How to Stay Up-to-Date on Changing Employment Laws and Regulations

Reader Asks About Researching Laws and Regulations

Staying up-to-date on ever changing employment laws is a challenge even when you have a great team to help you.
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A reader asked an excellent question. She wanted to know how Human Resources practitioners kept up-to-date on Federal and state policy issues that affect Human Resources. Laws and policies are ever-changing and they vary from state to state and in various world-wide countries. The variation is even greater if you serve an international team because you have employees in more than one country.

For example, healthcare, labor and employment laws, retirement, injury and worker’s compensation, unemployment, paid time off, and other laws and regulations that affect employment all deserve constant attention. She asked if a database or some other resource existed that will help HR practitioners keep track of state, Federal, and international HR-related policies?

The Bad News About Keeping Up With State, Federal, Local, and International HR Resources

Lacking a single source to recommend for keeping up-to-date with the US and worldwide employment laws and regulations, most HR managers have cobbled together a number of ways to keep track of changing laws and policies.

Most people who work in HR have created a similar list. It's not the best, but it does help keep HR managers up-to-date on the laws and regulations. This is increasingly important in this litigious world in the US. Worldwide is perhaps better but you still want to follow the law.

Employment law questions are part of the workday, pretty much every day, when you work in HR. It seems that every employee's situation is an exception so you struggle to treat employees fairly and with a consistent approach. You want to make wise decisions for the business but you want to look out for the interests of employees as well.

You know that you are setting precedents for other employees every time that you make a decision so you must take that into consideration, too. All of this thinking and decision making is in addition to knowing and understanding existing case law and court decisions. It also recognizes the friction that can exist between the interests of the employees and the interests of the organization.

Resources for Staying Up-to-Date in HR

  • Subscribe to the Society for Human Resource Management's legislative updates. To receive them, you definitely need to become a member. They have other useful newsletters and tools and access to the website is important for staying abreast of changing laws and regulations. They offer a lot of free content, but the most important articles and policy samples reside behind a paid-only firewall.
  • The most important way that many companies are kept up-to-date, though, is to have an employment law attorney on a contract and their office sends legislative updates for anything going on in your state or at the Federal level. For example, recently, substantial guides to the Affordable Care Act changes have been a priority. Hire an attorney who takes time to know you, who understands your company culture and the goals that you have with your employees.
  • Subscribe to email updates from the Department of Labor and subscribe to email updates from your state Department of Labor (or its equivalent), too. Every state has an equivalent organization that deals with employment law and rules and regulations for the specific state. You can find links to the state offices at the DOL website. Many countries have an office dedicated to employment as well. All of their organization names vary but they all help you stay in the know.
  • Public sector employment: no opportunity exists that will let you check all states' regulations at one location. People with a specific state or country question need to contact their equivalent of a department of labor. Readers have also found State and Local Government on the Net which provides some links to topics, useful.
  • The best resource found in the private sector is BLR-HR. If you visit their site, you can search various employment topics by the state in which your employees are located. It is a premium subscription site for much of its information, but it does provide a lot of information at no cost.
  • If you have employees in several states, subscribing to their premium site may also be an option. An annual subscription is pricey, but you can use their free trial period to assess whether their content will meet your needs. 
  • It's impossible to keep up with all the laws that have an impact on this site's worldwide audience without the assistance of the above resources.

To emphasize the most important source of information, one more time: find a professional, knowledgeable attorney and make him or her a part of your HR team. Provide the time necessary for the attorney to understand your approach to employees and your company culture. You'll be happy that you did.

Additional Sites to Consider for Employment Law

These sites offer information at no cost.