Dec 27, 2023

Looking Ahead in Human Resources for a New Year

By Rebecca Tipton, SHRM-SCP
HR Advisory Services

We are officially in the final days of 2023, which is historically a time for celebration! However, before you break out your noisemakers and confetti, this is also a great time to be planning ahead for your human resources so that you can start 2024 with a clear path. Of course, there may be all kinds of new ideas and changes that you want to implement, which will always vary based on what challenges you have been experiencing, but there are also some key elements to review to ensure you are prepared compliance-wise as well, and these include: updating your employee handbook and policies, reviewing workplace posters, reviewing your employee compensation, and checking your employee counts for any new compliance requirements that may now apply to your organization.

Updating your employee handbooks is a great place to start. If your organization updated or added any new policies during the past year that have not made it into an official and distributed copy of your handbook, now is a great time to do so. This can include any changes made to your benefits or leave plans or even adding a new example of misconduct in your workplace conduct section after encountering a new incident that had never been an issue previously. Of course, internal changes might not be the only thing you want to update in your employee handbook. While it has been a few months, don’t forget that both the PUMP Act and the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act introduced new accommodation needs that you may want to specifically address in your handbook to demonstrate compliance. You may also have added a new worksite (or remote employees) in a new state, which would most likely call for additional new policies to comply with various regulations governing employment in that particular state. Of course, once you finish updating the handbook, don’t forget to distribute it to your employees, advise of the modifications, and obtain your new acknowledgments!

Another area that needs to be addressed is reviewing your workplace posters. These can often be overlooked and forgotten as they can go years without a change. However, there were changes in 2023 just on the federal side, which were the FLSA poster “Employee Rights Under the Fair Labor Standards Act”, which was updated to include reference to the PUMP Act; the EEOC poster “Know Your Rights”, which was updated to include reference to the Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act, and the FMLA poster “Your Employee Rights Under the Family and Medical Leave Act”, which was updated to better clarify some of the provisions under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If your organization is a federal contractor, then you may additionally be affected by the changes to the Davis-Bacon and Related Acts poster due to changes within the past year, and the posters for Executive Orders 13658 and 14026 are anticipated to be updated very soon to reflect the 2024 federal minimum wage for contractors. Additionally, your state posters may need to be updated if you have any locations outside of Alabama, which so far have reported no poster changes during 2023.

Another area to review is your employees’ compensation, particularly if you are a government contractor, as the OFCCP Scheduling Letter has recently been updated to include Item 22, which shows documentation demonstrating compliance with evaluating whether the compensation system has gender, race, or ethnicity disparities. There are also certain states that require compensation reporting as part of their pay equity initiatives. However, even if neither of these scenarios applies to you, reviewing employee compensation periodically is a good practice to ensure that nothing has gotten out of hand or feelings of generosity have not inadvertently resulted in the perception of discrimination. There may be several reasons why two employees with the same responsibilities have compensation disparity, but remember, the justifications that will stand up the most (assuming supporting documentation, of course) are experience, education, training/certification, geographic location, merit, and seniority.

The last area to review that is common for most employers is double checking your organization’s coverage status for different employment regulations that are often based on employee count. Some examples include COBRA, which applies to employers who had 20 or more full-time equivalent employees (counting part-time employees as an appropriate fraction of a full-time employee) on more than 50% of the previous calendar year; the Affordable Care Act employer-shared provisions apply to employers with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees (counting part-time employees as an appropriate fraction of a full-time employee) on average in the previous calendar year; and the Family and Medical Leave Act, which covers private sector employers of 50 or more employees (regardless of full-time status) for 20 or more work weeks in the current year or previous calendar year (public sector organizations are covered regardless of their employee count). These are just a few examples of federal laws based on employee numbers, but I have compiled a longer list to review here. Additionally, there are many state-specific laws that only cover organizations after they meet a certain employee threshold as well.

There are many areas you can also focus on to spruce up the new year for your employees, such as updating your benefit offerings, planning for your training and development initiatives, or adding new programs or services to improve employee morale. Of course, these will vary widely on what your current offerings are now, and ensuring your base compliance needs is always a great place to start. 2023 has been a great year, but it can never hurt to plan for an even better year for 2024. Finally, on behalf of BMSS and HR Advisory Services, we want to wish you Happy Holidays, Season’s Greetings, and, of course, a Happy New Year!

If you have any questions or if you would like to discuss your unique situation, please reach out to your BMSS professional or our HR Advisory team at (833) CPA-BMSS or visit our website for contact information.