A New Administration Means New Impacts on HR and the Workplace

January 22, 2021

Even though the transition in the USA from the outgoing administration to the new Biden-Harris administration is only a couple of days old as I write this, there are already several HR and workplace policies, appointments, and directives that are very likely to impact work, workplaces, and HR in the coming months and years. A quick review of the new administration’s personnel announcements, executive orders, and policy intentions reveal impacts in a few key areas – from COVID-19 in the workplace, to minimum wage policies, and the outlook for organized labor in the USA.

COVID-19 – In 2020, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued guidelines for employers to advise them in ways to make their workplaces and their employees safe in light of the coronavirus, but the agency did not issue enforceable requirements to that effect. With the new administration in place, it is expected that OSHA will likely require that employers enact more stringent health and safety procedures and practices related to COVID-19 and make these new measures actionable and enforceable by the agency, as it seems worker health and safety will be a major point of emphasis of the new administration.

Minimum Wage – While about two dozen states have raised or are in a multi-year process of raising their state-level minimum wages, the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour has remained in place since 2009. President Biden campaigned on raising the Federal minimum to $15 per hour, and it is expected that soon legislation will be introduced to that end. In the meantime, President Biden will ask all Federal agencies to review which of their workers make less than $15 per hour, and to develop recommendations to boost all staff to this minimum wage.

Organized Labor – President Biden’s choice for the position of Secretary of Labor, Boston’s Mayor Marty Walsh – a former leader of the Building and Construction Trades Council, a coalition of unions in the Boston area, signals an intention and an affirmation of President Biden’s campaign commitment to aggressively promote the interests of organized labor unions and workers more generally. Additionally, the new administration has taken steps to replace the National Labor Relations Board’s  (NLRB) General Counsel. The NLRB enforces private-sector workers’ rights to organize, and its general counsel has broad authority to decide which types of cases the agency takes on. Biden is expected to name a much more union-friendly General Counsel to this post.

There are certain to be many more areas of work, workplace, and worker impacts from the new administration that are likely to make 2021 another challenging and interesting year for HR and business leaders everywhere.  We will keep an eye on how these and other impacts progress and use our HR Happy Hour Media Network to share updates and insights throughout the year.

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