One of the most interesting things about operating a business is the fact that things never stay the same for long. Whether it’s consumer sentiment, shopping trends, or new opportunities, there’s always something to keep an eye on if you want to improve business revenue. But there’s also a lot going on in terms of employment law that can end up catching you by surprise if you don’t pay attention. Keeping up with the rules for wage and hour laws, taxes, healthcare, I-9s, safety and health, equal opportunity employment, and workers’ comp can be a challenge. Here’s just a quick look at a few of the expected labor law changes for 2018.
Minimum Wage Is on the Rise
From Arizona to Maine, the minimum wage is going up. For employers hiring entry level workers in sectors like retail, hospitality, and food service, this may impact payroll and any job postings that reference an hourly pay rate. But there’s also the need to update workplace posters. Labor Law Center has the full rundown on states that are increasing their minimum wage starting on January 1st, 2018. And according to JDSupra.com, “Beginning January 1, 2018, federal contractors covered by these requirements will be required to pay a minimum wage of $10.35 an hour. The minimum cash wage for tipped workers will increase to $7.25 an hour.”
Labor Law Changes for 2018: DOL Set to Review FMLA Forms
Back in 2015, the DOL finally completed updates to this critical document and extended its expiration date—to May of 2018. The updated version included a reference to the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act (GINA) but was otherwise similar to previous versions. However, HR departments will want to watch for any changes to the form after May and ensure only the most current version is used for employee leave requests.
Retirement Plan Contribution Limit Increase
The Motley Fool has updates on all kinds of tax changes for 2018. Employers that sponsor a 401(k) will want to pay particular attention to the new, higher cap on contributions. It’s just an extra $500/year, but it’s worth noticing. This is a good time to remind employees about the benefits of saving for retirement and encourage them to begin making contributions or increase the amount they are contributing. Obviously, payroll will also need to be aware that the cap is now higher and that more withholding may be requested by employees.
Paid Family Leave on the Books for Some
One of the exciting labor law changes for 2018, New York will become the most recent state to implement laws guaranteeing paid leave to new parents in 2018. According to the new rules: “Starting on January 1st of 2018, any employee who works 20 hours or more per week is eligible for paid family leave benefits if that employee works for a covered employer for 26 or more consecutive weeks.” While there are currently few states that mandate such paid leave, the current administration is pushing for all states to implement similar laws. The Guardian has details here. While such a change would take time, employers in additional states should keep an eye on this topic.
Maximum OSHA Penalties Will Decline
In an interesting departure from the norm, the upper limit on fines and penalties from OSHA for serious and willful violations is set to drop slightly. For example, an employer who fails to correct violations can now only be assessed a maximum fine of $12,471 per day (down from $12,675). In some states, like California, the number of inspections is also declining. At the same time, in California the percentage of inspections that resulted in finding serious violations went up. This may prove to be a trend in other states as well as inspectors hone in on workplaces with a reputation for unsafe work practices. HR should work closely with safety experts to review workplace safety practices and ensure training and documentation is up to date.
Current WOTC Is Extended for Two Years
This isn’t entirely new, but it bears repeating since we still find so many businesses aren’t aware of what’s at stake. In 2015, President Obama extended the WOTC program until the end of 2019. He also added a new category for long-term unemployment recipients. Employers should take full advantage of tax incentives that can mean savings of up to $9600 per qualifying employee. The easiest way to do this is to start with an audit of existing workforce documentation to identify previous credits that can still be claimed. Going forward, the WOTC forms can simply be built into the onboarding process. To learn more about labor law changes for 2018, contact our team today.