January is a month filled with so much change, both real and anticipated. And, more than any other, this year is a giant question mark: with COVID rising and bringing variations with increased levels of contagion, with a new administration, with so many industries – I think of hospitality, theater, restaurants, healthcare – reeling, with the online world delivering more entertainment, news, product, community, it’s hard to know how to plan.
If you are an employer, you obviously have even more to consider:
- Is the protection of your business in conflict with protection of your employees in the age of COVID?
- If you are able to maintain operations but have sent most employees to work from home, do you have a new level of liabilities to worry about should they injure themselves while on the job at home?
- How can you confirm their hourly reports without adding ‘spyware’ or other intrusive software in their new ‘workspace’?
- Can you require employees to get one of the available vaccines as a condition of on-site employment?
The human resource profession may have never faced such an enormous range of concerns and questions, whether state by state or country-wide. At TogetHRconsulting.com, we’re focused on how your responsibilities – and opportunities – as an employer keep shifting and what stays the same. Here are a few updates and reminders that need your immediate attention:
If your reporting year corresponds to the calendar year, you must distribute all W2’s to your employees by end of month, January 31.
In Montana, minimum wage has changed to $8.75 and, as President-elect Biden announced in his policy discussion of January 14, he’ll push for nation-wide minimum wage of $15. No doubt, this will have an enormous impact on your plans, allocation of funds, investments and labor pool.
And, while this Federal Change to exemption level was effective a year ago, you must adhere: employees making under $684/week or $35,568/year are entitled to over-time and other non-salaried employee benefits.
Another shift likely with the new administration in Montana with Gov. Gianforte’s new revisions to the COVID-19 restrictions previously in place. The new directive will be effective January 15th with local health boards in certain counties to maintain authority and enforce stricter mandates.
And, from the U.S. Dept. of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, employer tax credits for employees’ paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave, voluntarily provided to employees, are available for such paid leave through March 31, 2021. However, the legal requirement to provide paid leave expired on 12/31/20.
Finally, while this is always a concern, the increase of fraudulent unemployment claims has skyrocketed. In some cases, employers are cooperating with employees who make such claims to help supplement declining wages. And, as the Dept. of Labor is overwhelmed with unemployment claims – 965,000 in the week ended 1/9/21, an increase of 181,000 over the week prior – the ability to verify each claim is sometimes lost when weighed against the circumstances in the national economy overall. However, as you bear the responsibility for these claims in your own unemployment insurance costs (should one of your own employees file), diligence and honesty are a strong pair.
Bottom line? Many difficult circumstances continue to impact American business and will undergo considerable change throughout the new year. TogetHRconsulting.com is continually in touch with all reporting agencies regarding employment law and responsibilities. When you have a question about what’s appropriate for you in the state of Montana, we welcome your call and will respond quickly and accurately.