Employers have a lot of new and evolving regulatory issues on their plate this year. Here are 10 to watch.
1. Sexual harassment prevention.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is expected to continue its heightened enforcement of sexual discrimination claims this year as a result of the #MeToo movement. Moreover, state and city lawmakers across the country are expected to take up legislation addressing the issue. Last year, California, New York State, Delaware and New York City enacted mandates, including requirements to boost workplace sexual harassment prevention training.
2. Paid leave.
In 2019, additional states and cities are expected to join the more than 40 state and local jurisdictions that have already enacted paid leave laws, including for sick days as well as paid family leave laws. The latter are typically funded by employee and/or employer contributions and some legislation will likely mandate periodic reporting of deductions, employee hours worked and employee wages.
3. Federal support for retirement savings.
The Departments of Labor and Treasury are slated to propose regulations to ease the burdens small businesses face in offering retirement savings plans, as a result of President Trump’s August executive order. Meanwhile, incoming Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) has indicated that he intends to make retirement legislation a priority. New legislation will likely contain provisions within several bipartisan bills introduced last year, including the Retirement Enhancement and Savings Act (RESA), Family Savings Act, Retirement, Savings and Other Tax Relief Act of 2018 and Taxpayer First Act of 2018.
4. Faster payments and the gig economy.
Gig workers in particular might see immediate payments as implementation of technology to enable faster payments for all workers gains further traction this year. Concomitant with this is the need for employers to ensure payments are safe and secure, in an effort to prevent fraud in this “24/7/365 environment.”
Cybersecurity continues to be a critical issue, and this year employers should remind workers that security and privacy is everyone's responsibility. Pointers to share: workers should log out of all browsers when leaving their desks; resist using a Social Security number as an identifier; utilize secure email when sending emails containing personally identifiable information; and discard confidential or proprietary information in a secure fashion, such as shredding.
6. Form W-4 changes.
The Internal Revenue Service is expected to issue an updated W-4 form to include the extensive changes required by the 2017 tax reform law. The complex nature of the changes pushed back the release of the updated form, which had been expected last year, so the 2019 W-4 is similar to the 2018 version. Many state tax agencies are also waiting on the updated federal form to determine if they should modify their own withholding processes based on the federal changes.
7. State health care reform.
States are expected to tackle how they will support their Affordable Care Act health insurance markets in response to the removal of the federal individual mandate penalty. States might also determine how they will help employers in response to recent federal regulatory changes pertaining to association health plans, short-term limited duration insurance, health reimbursement arrangements, and Section 1332 state innovation waivers.
8. IRS enforcement of Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR).
The IRS continues its enforcement of the Employer Shared Responsibility (ESR) mandate, by mailing more 226J letters with the preliminary calculations for ESR payments. “Applicable large employers should ensure they complete the returns accurately,” Paychex writes, “as the process of responding to 226J letters and follow-up IRS correspondence is time-consuming and onerous, requiring review of complex data gathered across multiple departments including payroll, human resources, and benefits.”
9. Impactful rulemaking from the Department of Labor.
In March, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division is expected to release its proposal to revise the overtime regulations, widely anticipated by employers. This year the agency should also release proposals to clarify, update, and define regular rate of pay. These proposals, which should impact employers of all sizes, might also push states to respond as well.
10. National Labor Relations Board to set joint employer standard through rulemaking.
This year the National Labor Relations Board is set to release its final rule defining joint employer status under the National Labor Relations Act. The board has changed its official position on the standard for joint employment three times in the past three years, but is expected to restore its pre-Browning-Ferris Inc. standard.
From increased sexual harassment enforcement brought on by the #MeToo movement, to possible new laws and regulations to make it easier for small employers to offer retirement savings plans, to the implementation of faster payment technology — particularly for gig workers, employers have a lot on their plate to potentially digest this new year.
“This new year brings with it a new class of legislators and a set of issues — both new and old — that these legislators will focus on at the federal, state, and local levels,” says Paychex president and CEO Martin Mucci. “It can be challenging for business owners and HR managers to keep up with the constantly evolving legislative and regulatory landscape. Our annual summary of the year’s most important developments is designed to give an overview of the items expected to be most impactful in 2019.”
Click through the slideshow above to read about Paychex’s “10 regulatory issues for small businesses in 2019:”
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