How to Navigate a Complex Legislative Landscape
How to Navigate a Complex Legislative Landscape
Stay on top of continually changing regulations that may make your organization subject to risk
HR professionals have long operated in a complex legislative environment, but the advent of COVID-19 has significantly increased that complexity. The national government, as well as states and cities, are increasingly passing legislation to address perceived gaps in workplace law and practice. From new and evolving mandates related to COVID-19 safety, anti-harassment training, pay equity and transparency, data privacy, and new protections against hair discrimination and whistleblower retaliation, the breadth, depth, and pace of these changes can create compliance challenges for even the most seasoned HR professionals.
This is particularly true for HR practitioners working for companies that are multistate employers.
Activity at the state, and sometimes local, level often portends change at the national level. States have, for decades, served as quasi laboratories for new laws due to Congressional inaction. Some states — like California — are known for moving faster than others, causing a patchwork of regulation. In the past, this state-level activity was driven primarily by some states being more progressive than others. Today though, the divergence in regulations tends to be more related to some locales moving farther left while others are simultaneously moving farther right. For example, New York City has mandated vaccines for employees, while Texas has prohibited such mandates.
This creates an ever-more complex regulatory landscape to operate in.
Companies don’t have the luxury of waiting for complaints and violations to occur before being alerted to potential risk areas. They must be proactive in identifying and responding to these shifts.
Challenges for Organizations
When it comes to navigating the legislative landscape, the most obvious challenge for organizations is keeping up with the current and pending changes that affect their operations. But that’s not the only challenge.
Closely related is the large amount of time required for tasking staff with monitoring these laws and regulations. Additionally, even the most skilled and detail-oriented employees likely don’t have the background required to ensure that important elements of what can be very complex legal documents and requirements will be understood and applied.
If organizations can learn about changes in the law, translating new compliance requirements into practical rules of the road employees can understand and follow can present yet another challenge — especially for large organizations. It’s important to consider questions such as:
- How do these changes impact HR and compliance leaders’ jobs?
- What should employees do differently?
- How can an organization ensure its managers and supervisors — who have the most direct and ongoing contact with employees — understand what they can, can’t, and shouldn’t do concerning employee relations, and that they apply policies and procedures consistently from one department to another?
How to Navigate the Tricky Terrain
Navigating this complex legislative landscape requires many facets:
- Staying up-to-date on changes
- Understanding how new legislation impacts workplace practices
- Communicating policy and process changes internally
- Ensuring managers, supervisors, and others understand how rules and regulations impact their employee interactions
- Ensuring employees understand how new regulations impact employee behavior
- Responding quickly to correct any oversights
Integrating compliance into your workplace culture effectively requires a focus on collecting and sharing data, as well as workforce training.
Collecting and Sharing Data
Organizations need to collect data to help monitor activities and ensure compliance with legal mandates.
Data should be evaluated on an ongoing basis to judge the impact of new or updated policies, programs, or practices post-implementation, which should also inform adjustments and guide future efforts. These data sources might include:
- Employee surveys to measure compliance, as well as awareness of/experience with reporting channels and other compliance mechanisms
- Source and frequency of reports
- Contents of incident reports
- Results of tests of reporting mechanisms or other control systems
- Inquiries made by employees or third parties
- Number of website hits to or views of each policy or code section
- Exit interviews
- Investigation outcomes
- Internal audit findings and recommendations
These data inputs need to not only be collected but analyzed and acted on appropriately. Doing so can’t be the domain of a single individual — or even a single department. Data needs to be shared with those who need access to the information to help make important decisions with the recognition that the more widely important data is shared in organizations, the more likely it is that the organization, its HR team, supervisors, and managers can use that data effectively to help minimize risk.
Education is a critical step for ensuring an organization’s adherence to new legislation or legal requirements. Managers, supervisors, and employees don’t know what they don’t know. They need to be provided with the information, tools, and resources to help ensure compliance. That’s no easy task — and it’s not something that can be accomplished during a one-time or annual training event. Training needs to be ongoing and augmented through communications and real-time access to information to help make decisions that are compliant with current legislative requirements.
Keeping Pace in an Ever-Evolving Compliance Landscape
Staying compliant in a constantly-shifting legislative landscape is challenging. EVERFI can help. Our in-house legal team, which includes former EEOC and SHRM senior advisors, ensures that our courses and resources can help you stay ahead of legal developments and industry best practices. Our compliance expertise and regular updates enable organizations and their HR and compliance professionals to stay on top of continually changing regulations that may make them subject to risk. Partner with us to gain easy access to the tools and resources you need to stay on top of evolving and changing laws and regulations in all of the geographies where your employees are located.