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The year 2020 presented many unprecedented challenges for businesses of all sizes and industries. The COVID-19 pandemic forced most employers to significantly alter their operations. Some of these changes might revert back once the pandemic is over, but other changes will surely have a permanent impact.

Many employers are now wondering what the year 2021 will have in store, especially from an HR perspective.

To help, we’ve written this post to address the top HR issues that employers should be aware of heading into 2021. Specifically, we’ll cover:

  • Company Culture in the Era of Remote Work
  • What the Biden Administration will Mean for HR
  • Remote Worker Compliance
  • Recruiting and Hiring With Location Barriers Removed
  • Diversity and Inclusion
  • General HR Compliance
  • New COVID-19 Legislation
  • Disaster Preparedness
  • Cross Training Employees

Company Culture in the Era of Remote Work

When employees could gather regularly in a conference room or break area, it was much easier for employers to establish and monitor company culture. Positive in-person interaction among staff has always been a key ingredient for a successful company culture. Unfortunately, remote work has thrown a wrench into any traditional methods of achieving this positive dynamic.

In 2021, work closely with your employees to generate ideas for improving company culture. Because every company is different, every culture strategy must be unique. A key piece of advice we’ll offer in this post is to remember that not every virtual meeting has to be focused on work-related topics. Reserve time in virtual meetings for regular socializing and “catching up” with teammates on a personal level. This type of unstructured social interaction can somewhat replicate the repour-building that typically would happen in the breakroom.

What the Biden Administration will Mean for HR

The incoming presidential administration and its new policies will inevitably impact the world of HR. Here is a brief summary of some of Biden’s stances that you should be aware of as an employer:

  • Biden supports a $15 per hour federal minimum wage.
  • Biden supports decriminalization of cannabis related criminal offenses.
  • Biden supports the enhancement of laws related to employee and consumer data privacy.
  • Biden supports legislation to further protect LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination.
  • Biden plans to build on the ACA and lower the Medicare eligibility age.
  • Biden supports expanding paid leave for employees.
  • Biden supports reinstating DACA and reversing some of Trump’s strict immigration policies.

Remote Worker Compliance

We’ll touch on this more in the following section, but another consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there are now fewer location barriers for employees. In 2019, most employees were still working in a traditional office setting and had to live within commuting distance of the office simply for logistical reasons.

Now, however, the new norm is that employees can be based out of anywhere in the country (or world!) as long as they are capable of completing their work remotely. Although there are obvious benefits to this, it also means that employers must comply with more HR regulations. An employer with employees in 10 different states must learn to comply with local HR regulations in all 10 states, in addition to all federal regulations (which are constantly changing due to COVID). Multi-state compliance becomes extremely complex, and we recommend working with a compliance partner that can ensure your business has every aspect covered.

Recruiting and Hiring With Location Barriers Removed

As discussed in the previous section, COVID-19 has removed location barriers for employees. This opens up the door to recruit top talent from all over the country. As exciting as this can be, keep in mind that selling your company culture and the benefits you provide can be much more challenging for an employee who knows he or she will be working remotely. If you haven’t already, schedule a meeting with your recruiting team to discuss strategy for attracting the best remote employees in your industry.

Diversity and Inclusion

Don’t set aside your diversity and inclusion goals during the remainder of the pandemic. In fact, D&I efforts are more important now than ever before. With constantly changing compliance regulations, vast overhauls to FMLA processes, and the strain of managing a remote workforce, it can be easy to lose focus on D&I efforts. However, in order to keep your company culture strong and retain smooth HR operations, executing on your existing D&I strategy, or building a new strategy, should remain top of mind. Please access Launchways’ Complete D&I Toolkit for more resources on this topic.

General HR Compliance

In addition to managing compliance updates and handling changes with FMLA processes, it’s critical to keep standard HR compliance operations up-to-date as well. Regularly updating your employee handbook, conducting harassment training, and educating employees about their benefits options are some of the best strategies to protect your company from the uncertain HR world that we’ll face in 2021.

New COVID-19 Legislation

The two main federal legislative actions that occurred at the dawn of the pandemic in March of 2020 were the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Although there has been much debate about passing further federal legislation to expand on these acts, it’s still uncertain how (or if) these pieces of legislation will be updated.

Ensure sure your HR team is checking the status of any proposed legislation daily. If and when a relief package is passed, work with a compliance partner to ensure your business understands it fully and react accordingly.

Disaster Preparedness

Many of us suspect that the COVID-19 pandemic will be the worst disaster faced by our generation. At the same time, it has likely been a wakeup call for employers to establish clear disaster protocols. If you haven’t already, be sure to have plans in place to take care of your employees in the event of any of the following:

  • Earthquakes
  • Flooding
  • Wildfires
  • Severe Weather Events
  • Rioting/Looting

If you already have disaster plans in place, be sure to review them regularly to ensure that no updates are needed. Please reference Launchways’ Essential Guide to Emergency Preparedness Plans for Businesses for more resources on this topic.

Cross Training Employees

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) has opened up the door for employees to lawfully take leave when affected by the pandemic. This has led to increased absences for many employees in across industries. Businesses with cross-trained employees who can step in to carry some slack while their coworkers are absent can continue operations seamlessly and reduce revenue losses

Consider working with your company’s leadership, including those who supervise front-line staff, to make a plan for cross-training employees so that your company isn’t hit as hard by having staff away from work unexpectedly.

Key Takeaways

There are certainly many different areas of HR that will be impacted by COVID-19, the incoming presidential administration, and federal legislation during the year 2021. Your company can be better prepared for these impacts by doing the following:

  • Focusing on improving company culture in the era of remote work
  • Continuing your focus on diversity and inclusion goals
  • Remembering to implement HR best practices (employee handbooks, harassment training, etc.)
  • Monitoring the status of potential COVID-19 legislation
  • Ensuring disaster preparedness plans are up-to-date
  • Making cross training employees a priority
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