When I was younger, the company my father worked for sponsored a family day at an amusement park in Des Moines. One of the features at the park was an old fashion wooden roller coaster. Because his company rented out the entire park for their employees and family members, we were able to ride the roller coaster over and over. Back then, roller coasters were a lot of fun. When it comes to the operation of our business, we prefer conditions not resemble a roller coaster ride. We like things predictable so we can properly plan to operate in an efficient manner. Unfortunately, businesses have been on a bit of a roller coaster ride when it comes to our employee benefit programs and legal compliance related to employment.
When a presidential administration changes from one party to the next, it is not uncommon to expect a change in direction. In the last 6 months in particular we have seen a lot of change and uncertainty. The Affordable Care Act has been a target of Republicans and we know changes will happen. What we do not know is what that will look like. A complete repeal appears unlikely and it also appears that whatever does happen, may not take place quickly. We know that many seem to be in favor of keeping aspects such as pre-existing conditions and allowing children to stay on an employee’s plan until the age of 26. We know that many do not like individual mandates and businesses generally did not like the administrative burdens, the Cadillac tax or “pay or play” mandates. Unfortunately, what our legislators are struggling with is how to pay for things like pre-existing conditions and coverage for people with serious health issues, yet not allow insurance companies the opportunity to balance that out with premiums from individuals who are healthy? How can we pay for additional costs without a tax on benefits or reduce the tax incentives when businesses offer benefits to their employees?
Employers are dealing with employment law issues as well. Through the end of October last year employers were making final plans to comply with the new overtime rules only to have a judge in Texas put them on hold. Those regulations are still on hold pending additional legal action from the DOL. What we do not know is how aggressively the new administration will pursue these regulations. They appear to be on life support, but anything is possible. New regulations in regards to OSHA reporting and the I-9 appear to be moving forward as planned. The new administration has made comments about adding paid maternity leave. There is also speculation that there could be increased enforcement of immigration laws, which could impact employers.
Our recommendation to clients has been to stay the course with the laws and regulations as we now know them. That means if you are required to do ACA reporting, you should definitely comply. If you have not implemented changes because of the new Over Time regulations, hold off until you receive additional guidance. Comply with the new OSHA and I-9 regulations. You should also begin at least looking at contingency plans in the event things do change. For example, have a plan to comply with the Over Time regulations in the event they are put in effect.
We will be sponsoring a webinar on February 28th to talk about where things are at that time. We do not believe we will have all the answers at that point, but we can at least give you information that’s up-to-date. We suspect that during the initial 100 days of the new administration, we will begin to get a clearer picture of the future direction and hopefully, we will see our roller coaster level off a bit so that we can plan more effectively for changes.