PFL In Person: HR Professionals and Business Owners Prepare for Paid Family Leave
September 12, 2017
Paid Family Leave (PFL) will be here before you know it, and at ShelterPoint, we are working hard to provide small business owners and HR professionals on the front lines with the resources and guidance they need for navigating this new law and regulations.
PFL can provide benefits for employees by facilitating partially paid, protected time off for qualifying events like childbirth or caring for an ill family member. Whether it’s a mom taking time with a new baby, parents bonding with a child after adoption, or a family adjusting to a loved one in active military duty, PFL aims to help families of all kinds balance work and life with a little more peace of mind. Applying these benefits in the real word, however, presents some upfront costs and labor for businesses when it comes to preparing for — and living with — PFL compliance.
To help others understand how the process has been going so far, for our next "PFL in Person" we spoke to two representatives at the forefront of the implementation of these new regulations: an HR Director at a real estate firm and a small business owner in New York. Here is what they had to say.
Samantha is Director of Human Resources for a private real estate business employing just over 200 people in New York. She oversees all things staffing-related — from training and recruiting to payroll and benefits. Along with four team members to help her, she keeps her organization running smoothly. When PFL goes live in a matter of months, she’ll be responsible for getting her organization current and compliant with the new legislation.
Steve is the co-owner and Vice President of a local tennis center. With under 20 employees, his facility has a true small business feel. It’s Steve’s job to make sure the club succeeds — from keeping guests happy to managing the day-to-day operations of the club. He helps coordinate programming for adult and junior athletes, oversees summer camps, and works with staff and coaches to bring the best possible tennis experience to their guests.
A Complicated Landscape
Like most employee benefit programs, PFL will come to market with challenges and benefits. Employers like Samantha and Steve are currently working on preparing for the coming stresses, as well as looking for the benefits for their employees and their businesses at-large.
Leading an HR team comes with a major amount of coordination, planning, and attention to detail. No stranger to this, Samantha’s 12 years of human resource experience provide her with perspective on how complicated integrating new legislation, like PFL, can be.
She’s managed her share of FMLA and short-term disability (DBL) claims for her company, and both regularly cause challenges in tracking and administration — even an established program like FMLA, which has been law for more than 20 years, can be challenging to maintain. Due to Samantha’s familiarity with what comes from managing such programs, she is hyper-aware of the challenges that can accompany PFL and is currently spending time building her knowledge of the structure of PFL to develop procedures and processes that will make implementation as seamless as possible. Her attention is focused on mitigating as much risk as possible for her organization.
“If we’re still facing these challenges with something that’s been around for 20 years, something new is bound to cause a lot of stress.”
Steve, on the other hand, has less current regulation experience to draw from in this area, since he has to juggle all aspects of running a small business and can't soley focus on HR and benefit related areas. Hearing about PFL has piqued his interest, since he sees it as another valuable benefit for his staff. Steve’s focus on creating an environment that supports his employees — so that he has a healthy and strong workforce — makes this program even more appealing to him. Steve’s attention is focused on leveraging PFL and similar programs to allow him to build an employee-base that sets his business apart.
“There’s no question in my mind that it (PFL) will create an environment that will benefit employees and the business as a whole.”
Samantha’s Expectations for PFL
Samantha’s experience with other similar benefits tells her PFL will come with its own set of challenges, both for human resources and the business overall. She anticipates it will add costs for her company, as they already manage both administrative and legal fees related to FMLA. In addition, she expects added resource costs associated with using temporary staffing, preparing new materials and tracking systems, and overall adjusting the business to be fully PFL-compliant.
She worries about her employees’ reaction to PFL. In general, the workforce at her organization is more mature, and generally more likely to be thinking about retirement than expanding their families. Helping her team understand and appreciate how PFL could help them in the future (by caring for an ill family member, for example) is a task she is approaching both delicately and deliberately.
