Workplace violence, marijuana use, and leave laws are among the most difficult challenges facing employers in 2019, says a new XpertHR survey of over 800 HR professionals.

The survey found that 45% of respondents viewed preparing for and responding to an active shooter or workplace violence incident as very or extremely challenging.

"The best way to address a threat of workplace violence is to actively prepare employees and supervisors," said XpertHR Legal Editor Beth Zoller in a statement.

"Put policies in place for visitor safety, workplace violence prevention, and domestic violence and ban weapons from the workplace to the extent permissible by state law."

(Employers in Connecticut have the authority to restrict or prohibit employees from carrying weapons on the job or bringing weapons to the workplace even if the worker has a state permit to carry a gun.)

Employers should also conduct a safety and security audit to identify and correct gaps in workplace safety and security, background check applicants, look out for any red flags indicating potentially violent behaviors, and create a zero-tolerance workplace violence prevention program.

Marijuana Laws & Use

Another challenging issue employers face is dealing with increasing marijuana use.

Medical marijuana is legal in approximately 30 states, and recreational marijuana use is now legal in over 10 states including the District of Columbia.

Despite state laws, marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I controlled substance and is illegal under federal law.

The survey confirmed employer frustrations in addressing marijuana use among workers and attempting to maintain a safe and drug free workplace.

Forty-one percent of respondents find managing the conflict between federal and state marijuana laws a challenge, and 34% are challenged by maintaining a drug free workplace in light of changing laws.

Cybersecurity

The survey also found that employee privacy and protecting confidential data in the workplace are critical issues for 2019.

Respondents are challenged by preventing cyber breaches and data security (51%), managing mobile devices/wearable technology and the internet of things (41%), managing the use of technology and social media while at work (39%), and protecting employee information from data breach (31%).

Employee Leave

Another complex HR challenge facing employers is the expansion of federal, state, and local leave laws.

Forty-seven percent of respondents were challenged by tracking and complying with rapidly changing leave laws across states while 46% were challenged by tracking and complying with local leave laws.

Administering paid sick leave and paid family leave is particularly problematic.
Forty-three percent have difficulty handling the administrative burden of managing leave, and 41% viewed determining what federal, state, and local leave law requirements apply to specific employee situations as challenging.

Administering paid sick leave and paid family leave is particularly problematic.

Handbook Headaches

The survey confirmed that employee handbooks are a top challenge for employers, especially for multistate and multijurisdictional employers given rapidly changing and often conflicting federal, state, and local laws regarding harassment, accommodations, pay equity, leave, drug testing, and weapons.

Handbook challenges include ensuring handbooks are read and understood by employees (50%), keeping handbooks current with new laws and trends (47%), managing employee handbooks as a multistate employer (46%), and incorporating local requirements into employee handbooks (38%).

Workforce Issues

Workforce planning is another issue keeping employers up at night.

Sixty-four percent of respondents reported difficulty in finding high quality applicants.

Ensuring employees and supervisors have the necessary skill sets is a challenge for 52%; creating a succession plan poses a challenge to 50% of respondents; and increasing employee engagement, morale, and satisfaction is a challenge for 49%.

"Our survey found that HR professionals are struggling to find balance in all areas and felt overburdened by numerous and often confusing regulations while attempting to meet organizational and employee needs," said Zoller.


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