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Compliance Considerations as You Head Back to the Office

As the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) begins to lift requirements and we slowly return to a sense of normalcy, a growing number of companies are making plans to return to the office. Particularly for HR and Payroll, returning to the office can mean a whole new host of considerations and complications.

The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed the way companies get their work done, with the transition to remote work becoming prevalent out of necessity. This means compliance programs needed to become more flexible to accommodate this mass migration to going digital.

Now that returning to the office is here for a growing number of companies, there are compliance laws that need to be addressed that businesses may not have had to worry about before.

Here are a few compliance changes to consider before you commute back to the office.

How compliance has changed during the pandemic

The shift to remote work has not only changed the way work is done, but also how employees are hired. Working remotely means that companies no longer need to hire from the local talent pool alone. They can hire from talent pools across the country, or even around the world. This can be quite an advantage from a quality of work perspective, but for HR, it creates new issues to overcome.

Hiring from across the U.S. or even the globe means taking into account tax and employment laws from several different states and countries. Also, current employees may have moved during the pandemic, meaning the laws that apply to them could have changed as well. For HR, that means they need to put a process in place to audit where employees are currently working from and track the compliance laws that need to be followed in their area.

Investing in technology

According to Forrester’s predictions, remote work will rise to 300% of pre-COVID-19 levels in 2021. Many companies are learning that employees prefer the convenience of remote work, and that they’ll need to adapt by implementing the right technology to accommodate this digital transformation.

This means having the right collaboration software to communicate with the rest of the team, and in HR’s case, having a secure employee self-service portal to access key HR and compliance tasks and forms. Many companies already used employee self-service applications before the pandemic, but with an increasingly remote workforce, scalable and secure solutions, ideally in the cloud, have become a necessity. They allow employers to adapt quickly to changing needs and add new functionality.

Employee self-service makes it easy for employees to keep track of basic tasks like viewing pay statements and making PTO requests. For HR, it is essential for managing compliance-related tasks to ensure all requirements are met.

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Managing your hybrid workforce

Some employees may be heading back to the office, but not all of them. A hybrid workforce will become the new normal for a lot of companies, meaning some will be in the office while others work remotely out of choice or of necessity due to their long-distance commutes. In these cases, employee self-service applications help ensure you deliver a consistent experience for all employees, regardless of their location.

Also, be sure that employees have the proper equipment they need for doing their job at home, and have HR take the time to walk new employees through the company’s HR self-service applications to make sure all compliance needs are met.

Federal I-9 policy changes

Administration of Form I-9 and employment verification has been more flexible than usual in recent months due to evolving requirements for remote employees, but that could change once more people return to the office. As of June 2021, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has extended the COVID precautionary flexibilities until August 31, 2021.

One policy that eased during the pandemic was the completion of Section 2 of the Form I-9 that requires in-person validation of a new employee’s documents. Employers will still need to confirm employee documentation for all new hires that started during the pandemic once people return to work.

Company culture changes to consider

New hires over the course of the pandemic, as well as a hybrid workforce, can mean a natural change in company culture for a lot of organizations. Being in the same space as others also means closely following health regulations, for the safety of everyone in the workplace.

Federal health regulations

From the outset of the pandemic, the CDC has put health regulations in place to stop the spread of COVID-19. Though most restrictions have been lifted, these guidelines will still come into play in the workplace.

It is the HR team’s responsibility to make sure these guidelines are followed, meaning that all employees who aren’t currently vaccinated may be required to wear a mask if they choose to return to the office. HR could go further and require all employees who are returning to the office to be vaccinated.

Employees will be required to be mindful of all health guidelines while in the office. Due to differing views, some employees may refuse to receive the vaccine or wear a mask. These employees may choose to work from home instead if they feel they can’t meet these requirements.

Some employees who work remotely may choose to continue to work remotely, regardless of workplace conditions or health requirements.

Moving forward

As we emerge from the pandemic, many people are predicting a “Turnover Tsunami,” with numerous employees looking for new and remote job opportunities. This will put a strain on employers’ onboarding systems and processes. Automating the hiring process can be key in meeting this heightened demand for jobs.

Now that remote work is plausible from nearly anywhere in the world with an internet connection, employees no longer feel the need to continue living in expensive metropolitan areas. They will continue to spread out to new locations, leaving more work for HR when it comes to meeting compliance laws.

CIC Plus can help you with all of your compliance needs as you or your workforce heads back to the office. Contact our team today or check out our Compliance Tips series to learn more about how we can help.