Preparing for Employment Law Changes

Last fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed California’s paid sick leave bill into law. The law will guarantee paid sick leave for many employees who previously had no such benefit. While this law is great in theory, it has proven to be quite challenging for employers when it comes to implementation. Unfortunately, a lot of laws that are well intentioned can become headaches for employers. This is why it is important to have a plan in place whenever preparing for new or updated employment laws.

Do Your Homework

Start with the text of the law itself. I always like to read the law before checking out sources that provide interpretation and suggestions. Print out a copy and take out a pen and highlighter. Mark up the text, write out questions and underline important parts. With easy-to-understand laws, this may be all you need; however, if you are in a state like California, you will probably need to do a whole lot more to educate yourself on the new law.

Often state websites will have FAQ pages with details about the law. For example, California’s Department of Industrial Relations has a page dedicated to the new sick leave law. Attorneys are also a good source for help in interpreting the law. Many law firms will post articles on their websites and may also offer low-cost or free seminars or webinars on the topic. Try to find an option that allows you to ask questions. Annual labor law updates are also a good way to review new laws.

Develop an Implementation Plan

It’s time to consider how to execute the new law in your workplace after you’ve done your research and homework on it. Examine your current policy and decide what modifications are necessary to make it compliant with the new law’s criteria.

Update the current policy in your handbook or add a new one. Certain options or different ways to comply with the law are sometimes permitted by the law. Consider how the legislation fits into the culture of your business and make changes if necessary.

Have several employees read the policy before you finalize it. Do not just rely on your HR colleagues to review drafts of the policy. Often those of us in HR spend so much time reading employment law and policy that we do not always see the areas that may be confusing to the average employees. This is why it is a good idea to get input from the people who will have to abide by the policy before finalizing it.

Determine how to inform staff of your new policy once it is in place. It can be sufficient to send out an email with the new policy if the changes are small. Consider scheduling a meeting to go over the policy and answer any questions if it is more involved, like in the case of California’s paid sick leave statute. You might wish to examine the policy with managers in larger organizations, and then have them instruct their teams.

Know When to Get Help

Sometimes, even after reading, researching, attending seminars, and attempting to figure out the specifics of a new law with your team, you are still unsure of how the new law will affect your place of employment. It might be appropriate at this point to contact your go-to lawyer or HR specialist.

If you already work with a lawyer or consultant, they might be able to send you some materials. Start with the speakers from the seminars you attended on the subject or the writers of publications about the new law if you don’t already know anyone. The peace of mind that comes with spending a little money to make sure your upgrades are going in the right direction can be priceless.

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Stephanie Hammerwold

Stephanie Hammerwold, is the founder and director of Pacific Reentry Career Services, a Southern California nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated women find and maintain employment. She also blogs on a variety of HR topics as the HR Hammer. When not volunteering for her nonprofit, Stephanie has a day job in HR at a tech startup in Irvine, CA.

Reader Interactions


  1. Jake White says

    I am studying law right now, and I thought this was a good article and very relevant. I liked the suggestions under the section about doing your homework. I usually do all my reading about law digitally, but maybe it would benefit me to start printing stuff off to be able to highlight things and make notes to myself. I will start doing that as I study, so thanks for helping me out!

  2. Veronica Marks says

    I really like the tip to know when to get help. I’ve worked for companies where the HR manager tried to just “wing it” with things like this. It was awful for everyone! Based on that experience, I definitely will be getting help from an attorney for implementing new laws in our business. Thanks!

  3. Drew says

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Employment Law Changes. It will help everyone to get the legal procedure for employment law. Waiting for your new blog…


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