Pamela Sande recently attended the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM’s) Employment Law & Legislative Conference in Washington D.C. on March 13 and 14, and as a member of SHRM’s Advocacy Team, participated in SHRM’s Legislative Hill Day on March 15. SHRM is the largest HR professional society with 285,000 members worldwide. In addition to serving as a valuable resource for its members, SHRM, a nonpartisan organization, advocates for legislation that benefits employers and employees. On Legislative Hill Day, Pamela and other members of the Advocacy Team met with Senators and House Representatives and/or their staffs, to advocate for health care and workplace flexibility legislation. A summary of SHRM’s position regarding Health Care and Workplace Flexibility legislation follows.

Health Care

SHRM supports bipartisan reform that lowers health care costs, that improves access to high quality and affordable coverage, and that protects and strengthens employer sponsored coverage. Protecting and strengthening employer sponsored coverage is important as over 177 million people have health care coverage through an employer plan. This is 16 times the number of people who have coverage through the Affordable Care Act (also known as ACA or Obamacare) federal and state health care exchanges. In addition, SHRM is advocating for:

  • Reform that does not raise taxes on employers or employees or that would increase the cost of health care for employees and their families.
  • Full repeal of the 40 percent excise tax (also known as the “Cadillac tax”). Note: The House bill, (i.e., The American Health Care Act), that was withdrawn on March 24 due to lack of votes necessary for the bill to pass, would not have repealed the excise tax. Rather, it would have delayed the excise tax to 2025.
  • Keeping provisions in the ACA that improve wellness programs and quality of care as wellness programs are an integral part of many employers’ strategy to promote healthy lifestyles and reduce health care costs.

Workplace Flexibility

SHRM is advocating for a 21st century workplace flexibility policy approach that meets the needs of employers and employees. Rather than promoting a one-size-fits-all approach, SHRM believes that legislation should be flexible enough to accommodate differences among businesses because of size, industry, labor market, and other factors. SHRM has worked with Representative Mimi Walters (R-CA) to develop a proposal that encourages employers to adopt paid leave and flexible work options voluntarily. Representative Walters is expected to introduce the SHRM developed legislation within the next few weeks.

Under the bill, ERISA would be amended to allow an employer to voluntarily opt into the program provided the employer meets two requirements: (1) the employer offers a minimum threshold of paid leave; and (2) the employer offers a flexible work option to all employees such as part-time work, flexible schedule, opportunity to telecommute, etc. To satisfy the second requirement, an employer would be able to offer different flexible work options based on job or a segment of its work force. Two key benefits of this bill if passed are:

  • It gives employers some flexibility in designing time off and flexible work place options that best fit the business, and
  • Provided an employer satisfies federal law, the employer would automatically also satisfy all state and local requirements, allowing the employer to create a program that better fits its business versus a state mandated leave law and/or avoid having to satisfy multiple state laws if operating in multiple states.

Your PS&A team will keep you posted on these legislative efforts!