At both the state and federal level, the PA Chamber expressed support for a number of labor and employment bills last week.
H.B. 1837 – which unanimously passed the House – would make permanent a reform implemented during the pandemic that ends the requirement of two witness signatures or a notarized signature on a workers’ compensation Compromise and Release Agreement if the claimant submits a sworn statement acknowledging their understanding.
In a memo to the House, the PA Chamber promoted the bill as “another example of modest regulatory reform provided temporarily during the pandemic that has proven beneficial and should be made permanent.”
At the federal level, the PA Chamber signed a coalition letter voicing opposition to a provision in the federal budget reconciliation bill that is currently being debated, which authorizes funding for the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs for monitoring of state workers’ compensation programs. The coalition letter noted that the federal office is not responsible for oversight of these state level offices, which were established more than 100 years ago independently from federal programs and are already monitored by an array of state-level regulatory agencies.
“This provision is a significant policy change for the federal Office of Workers’ Compensation programs,” the letter states. “The amount of funding for new monitoring responsibilities is not specified and the new monitoring responsibility would increase the federal deficit in years after the ten-year budget period.”
In a memo last week, the PA Chamber urged House lawmakers to support unemployment compensation reform legislation.
House Bill 1819, which passed the House with broad support and now awaits consideration in the Senate, clarifies UC eligibility in response to feedback from employers who report job applicants skipping job interviews or otherwise failing to put forth a good faith effort to obtain employment. “This misuse of the program is unfair to both employers and legitimate UC claimants and we support this legislation to codify existing Department of Labor & Industry guidance denying eligibility for those not legitimately seeking work,” the memo stated.
The PA Chamber also voiced support last week for H.B. 764, which would provide parity among employers related to provisional hiring periods.
As noted in a memo to lawmakers on the Senate Health and Human Services Committee prior to their consideration of the bill, employers with positions that require background checks had historically allowed new employers to be brought on under a 90-day provisional period while clearances were finalized.
Last session, a new law eliminated this option with the exception of childcare centers (where the provisional period was reduced to 45 days.) By providing the same 45-day provisional hiring period to more industries, H.B. 764 will help address existing workforce challenges. The bill – which passed the House in June – now awaits further consideration by the full Senate.