The Compliance Deluge of 2021 – And What it Means for 2022
Director of Compliance
Entering 2022, the historic pace of changing compliance legislation in the United States and Canada shows little sign of slowing down. Using 2021 as a precedent, it’s clear that the best way for employers to remain diligent and avoid costly litigation is to ensure their organizations are up to date and in compliance with the prevailing regulations.
To help employers stay ahead, WorkForce Software’s Current State of North America Workforce Compliance Report provides a look into the employment legislation that impacted U.S. and Canadian organizations in 2021 and offers guidance on how to prepare for success in this new legal landscape.
Contrary to U.S. and Canadian employers’ hopes, last year proved, in the end, to be as volatile a year as the one before. Marked by waves of new employment laws—particularly ones aimed at protecting the health and safety of workers and their families—employers often had to scramble to keep pace with the additional administrative burdens and substantial legal risks the new laws and regulations imposed.
In the U.S., most new legislation affecting employers in 2021 occurred at state and local levels. Here is a sampling:
Mandated COVID-19 vaccination and testing for certain workers and employee time off to get this done (or help family members do so). Court challenges to mandates further increased uncertainty for employers.
Unpaid leave to care for seriously ill relatives under the California Family Rights Act (CFRA) expanded to include caring for parents-in-law. Previously, leave was limited to caring for parents, children, grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and a spouse/registered domestic partner.
Mandated leave to FMLA-eligible employees for organ and tissue donation surgery for themselves or a spouse, child, or parent. Leave includes necessary preparation and recovery time.
Leave to care for seriously ill relatives under its Family Medical Leave Act expanded to include caring for a grandchild or a domestic partner’s grandchild. Previously, leave was limited to caring for a seriously ill child, domestic partner’s child, parent, spouse, domestic partner, or sibling.
Expanded its Human Rights Act to mandate reasonable accommodation for known physical and mental impairments of an otherwise qualified employee with a disability unless accommodation would cause employer undue hardship.
Amended existing law to mandate additional paid medical leave and a new category of paid prenatal leave for employees. Also expanded the group of employees eligible for D.C. Family and Medical Leave.
Not to be outdone, many Canadian jurisdictions also passed laws protecting the health and safety of workers and their families, including:
New law provided employees with three days’ paid COVID-19-related sick leave for events such as being diagnosed with COVID-19, waiting for test results, or being quarantined or isolated. Beginning in 2022, the legislation also granted permanent paid sick leave to ill or injured employees.
|Prince Edward Island
Bereavement leave expanded to cover prenatal pregnancy loss or stillbirth. Also now entitled to bereavement leave in such cases: an employee who is (or whose spouse/partner is) an intended parent of a child born under a surrogacy agreement.
Amended Yukon Employment Standards Act to mandate combination of paid and unpaid leave if the employee, the employee’s child, or a person to whom the employee provides care or support experiences domestic or sexual violence.
At federal level, mandated COVID-19 vaccination for all employees of the Core Public Administration, including the Canadian Mounted Police, and for contracted personnel requiring access to federal government worksites to perform work. Canada also announced in December 2021 that it will propose regulations mandating vaccination for employees in federally regulated workplaces.
This is only a snapshot of the many new employment laws detailed in the Current State of North America Workforce Compliance Report. With the uncertainty brought on by vaccination/testing mandates, new or expanded leave entitlements, increases in wages (including minimum wage), scheduling safeguards for workers, and employee protection against workplace retaliation, change is the only constant employers can expect looking forward to the months ahead. The twin necessities of meeting compliance obligations and maintaining an engaged workforce mean that employers must focus more than ever on their employees’ physical—and mental—well-being.
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