Preparing for Employment Law Changes

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Last fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s paid sick leave bill into law. The law will guarantee paid sick leave for many employees who previously had no such benefit. While this law is great in theory, it has proven to be quite challenging for employers when it comes to implementation. Unfortunately, a lot of laws that are well intentioned can become headaches for employers. This is why it is important to have a plan in place whenever preparing for new or updated employment laws.

Do Your Homework

Start with the text of the law itself. I always like to read the law before checking out sources that provide interpretation and suggestions. Print out a copy and take out a pen and highlighter. Mark up the text, write out questions and underline important parts. With easy-to-understand laws, this may be all you need; however, if you are in a state like California, you will probably need to do a whole lot more to educate yourself on the new law.

Often state websites will have FAQ pages with details about the law. For example, California’s Department of Industrial Relations has a page dedicated to the new sick leave law. Attorneys are also a good source for help in interpreting the law. Many law firms will post articles on their websites and may also offer low-cost or free seminars or webinars on the topic. Try to find an option that allows you to ask questions. Annual labor law updates are also a good way to review new laws.

Develop an Implementation Plan

Once you have done your homework and researched the new law, it is time to figure out how to implement it in your workplace. Review your existing policy, and determine how it will need to change to fit within the requirements of the new law.

Update the existing policy or add a new policy to your handbook. Sometimes laws allow for certain choices or multiple ways to be in compliance with the law. Pay attention to how the law fits within your company culture and make adjustments accordingly.

Have several employees read the policy before you finalize it. Do not just rely on your HR colleagues to review drafts of the policy. Often those of us in HR spend so much time reading employment law and policy that we do not always see the areas that may be confusing to the average employees. This is why it is a good idea to get input from the people who will have to abide by the policy before finalizing it.

Once you have your new policy, figure out how to share it with employees. If the changes are minor, it may be enough to send out an email with the updated policy. If it is more complicated, as in the case of California’s paid sick leave law, consider holding a meeting to review the policy and allow for questions. In larger companies, you may want to meet with managers to review the policy and then have them educate their teams.

Know When to Get Help

Sometimes you have read and researched, attended seminars and tried to work out the particulars of a new law with your team, but you still are not quite sure how the new law fits with your workplace. This is when it may be time to call on your favorite attorney or HR professional.

If you already work with an attorney or consultant, they may have resources they can send to you. If you do not already know someone, start with the presenters from seminars you attended on the topic or the authors of articles on the new law. Spending a little money to ensure you are on the right track with your updates can be worth the peace of mind.

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  1. I am studying law right now, and I thought this was a good article and very relevant. I liked the suggestions under the section about doing your homework. I usually do all my reading about law digitally, but maybe it would benefit me to start printing stuff off to be able to highlight things and make notes to myself. I will start doing that as I study, so thanks for helping me out!

  2. I really like the tip to know when to get help. I’ve worked for companies where the HR manager tried to just “wing it” with things like this. It was awful for everyone! Based on that experience, I definitely will be getting help from an attorney for implementing new laws in our business. Thanks!


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