible work environment are numerous. Employees are able to focus better when they know they have the freedom to choose where they want to work from. They also feel more productive and satisfied with their jobs as compared to those who don’t have a flexible workplace and are stuck in one place throughout their shift.

Create an Inclusive Environment

Fulfilling work is one of the most important aspects for both Millennials and Gen Z. As such, it is important to offer them an environment that allows them to feel like they make a difference through their efforts.

A good work culture is one where the employees feel appreciated and are given opportunities to grow in their positions. This can be accomplished by having an open office space with a lot of natural light, and by offering training opportunities for employees.

Show Sufficient Appreciation for Hard Work

Employers should show ample appreciation for hard work. This is not to say that employers should be giving their employees gifts every day or an over-inflated paycheck every month. However, they can do things like giving an employee a day off or telling them how much they appreciate their work and all that they do. A simple, heartfelt “thank you” can go a long way.