On September 13, nine members representing the Alabama SHRM State Council traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with their two U.S. senators and seven representatives in the Alabama congressional delegation to discuss a series of bills awaiting action in the final weeks of the 115th Congress.
Issues discussed during their meetings included the members’ strong support of the SHRM-backed H.R. 4219, the Workflex in the 21st Century Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Mimi Walters, R-Calif., was the subject of a July 24 hearing before a subcommittee of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, at which SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, testified in strong support of the bill.
In short, H.R. 4219 embodies a key SHRM principle: a workplace flexibility public policy must meet the needs of both employers and employees. Rather than a one-size-fits-all government mandate, the bill would amend the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to allow employers the option of offering an ERISA-covered plan that includes a federal minimum standard of paid leave and flexible work options for all employees of participating employers. These workflex options would include telework, compressed workweeks and flexible scheduling.
ALSHRM also discussed a series of other bills pending before Congress, including two tax bills and two health care-related bills. On the tax front, the House Ways and Means Committee may consider two bills designed to amend Section 127 of the tax code to also allow employers to provide student loan assistance and to raise the $5,250 tax-free benefit under current law to $11,500 per calendar year and indexed for inflation. (See related story.) In the health care area, ALSHRM echoed the support shared earlier this week in a letter to the House and Senate leadership by SHRM President and Chief Executive Officer Taylor of two bills that would further delay by four more years the implementation date of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s (ACA’s) “Cadillac tax” on high-value health plans and the employer mandate, and would amend current law to allow employers flexibility in determining what constitutes full-time employment under the ACA (between 30 and 40 hours per week).