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Latest Legislative Changes to Employment Rules

by Jason Eisenhut, vice president of human resources at Employco USA, Inc.

The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), signed by President Biden on March 11 includes changes to several key employment-related categories including:

FFCRA “COVID Pay” Changes
• Extension of employers’ ability to voluntarily provide employees with paid leave (and obtain tax credits) is through September 30, 2021
• New / reset 10-day leave bank beginning April 1, 2021 (i.e., previously exhausted leaves reset and start with a new 10-day bank)
• New non-discrimination rules (e.g., can’t base on compensation, full-time status or tenure)
• Expanded list of qualifying reasons:
—Employee is obtaining or recovering from a vaccination
—Employee is seeking or awaiting results of a test for or a diagnosis of COVID-19

• Former employees who were involuntarily terminated could be eligible for COBRA at no cost
• Includes premiums/coverage from April 1, 2021 through September 30, 2021
• The federal government will pay 100% of the COBRA premiums through a credit against an employer’s Medicare taxes
• Pending additional government guidance related to the treatment of dental and vision coverage
Unemployment Benefit Updates
• Supplemental benefits remain at $300 per week through September 6, 2021
• First $10,200 received in 2020 is non-taxable for households with income under $150,000
Employee Retention Credit Extension
• Program to encourage businesses to keep employees on payroll through refundable tax credits
• Extends credit through December 31, 2021
—$7,000 maximum credit per employee per quarter for a total of $28,000 per employee in 2021
• Includes new group of new startup businesses

Multi-employer Pension Plan Relief
• Financial assistance for significantly underfunded plans
• Not subject to repayment

Illinois Updates
On March 23, Governor Pritzker signed SB1480 into law with a goal to strengthen equal employment and pay practices throughout the state. Effective now, the law covers the following:

Criminal History Protections
• Illinois employers can no longer disqualify a job applicant or employee with a conviction record unless:
—There is a substantial relationship between the criminal history and the job; or
—Employing the person would result in an unreasonable risk to safety or property loss
• Candidates and employees can now file a charge of discrimination with the Illinois Department of Human Rights
Equal Pay Act and Reporting Changes
• Private-sector Illinois employers with 100+ employees will now be required to submit pay data by gender, race and ethnicity as part of their corporate filing with the Secretary of State (SOS)
• The SOS is authorized to release the data to the public on its website
• Employers will need to demonstrate equal pay and employment (or reasonable justifications for non-compliance) for females and minority employees
• Employers will have three years (March 2024) to obtain the equal pay certificate from the state and then every two years thereafter

If you have any questions, contact Jason Eisenhut, (630) 286-7341 or  jeisenhut@employco.com.


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