Employers expect the Trump administration to “prioritize” easing workplace regulation, but they’re less confident in whether that change will actually happen, and if it does happen, whether it will affect them.
A survey of 1,229 in-house corporate attorneys, HR professionals and C-suite executives by employment law firm Littler, found that uncertainty is high among employers, and it’s related to the new administration in the White House and the technological disruption happening in society.
The vast majority of employers expect the Trump administration to prioritize reforming healthcare and employee benefits law (89%) and immigration policies (85%) in 2017. However, for most regulatory issues, the percentage of respondents who anticipate an impact on their workplace over the next year remains relatively unchanged from last year’s survey.
That includes the Affordable Care Act (85% in 2016 to 83% in 2017) and enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (78% to 76%), National Labor Relations Board (56 to 55%) and Department of Labor (82 to 81%). Immigration reform was the exception as 63% said they expect an impact in 2017, up from 40% in 2016.
Michael Lotito, co-chair of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute, said in a press release about the survey that “given the general climate of uncertainty and delays in appointments to government agencies, employers likely expect it to take time before they start to see how the president’s agenda is carried out and personally feel an impact in their workplaces.”
New or amended labor and employment requirements at the state and local levels are creating compliance challenges for 79% of respondents. In an effort to keep up, employers are updating their policies, handbooks and HR procedures (85%); providing additional employee training (54%); and conducting internal audits (50%).
Of the array of changes at the state and local levels, respondents have been most impacted by paid leave mandates (59%), background check restrictions (48%) and minimum wage increases (47%).
Although survey responses were collected before Republicans withdrew the American Health Care Act in late March, more than a quarter (27%) were already uncertain about the impact of repealing the ACA’s employer mandate. And another (28%) said they did not anticipate an impact at all.
Only 4% of respondents anticipate dropping coverage for some full-time employees if they are relieved of the ACA’s employer mandate, but 18% said they would allow more employees to work more than 30 hours a week.
Hiring practices—including the consideration of criminal or credit histories in the hiring process and pre-employment testing or screening practices—was the area where most respondents (51%) expected an increase in EEOC workplace discrimination claims over the next year, closely followed by LGBTQ rights (46%) and equal pay (46%). Still, this was down from the expectations for enforcement in the 2016 survey: 74% and 61% respectively.
Among the employee requests that are most difficult to accommodate, leaves of absences under the Family and Medical Leave Act emerged as the presenting the greatest challenges. The majority of respondents indicated difficulty with managing intermittent FMLA leave (65%) and leaves that extend beyond FMLA requirements (55%), followed by remote or work-from-home arrangements (37%) and modified or reduced schedules (36%).