Employers Face 'Unprecedented' Uncertainty, Survey Finds

Annual Littler poll cites the unpredictable Trump administration and a web of new compliance standards.

Uncertainty is a common theme among employers this year thanks, in part, to new technologies, an unpredictable Trump administration and a web of new compliance standards on every government level, according to an annual survey from the law firm Littler Mendelson.

The survey, which queries more than 1,200 U.S. employers, including in-house counsel, human resources professionals and executives, found that whatever change is to come in Washington has created “unprecedented” uncertainty in the workplace. This was the sixth annual survey conducted by the firm, which boasts one of the largest labor and employment practices in the country.

“With the profound changes in Washington, D.C., it may be initially surprising that respondents do not anticipate more of a near-term impact on their businesses,” Michael Lotito, co-chairman of Littler’s Workplace Policy Institute, said. “However, 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.”

Here are some of the findings from the 2017 survey:

What employers want from Trump

Employers expect a lot from the new Republican leader. So far, expectations are tempered. They hope to see reformed health care, employee benefits law and immigration policies in 2017. As far as regulations put in place under the Obama administration, employers are less optimistic that there will be quick change, including with the Affordable Care Act (85% in 2016 to 83% in 2017), enforcement by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (78% to 76%), National Labor Relations Board (56% to 55%) and Department of Labor (82% to 81%).

Compliance challenges

Labor and employment requirements are popping up at the state and local levels throughout the country, creating a fragmented landscape when it comes to paid leave mandates, background checks and minimum wage increases, the survey found. About 80% of the respondents said this has become a problem. Internal audits, new trainings and updated policies are common.

Confusion over health care

Even with Republicans controlling the White House and Congress, more than a quarter of employers surveyed were uncertain about what would happen with the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate. Another 28% said they expected no change or impact. 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.

EEOC expectations

Survey respondents believe that there will be an increase in discrimination claims over the next year because of hiring practices (51%), LGBT rights (46%) and equal pay (46%).

Breaches on the brain

Data breaches that stem from employees are a concern to 63% of respondents and have sparked work on new security policies by HR and IT departments. More than half said new employees are receiving new training and some (29%) say they are using “cyber-incident response plans,” whle others (23%) are updating employee contracts to cover confidentiality obligations.

 

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