As the new administration and a new Congress settle into power, U.S. business leaders are relying on HR to keep them aware of planned or likely changes to the laws and best practices related to employment. That leaves the HR professional with the dizzying task of inventorying a volume of campaign promises as well as daily updates to employment-related matters.
For a deeper dive into coming changes, join our HRCI-approved webinar to hear the full list of changes that are anticipated in the months ahead: The HR Horoscope for 2017: A New Administration and New Employment Practices.
The number of business associations and employment groups providing data on the impact of perceived over-regulation of their respective industries continues to grow. As an example, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), which was active throughout the election, estimates that 150,000 workers in their industry lost jobs due to unfriendly regulations from the previous administration. The groups are providing Congress and the President with information to guide policy creation. Additionally, throughout his campaign, President Trump repeated that he would use the Executive Order process to undo a number of President Obama’s Executive Orders, and that he would work with the Republican-controlled House and Senate to repeal some existing legislation and to pass new legislation. Some pre-election promises that are expected to impact the employment environment in 2017:
- Six weeks of paid maternity leave and encouraging employers (read: tax incentives) to provide child care
- Increasing the effectiveness of business immigration processes (particularly related to the H1-B and L-1 visas)
- Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act
- Mandating universal use of E-verify
- Addressing the DOL’s pending “overtime rule”, and a number of the NLRB’s recent pro-union decisions
- Exempting small businesses from the new minimum salary guidelines issued by DOL for exempt employees (referred to as the “overtime rule”)
- Attacking the trade deficit, potentially impacting any business which exports or imports goods
Paid Maternity Leave and Tax Incentives for Employer-Provided (not Employer-Sponsored) Child Care
On September 13, 2016, then candidate Trump openly discussed his plan to enhance the Unemployment Insurance (UI) process and bake a paid maternity leave into UI benefits. His target of a six week benefit for new mothers has some similarities to a current mandate in California. In information released on his website, President Trump states the average benefit would be $300 per week, and would be a function of the employee’s salary. The benefit would not extend to new fathers and would not cover other conditions currently eligible for protected leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Additionally, Trump openly expressed interest in increasing the benefits of a law passed in 2001 which gives employers (1) a 25 percent tax credit for operating an on-site, licensed child care facility for employees, and (2) a 10 percent credit for resource and referral costs. Under the 2001 law, the maximum annual credit to an employer is $150,000. The revision to this law would likely include an increase in the tax credits for employers offering on-site child care, while adding tax incentives for employers who pay for some or all of their employees’ child care expenses at an off-site facility. For employees, he stated his goal of ensuring families can deduct the “average cost” of child care from their taxes, including offering the deduction to stay-at-home parents.
Increasing the Effectiveness of Business Immigration
Trump met with tech leaders on December 14th to discuss (among other things) business immigration issues and employment law hurdles related to efficient, cost effective employment. Although both parties were tight-lipped regarding the substantive portion of the discussion, it appears that tech leaders conveyed their concerns regarding the existing H1-B and L-1 visa processes.
A bi-partisan bill (“H1-B and L-1 Visa Reform Act” sponsored by Senators Chuck Grassley and Dick Durbin) is slated to to be introduced anytime and focuses on revamping the visa process for these two categories of foreign workers. Currently, 85,000 H1-B visas are awarded annually and, in 2016, three times that number of applications were received. The visas are awarded by a lottery system. The Act would revise the process by establishing a priority for the “best and brightest” U.S.-educated foreign students. The process would give an advantage to (1) advanced degree-holders, (2) those being paid a high wage, and (3) those with in-demand skills.
The oversight of this preference system would be moved to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The new rules would also give the Department of Labor (DOL) “enhanced authority” to audit and investigate employers which sponsor L-1 (i.e. foreign workers who have worked in an overseas branch of the U.S. employer and have requested to transfer to the U.S.) and H1-B visas. These rules would also seek to make outsourcing firms obsolete–a deliberate effort due to the perception that these firms exploit foreign workers by paying them less than the prevailing wage for the job they’re performing.
And the List Goes On…
To get more information about the laundry list of anticipated changes and to discuss their likely impact on the workplace, join our HRCI-approved webinar: The HR Horoscope for 2017: A New Administration and New Employment Practices.