Here’s what HR professionals might expect from the new session of Congress

SHRM is eyeing updates to three pieces of workplace legislation.
article cover

Douglas Rissing/Getty Images

· 4 min read

New year, new Congress. Lawmakers are declaring their new session resolutions, and HR Brew is watching for how they could affect the people profession in 2023.

Emily Dickens, chief of staff and head of public affairs at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), told HR Brew that the organization is eyeing three pieces of workplace legislation: the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and Immigration Act of 1990.

“We think those are three key pieces of legislation that need to be modernized so that the workforce can benefit,” Dickens said.

As for lawmakers, the agendas of the newly ascended chairs of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor, Education, and Pensions (HELP), Sen. Bernie Sanders, and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Rep. Virginia Foxx, might offer some insight into what Congress is planning to prioritize.

Workforce development and the skills gap. Lawmakers got started quickly last month to address workforce development, eyeing a path to equip more workers with job-ready skills as recruiting challenges persist for many in HR.

The House passed the bipartisan Chance to Compete Act, which updates the federal hiring system to include skills-based assessments. Republicans also introduced a bill that would expand access to PELL Grants to workforce development education programs.

“We must close our nation’s skills gap and prepare the next generation of workers for our evolving economy,” Foxx said during the House committee’s organization meeting. “Workers are the backbone of our economy. Republicans are committed to ensuring all workers and job creators are given the chance to succeed.”

Dickens said she’s hopeful for bipartisan efforts on workforce development, noting that it seems to be a priority of both Democrats and Republicans.

“We don’t solve the problems we have with our economy without figuring out how to acquire, train, [and] retain the talent that we need as our businesses are evolving in this country,” she said.

Unions and labor. Meanwhile, in the Senate, long-time union and worker advocate Sanders is promising to take action in support of unionizing efforts across the country.

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.

“At Starbucks, Amazon, nurses at hospitals, workers in factories, young people on college campuses, they are organizing unions, in order to receive better wages and working conditions,” Sanders said in a video address last month. “But what’s going on in America today is that these efforts…are being vigorously resisted by fierce and illegal anti-union actions from corporate America: from Starbucks, from Amazon, and from many other powerful entities.”

On Wednesday, Sanders requested Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz testify before the committee for a hearing on its compliance with labor law. Starbucks spokesman Andrew Trull said in a statement that the company would continue to “offer clarifying information in reference to these issues.”

Childcare. Sanders also said the HELP committee would address a “wildly dysfunctional childcare system,” saying that finding and affording childcare is a “major issue” for parents (and the people working to support and retain their employees).

“You don’t have enough people who are working in that industry. It’s hard to keep talent and many are underpaid,” Dickens said, adding that she hopes lawmakers address all caretakers: those of children, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

Immigration. Dickens said she also sees possible movement to immigration reform as it relates to workers. Changes to immigration policy could help employers to meet workforce needs, alleviating challenges talent acquisition professionals face recruiting from a limited talent pool.

“We know that there is a longing for an overhaul of our whole immigration system, but I think now with all the pressure on making sure…we have the bodies we need to meet demand in this country, and the fact that we just can’t seem to get more people in the workforce…there’s a recognition on both sides of the aisle that we need to address the workforce issues related to immigration.”

Then again, any of these new lawmaking priorities and aspirations (especially in a divided government) could end up like those New Year’s resolutions you made last month: big talk in January, followed by a noticeably quieter lack of achievement.—AD

Quick-to-read HR news & insights

From recruiting and retention to company culture and the latest in HR tech, HR Brew delivers up-to-date industry news and tips to help HR pros stay nimble in today’s fast-changing business environment.