A new U.S. president often marks a shift in the focus of government policy. New laws and executive actions signal what the world can expect from the government in the next four years. And when there is a change in party, as occurred following the 2020 general election, the change can be even more dramatic.

Jobs and employment are central to the economy, so it’s customary to see a broad array of changes in those areas with a new president. Often, there are direct implications for the workplace, and employers need to take notice. As Bridgette Klein from Willory, an HR staffing consultancy and Corporate Screening strategic ally, explains, “Anytime there is a change in employment regulations, employers need to take a fresh look at their current practices and make adjustments accordingly.”

As has happened with new presidencies in the past, Biden’s presidency is expected to usher in additional changes affecting employment and hiring trends in 2021 and beyond.

The First 100 Days: What Has Happened So Far

By the end of April 2021, President Biden had completed his first 100 days in office. In just over three months, he issued more than 60 executive orders and ushered in notable laws to stimulate the economy and address the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Key actions affecting employment and hiring include the following:

The American Rescue Plan Act

The third and largest stimulus plan during the pandemic, passed in March 2021, provides additional support to businesses, direct payments to Americans, extended unemployment, and other benefits to make it easier for employees to obtain or continue health benefits while unemployed.

Minimum Wage Hike for Federal Contract Workers

Due to a March 2021 executive order, as many as 390,000 of the more than five million federal contract workers will see their earnings increase to the new minimum wage of $15 per hour. This move may be just the latest step toward a national minimum wage increase for all workers.

Prohibition of Workplace Discrimination

A January 2021 executive order prohibits workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Support for Gender Equity

A March 2021 executive order established the formation of a gender policy council, which has been tasked with considering new programs and laws to support gender pay equity, workplace diversity, and inclusion for all genders.

Employment and Hiring Trends to Expect Under the New President

As the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, it’s likely the new president will continue to focus on actions to reduce unemployment and boost the economy. The president may also adopt policies similar to the Obama administration, for example, expanded protections for employees and tighter business regulation. 

As Bridgette Klein from Willory notes, “Many view Biden as a continuation of the Obama legacy. He has shown support for Obama-era policies, such as a higher minimum wage and a higher overtime eligibility threshold.”

[INTERACTIVE INFOGRAPHIC] How will your hiring process be different in 2021?  Learn 2021's trends with our interactive infographic>> 

Given the changes from Biden’s first 100 days, you can expect additional legislation to affect how you screen and hire prospective employees. Here are some of the hiring trends to keep on your radar in 2021 and the coming years:

Employee-Friendly Legislation

The Biden administration has already taken steps to protect employees and job-seekers through the American Rescue Plan Act. Benefits such as extended unemployment benefits and a 100 percent COBRA subsidy through September 2021 offer direct support for individuals who lost benefits coverage during the pandemic.

There are signs the Biden administration will pursue other laws benefiting employees, for example, a higher federal minimum wage. Biden specifically called it out in his April 27, 2021 address to Congress, saying, “Let’s also pass the $15 minimum wage. No one should work 40 hours a week and still live below the poverty line.”

Another action offering additional protection to employees and job-seekers may include stronger enforcement of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Biden recently appointed a new EEOC chair, who is expected to intensify the commission’s focus on pay equity

Furthermore, current laws aimed at eliminating discrimination and bias in the workplace could be expanded federally. Examples include the following:

  • “Ban the box” laws governing when in the hiring process employers can ask candidates about their criminal history
  • Salary history bans and credit history check restrictions, which seek to improve hiring equity for women and underrepresented minorities

Advancements in Marijuana Legalization

Over 30 states have legalized some form of marijuana use, and a few have also taken steps to authorize retail sales of the substance. In the absence of federal legislation, the trend toward marijuana legalization at the state level grows stronger by the day. Recently, New Jersey and New York became the latest states to legalize recreational marijuana.

However, the trend is moving closer to federal marijuana legislation. In December 2020, the House of Representatives passed a law to decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. If the law is passed in the Senate and signed by Biden, employers will need to revise drug screening practices to comply with the new law. In practice, federal marijuana legalization could mean your drug screening program would need to exclude marijuana entirely, or include it only in specific circumstances, for example, cases of suspected on-duty drug impairment. 

However, a new law may be a while in coming. Although President Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana, he has not pledged support for full legalization. 

Stronger Oversight of Background Check Practices

Employers and background screening companies must comply with Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requirements for employment background checks, and increased enforcement seems likely under the new U.S. president. One of the Biden presidency's early agency appointments was a new head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which enforces the FCRA. 

With the newly-appointed CFPB head, the Biden administration is showing signs it will revive the regulatory power of the agency, which would bring more government oversight and stricter enforcement of FCRA background check rules. As the CFPB steps up enforcement and issues fines similar to those levied during the Obama administration, it will be critical to take a fresh look at your organization’s hiring practices and make sure you have processes in place to maintain compliance with FCRA requirements.

Criminal Justice Reform

Biden referenced criminal justice in his speech marking his first 100 days in office, calling for action “to root out systemic racism in our criminal justice system.” President Biden also supports the passage of the SAFE Justice Act, which would pursue sentencing reform and provide individuals convicted of crimes with more second chances for employment and other opportunities. 

Though criminal justice reform covers many areas of life besides employment, it could directly impact your workplace. For example, a change in how crimes are prosecuted and convicted is likely to impact the criminal history information employers will be allowed to consider in criminal background checks.

Keep Pace with the Latest Hiring Trends 

While all signs point to continued legislative change, there are actions you can take now to keep your hiring practices in line with the latest trends. Working with knowledgeable partners is a great way to stay updated about new developments, such as marijuana legalization, “ban the box” laws, and pay equity legislation. 

A trusted partner can provide guidance to keep your hiring and screening processes in compliance, while also staying aligned with your goals for efficiency and a positive candidate experience. To learn more about the trends you can expect to affect your hiring and screening practices this year, check out our interactive “2021 Trends Infographic.”

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