HR had a tumultuous year when it came to compliance and regulations. Under a new administration, regulations were rolled back—but not necessarily the ones we expected. Deadlines were changed, employers were confused, and health care gave everyone a headache.
How smooth this year will be remains a mystery, but there are a few compliance trends that every HR expert should be watching in 2018.
1. Penalties Will Be on Everyone’s Mind
One of the biggest pieces of news of 2017 was the introduction of letter 226J, which calls on employers to pay their part of the Employer Shared Responsibility Payments (ESRPs) owed under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). While these penalties have always been a part of the plan, many companies simply thought—whether because of a repeal effort or because the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) struggled to get its footing—that the IRS would never collect them.
Unfortunately for those people, the day has finally come. And if you didn’t provide affordable, essential minimum coverage to your full-time employees, it’s time to pay up. For many companies, this could serve as the wake-up call they need to start taking the ACA more seriously.
The penalties started going out at the end of 2017 for reports filed in 2015. Penalties for 2016 reporting will probably be quick to follow, making 2018 a year in which penalties will constantly be on HR professionals’ minds.
2. Deadlines Will Stay Firm
For the past few years, ACA deadlines have shifted in employers’ favor, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also moved a deadline of its own this year—its EEO-1 report deadline was moved from September 30, 2017 to March 31, 2018. However, this year’s deadlines are expected to stay firm, and will not be extended for “good faith” efforts as they were in past years. For the first time, ACA forms will be filed on the dates laid out in the original regulation requirement.
With 3 years of ACA reporting under everyone’s belt, and penalties being issued in 2017, it seems that all of the ACA is cementing into place—including its deadlines.
3. Employers Will Stay the Course More Seriously
After all the talk about repealing and replacing the ACA, it still remains intact more than 1 year after the election of Donald Trump. While repeal and replace efforts were ongoing, many companies began slacking on their ACA data, and didn’t have a strategy in place for what would happen if the law stayed in place—which it did.
With the ACA in place and the IRS serious about issuing penalties, employers may be more likely to stay the course over proposed policy, rather than letting regulatory practices fall by the wayside. While there are a number of new regulations that could be introduced or repealed in 2018, employers will probably be more cautious about their expectations.
The EEO-1 report, for example, is set to take wages into account during its next round of surveying in 2018. While the EEOC suspended the wage data requirement, whispers from inside the EEOC indicate this is likely to be added back into the EEO-1 report, meaning employers that track employee wage information now will have an easier time moving forward.
2017 was a year full of surprises. 2018 will probably be full of just as many, though employers and HR professionals may be more equipped to handle them after the whirlwind of 2017. Overall, trends point toward the steadying of many shaky regulations and compliance issues, making 2018 an optimal year for employers to seek out long-term help for the issues they struggle with today.
|Sean Cooper is Director of Partner Management for SyncStream Solutions, a provider of Affordable Care Act and EEOC compliance solutions for HR professionals, employers, benefits administrators, agents, brokers and payroll providers.|