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  • Jennifer Massey

Top 5 HR Items to Prepare Your Organization for 2021

2020 has posed unprecedented challenges to employers – new regulations, work from home as the norm, and a complete reset of the traditional idea of a “workplace” has us all feeling overwhelmed. Keeping solid HR practices in place and staying on top of the basics with all the new regulations and executive orders has been a vital task in 2020, as our oversight agencies are not bending any rules. Getting back to basics and figuring out where you stand can be a project, but the best way to approach 2021 is to make sure you have done the following five things:


1. Employee data is constantly changing. Have you made sure all your employee data including name changes, contact information, phone numbers and emergency contacts are up to date? If not, be sure to get this information updated, especially with your payroll department’s need to get W2s out to employees by the end of January and the potential need to be able to contact employees or emergency contacts quickly for contact tracing purposes.


2. Review staff compensation related to minimum State and Federal compensation requirements. New York State minimum wage and the minimum salary requirements for some of your exempt staff are increasing as January 1, 2021. If you have not done this review, now is a good time to do this and make any necessary adjustments. In addition, annual increases for the rest of the New York State outside of New York City will continue until the minimum wage rate reaches $15 per hour. It is also important to know that starting in 2021, the annual increases to the minimums will be published by the Commissioner of Labor on or before October 1st of each year. The rates will be based on percentage increases determined by the Director of the Division of Budget, and based on economic indices, including the Consumer Price Index.


It is a good idea to review job descriptions and job classifications annually, either when compensation minimum thresholds are changing or at the time of an employee’s performance review. Either time are a good time to ensure their job descriptions are up-to-date and they are classified correctly under the Fair Labor Standards Act. We all know jobs evolve over time and with those changes it is important to know if it impacts the position classification. Compliance with both NYS and Federal standard that must be considered when you are classifying a position as exempt. It is always recommended that you work with an expert to ensure you are complying with the FLSA requirements. This is especially important when you are modifying classifications, or if your jobs have not been reviewed in a long time or have never been reviewed.


3. Communications about New York State Paid Family Leave (PFL). In 2020, eligible employees were receiving 60% of their average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $840.70 per week for up to 10 weeks under PFL. As of January 1, 2021, the weekly benefit will be 67% of the New York State average weekly wage, up to a maximum of $971.61 per week for up to 12 weeks. In addition, the premium rate employees are having deducted from their pay will increase significantly in 2021. The maximum annual premium rate employees contributed in 2020 was $196.72 and it will be going up to $385.34 in 2021. Again, it is important to notify employees of the upcoming 2021 NYS PFL benefit and premium changes.


4. Review your sexual harassment prevention policy. An employer must ensure the policy they adopted meets or exceeds the minimum standards. In addition, the Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy Notice or Poster, which is an optional tool that is provided by the State, is one way to direct both employees and non-employees to your Sexual Harassment Prevention Policy and should be displayed in a highly visible place.


In addition, your Sexual Harassment policy applies to employees, supervisors, vendors, interns, volunteers, independent contractors, and Board members. Therefore, it is best practice to make sure these individuals are all trained in your company’s policy. Also, all employers are required to provide employees with annual sexual harassment prevention training and at time of hire. An employer must also issue their policy and training summary to new hires at time of hire and annually to all employees. Lastly, an employer must ensure the training meets or exceeds minimum standards. Do not be afraid to reach out to an expert if you are not sure your training and/or policy is up to par.


5. Review existing paid and unpaid sick leave policy. On April 3, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed legislation establishing the right to paid or unpaid sick leave for all workers in New York State. This legislation applies to all private employers and there are no exceptions, all employees are covered including PT, Per Diem, Season and Temporary employees. On September 30, 2020, covered employees in New York should have begun to accrue leave at a rate of one hour for every 30 hours worked. On January 1, 2021, employees may start using accrued leave. The amount of sick leave an employer is required to provide and whether the sick is to be paid or unpaid depends on the size and net income of the employer and can be confusing – it is always recommended to bring in expert support to wade through this maze of requirements. If you do not currently offer sick time (paid or unpaid), it will also be important to ensure you are complying as of January 1, 2021. Please note this new law is in addition to the New York State provisions already in effect providing emergency paid sick time due to COVID-19.


2020 was a year many of us would soon like to forget. While we’d like to put the year in our rearview mirror, we certainly don’t want uncertainty or new requirements to make 2021 a painful year for any organization with employees. Contact our trusted team of HR experts at Integra to make sure your HR practices are airtight and ready to tackle the challenges ahead. Questions or just want more information? Drop us a note at jmassey@integra-hr.com. Here is to the year ahead!




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