HR Compliance: Everything You Need to Know

HR (Human Resources) compliance refers to the process of defining both group and individual behaviors in an effort to ensure that they adhere to a company's applicable policies and laws. Employment laws are constantly changing, so this process can be a challenge especially for small and mid-sized businesses.

Technological advances often lead to shifting HR compliance demands, so companies have to adapt in order to survive. Effectively managing talent is a critical consideration for a business's continued success, but HR managers are also paying more attention to issues like:

  • Recruitment
  • Productivity
  • Retention

It's crucial to pay attention to these issues if a company wants to stay competitive.

Results of a survey show that HR managers realize they must meet the increasing challenges of adhering to HR and employment laws. Approximately 50 percent of HR respondents report they lack confidence in their ability to keep up with the ever-changing rules and regulations. They expect even more challenges in the compliance landscape over the following one to three years. Fewer than 10 percent of respondents think that the compliance burden will lessen.

For small businesses, this is noteworthy because the majority (64 percent) of HR managers don't think they have adequate time and resources to meet the increasing challenges to HR compliance. In addition, many HR departments are typically understaffed and overworked.

Just over half (52 percent) of mid-sized businesses report at least one incident of complaints, lawsuits, or charges that are HR-related. A majority of HR managers who were surveyed seek out professional advice relating to HR compliance issues.

The survey examined HR compliance issues in six categories, including:

  • Payroll
  • Risk & safety
  • Benefits
  • Hiring
  • Employee relations
  • Termination

On a positive note, results show that HR managers believe that they can comply with laws and regulations pertaining to payroll and benefits.

However, HR managers have less confidence with regard to compliance in areas of:

  • Hiring
  • Employee relations
  • Employee grievances
  • Risk & safety, especially concerning how it could place them in jeopardy of violating FLSA and OSHA laws

Because the financial consequences related to non-compliance can be serious, businesses should address HR compliance issues as soon as possible. Failing to comply with HR and employment laws, rules, and regulations can result in big potential legal liabilities for businesses, especially considering that employee litigation and compensatory awards are on the rise.

Jury Verdict Research has compiled statistics showing that, over the past 20 years, employment lawsuits have increased by a staggering 400 percent. For federal employment cases, the average reward compensation exceeds $490,000.

Considering that these are budget-conscious times, statistics like this demonstrate the need for companies to address compliance issues, even if they must seek guidance from third-party professionals or consider outsourcing HR altogether. Businesses that want to stay competitive need to use the many tools and services that are available to help them stay compliant because shortcomings in crucial areas of compliance can put them at a major disadvantage compared to competitors.

Why HR Compliance Is Important

The head of HR remains a key partner in compliance. When a business has weak compliance programs, the HR department can be a liability. The HR chief has major responsibilities related to compliance inside and outside of that department.

The types of businesses that are regularly subject to class action suits include:

  • Fast-food chains
  • Hospitals
  • Companies that employ people who are paid hourly wages

California is considered to be a very worker-friendly state, so nearly half of all of these types of class action suits are filed there.

HR chiefs play an important role in working with offices relating to:

  • Auditing
  • Legal
  • Compliance

Creating and Executing Plans

For a business to be successful in the current legal environment, HR compliance is very important. Companies should treat compliance as a process of laying out behaviors for both individuals and groups so that the business's laws and policies are followed.

Part of the HR department's function is knowing how to hire and retain employees who are knowledgeable of specific laws pertaining to HR and who can create procedures and policies relating to these laws. It's not enough to simply write a policy or procedure and then place them in a repository. Once these policies and procedures are established, they should be effectively communicated to everyone throughout the company.

A very important issue for businesses today is hiring the right talent that can address the HR department's key areas of responsibility, which include:

  • Employee compensation
  • Benefits
  • Talent management
  • Legal requirements

HR talent has to be well-versed in requirements that can affect a business at any time, such as regulatory and legal requirements, as well as employment law. Because these laws and requirements constantly change, the HR staff must stay up to date on the current available information.

Another important function is to create and regularly update the employee handbook. This handbook is one of a company's most important documents. It should be considered a communications tool that clearly states the policies and rules of the organization as well as how business is to be conducted. Before distributing the handbook, it's best practice to get a review by legal counsel. Whenever new policies or procedures are introduced, another review should be conducted.

HR  should work closely with and coordinate with CCOs in areas relating to:

  • The design and implementation of a communications strategy that promotes compliance throughout the entire organization.
  • Plans to design and implement a suitable disciplinary program that addresses employee misconduct (general counsel should be included in this).
  • The development of a whistleblower compliance program that's designed to encourage reporting and responses from internal sources that address whistleblower complaints. Again, general counsel should be included, and this should also include a triage program.

If you need help with HR compliance issues, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.