Human Resources

The Washington Report

February 3, 2021

Note to subscribers: Due to the current environment, information is changing at a rapid rate. While we do our best to provide timely updates, it is possible that the information shared in the newsletter may change or be revised after our publication deadline. Stay healthy and safe! ~The Washington Report team



HHS Announces Marketplace SEP Due to COVID-19
In accordance with the Executive Order issued by President Biden (Executive Order on Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), announced on January 28, 2021, a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) for individuals and families for Marketplace coverage in response to COVID-19. The SEP will allow individuals and families in states with Marketplaces served by the platform to enroll in 2021 health insurance coverage. Beginning February 15, 2021, and through May 15, 2021, these Marketplaces will operationalize functionality to make this SEP available to all Marketplace-eligible consumers who are submitting a new application or updating an existing application. (State-based Marketplaces operating their own platform have the opportunity to take similar action within their states.)

According to HHS, the SEP will be offered to consumers applying for new coverage or updating an existing application through, the Marketplace call center, or through direct enrollment channels. Coverage is prospective, with coverage beginning the first day of the month following the date of plan selection.

A news release is available here.

Additional information about the Health Insurance Marketplace is available here.

A CMS Fact Sheet is available here.

The Executive Order on “Strengthening Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act” is available here.

Other HR/Employment


DOL Announces End of Payroll Audit Independent Determination Program
On January 29, 2021, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced the immediate end of its Payroll Audit Independent Determination program launched by the DOL’s Wage and Hour Division in 2018. The program allowed employers to self-report federal minimum wage and overtime violations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to avoid litigation, penalties or damages, and prohibited affected workers from taking any private action on the identified violations. For more information about the program termination and the FLSA, please refer to the news release.

(Please note that some government websites are experiencing technological issues due to increased traffic. Readers may have to cut and paste the link below to access the information.)

The news release is available here:

DOL Issues Stronger COVID-19 Workplace Guidance
On January 29, 2021, the DOL announced that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued stronger worker safety guidance to help employers and workers implement a COVID-19 prevention program and better identify risks which could lead to exposure and contraction. President Biden recently directed OSHA to release clear guidance for employers to help keep workers safe from COVID-19 exposure.

“Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” provides updated guidance and recommendations, and outlines existing safety and health standards. OSHA is providing the recommendations to assist employers in providing a safe and healthful workplace. The guidance recommends several essential elements in a prevention program:

  • Conduct a hazard assessment.
  • Identify control measures to limit the spread of the virus.
  • Adopt policies for employee absences that don’t punish workers as a way to encourage potentially infected workers to remain home.
  • Ensure that COVID-19 policies and procedures are communicated to both English and non-English speaking workers.
  • Implement protections from retaliation for workers who raise COVID-19-related concerns.

(Please note that some government websites are experiencing technological issues due to increased traffic. Readers may have to cut and paste the link below to access the information.)

The news release is available here:

“Protecting Workers: Guidance on Mitigating and Preventing the Spread of COVID-19 in the Workplace” is available here:

IRS Updates FAQs on Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits Under FFCRA
On January 28, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) posted updated Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about recent legislation that extended and amended tax relief to certain small- and mid-sized employers under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The FAQs are available at “COVID-19-Related Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave Provided by Small and Midsize Businesses FAQs.”

The updates to the FAQs cover how the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted December 27, 2020, extends the availability of the tax credits created by the FFCRA to eligible employers for paid sick and family leave provided through March 31, 2021, as well as other amendments to the credits. The paid sick and family leave credits, which previously were available only until the end of 2020, have been extended for periods of leave taken through March 31, 2021. (To find the updated FAQs, click on each of the topic links listed on the webpage. Each link directs the user to a subset of the FAQs. The latest FAQs are marked as “Updated January 28, 2021.”)

The news release is available here.

The FAQs are available here.

Aon Publications


Aon Publications on Federal Developments in 2020
In a year uniquely disrupted by the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), Aon tracked the pandemic’s growing impact on employers and provided insights into how new legislation, major court rulings, and regulatory developments in 2020 affected employer-provided health and retirement plans and human resource policies and practices. Aon bulletins highlighted issues for employers arising out of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and provided analysis of developments (both COVID-19-related and non-COVID-19-related) affecting multiple employer retirement plans, cafeteria plans, leaves of absence, employer COVID-19 vaccination programs, filing deadline extensions, retirement plan fiduciary protections, prescription drug pricing, transgender employment protections, high-deductible health plans, and many other topics.

The Aon bulletin, which gathers together 2020 U.S. Aon bulletins with direct links to the publications, is available here.

Frozen! Biden Administration Imposes Regulatory Freeze, Ices Wellness Regs and IC-HRA Rules
As is common when there is a change in administrations, the Biden Administration imposed a regulatory freeze on all regulations and guidance recently released by its predecessor. This regulatory freeze will affect proposed and final regulations, such as the proposed wellness regulations announced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the final regulations addressing Individual Coverage Health Reimbursement Arrangements (IC-HRAs) and the employer mandate.

The Aon bulletin on the regulatory freeze is available here.

Now Available: Retirement Legal Consulting & Compliance Quarterly Update
The Retirement Legal Consulting & Compliance practice is pleased to present its Quarterly Update of recent legal developments for the first quarter of 2021. In this issue you will find the following articles:

  • Pooled Employer Plans Are Here!
  • New IRS Guidance on Missing Participants With a Snapshot Reminder
  • What’s Safe for SECURE Act Safe Harbor Changes
  • Final DOL Regulations on ESG Investment Issues
  • Proxy Voting and Shareholder Rights—Final Fiduciary Rules
  • Avoid Pitfalls—Ensure Regulatory Compliance
  • Case Highlights Challenges in Recovery of Overpayments
  • Final Plan Loan Rollover Regulations Provide Expected Relief
  • Tax-Free Employer Payment of Student Loans Extended Until 2026
  • Remote Notarization and Electronic Submissions Becoming a New Normal
  • Quarterly Roundup of Other New Developments

The first quarter 2021 issue of the Retirement Legal Consulting & Compliance Aon Quarterly Update is available here.

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