Samantha also expects PFL will complicate administrative duties, and she’s prepared for the official launch to be chaotic. Since employees will be responsible for filing their own PFL claims, she anticipates that could be one of the biggest pain-points for her organization, and is working on developing ways to educate her team so that they are better prepared.
“It seems crazy to think people are going to do that reliably or correctly without a lot of guidance.”
Steve’s Expectations for PFL
The nature of coaching tennis is very personal, and it made sense to Steve to translate that mentality into how the club interacts with its staff. Before Steve began managing the club, it was struggling to keep its doors open. Now they are growing the business year over year. Steve and his colleagues made a bet that if they focused on taking great care of the pros, the pros would take better care of their clients, which would build the business. And they were right. With a happy team providing great service to guests — as well as a few capital investments to the facility — the club continues to grow, attracting more and more members every week.
PFL will provide another way for him to really take care of his employees, even if it means some challenges getting started. And there are plenty of questions and uncertainties on the horizon, especially when it comes to new regulations. One of the biggest PFL challenges for the club would be filling in for team members while on leave. Since the pros form unique bonds with guests that aren’t easily transferred, Steve has pretty realistic expectations that there could be issues implementing PFL, but is working with his team to develop plans that will lessen some of the pains.
“Staffing will be a huge challenge.”
The Countdown to PFL
Getting ready for changes to benefit updates such as PFL requires a great deal of education and preparation.
After hearing about PFL in early April, Samantha began learning as much about it as possible. Digging into all the available details, she even appeared on a PFL panel for small businesses. After researching PFL, the next step she took was contacting her current DBL provider since PFL will be wrapped into existing DBL plans as a rider. When she contacted her provider requesting information, she got a worrisome answer:
“They were clueless. So I thought I better start looking into this since they don’t know anything about it.”
Not exactly bolstered by her DBL carrier’s reaction, she turned to resources like the New York State Business Council, and the Worker’s Compensation Board to find a continuous lack of information. Other resources, like ShelterPoint, proved to be more proactive and informed about PFL and helped provide some details and guidance.
“ShelterPoint is definitely the key place I’ve gone since the beginning of this.”
After gathering as much information as she could, Samantha called her payroll provider to find that they were already set up to start taking deductions by the July 1, 2017, deadline. A pleasant surprise, having her payroll system in place was at least one thing off her mind at a time when her to-do list seemed to be growing exponentially.
She also started building relationships with recruiting firms, so that when team members do start taking time off she’ll already have contacts lined up to help her fill those staffing gaps.
Though Steve just recently learned about PFL, he plans to expand his knowledge of it quickly. He’s also planning keeping track of all the changes to ensure that he will be fully compliant when PFL rolls out.
Samantha and Steve’s Advice For Other Small Businesses
When asked what advice she could provide to other HR professionals tackling the PFL challenge, Samantha stated that the key is to start preparing for PFL now, while there’s still some time before the end of the year. It can be easy to put if off, but it’s important to realize it’s not the type of thing you can deal with effectively at the last minute — especially if you want your business to avoid potential fines for non-compliance. Digging in and learning as much as you can, just as she did, is a great starting point.
Steve also advises learning as much as possible about PFL, as well as keeping lines of communication open with staff and other peers. With so many changes coming for businesses of all kinds, having the ear of a trusted friend or colleague can go a long way in helping stay ahead of the curve. In addition, try to keep in mind the benefits to employees as a way to stay motivated as you work through any upcoming struggles with implementation.
For additional steps you can take now, we recommend following Samantha’s lead by calling payroll providers, staffing agencies, and insurance providers to see where you stand. It’s our goal to help you access the resources you need to stay in compliance — find more information to help your business prepare for PFL, or send us your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal counsel. Please consult with an appropriate professional for legal and compliance advice. Any PFL information is as of the blog post’s date stamp; it is based on the applicable statutes and regulation, and may change as regulations evolve or NY State issues guidance regarding Paid Family Leave regulations. Got more questions? Email us at email@example.com