When government officials declared a Public Health Emergency in 2020, it rattled us as both human beings and business professionals. Suddenly, payroll departments across the country were very quickly educating themselves in legal interpretations of new and vaguely written laws. Consequently, working longer hours and dealing with feelings of uncertainty will likely lead to being overwhelmed.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) was announced in April of 2020 to provide benefits to the American worker and employers as the financial impact of COVID-19 takes effect on the workforce. The FFCRA expired on December 31, 2020 as a required benefit but employers are still allowed voluntary participation until March 31, 2021.
The State of Colorado introduced the Healthy Families and Workplace Act (HFWA) in July of 2020 and coverage has broadened since 2021, extending the leave to various situations. That means two coinciding legislative acts have been initiated greatly impacting the workforce and internal operations. That’s a lot to take in! It’s crucial payroll and HR departments act quickly to keep their operations in full alignment with the current law.
Here are some ways our team is coping with the ever-changing times we’re in:
These changes happened quickly and without much notice. It can feel overwhelming to step into your office and find you have to implement a whole new benefits program. The first step is to breathe. Take a moment in your chair to recognize the challenge before you and take note of how you feel. This is going to be a challenge and it’s okay to recognize that. Be kind to yourself and be willing to create space for growth.
“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” – Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist monk and peace activist
Begin collecting documents and data that will detail the specific outlines of the new law. Information pulled from government agencies will be more reliable than the interpretations of private attorneys selling their services. If you belong to any supporting professional agencies, you may find useful webinars through the Colorado Staffing Association (CSA), American Payroll Association (APA), or the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” – Dr. Seuss
Once you feel confident in outlining how the law will pertain to your situation, you can begin organizing your process. What processes will you need to adjust first and how will those adjustments affect other areas of your business? Creating a well thought-out plan in development will help you to successfully execute while being able to maintain a big-picture view.
“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important” – Stephen Covey, American educator and author
Perhaps the reality is only one or two employees in your department have had the time to really dig into the law for full comprehension. Even so, it’s important the new legislation is communicated company-wide for proper implementation. Additionally, delegating tasks related to implementation will help to break the process into sizable parts allowing for a quicker set-up process.
“When you delegate work to a member of the team, your job is to clearly frame success and describe the objectives.” – Steven Sinofsky, former Microsoft executive
Implementation is where we get to see steps 1-4 come into action to produce the (hopefully!) predicted outcome. Implementation can be a stressful period because this is when we are at risk of seeing our well thought-out plans fail. It’s also likely the department will be faced with another state or federal level initiative during an already active implementation period. It’s important to stay flexible during this time, remain open to new information, and keep your team informed. Refer to step 1 for continued sanity.
“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan, but also believe.” – Anatole France, French poet