The $ 1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was passed by Congress this March to deliver direct relief to Americans in need. The plan, which incorporates benefits like additional stimulus payments and extended unemployment insurance has provided much needed relief to those who have been directly affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, these sweeping new changes have created unique challenges employers will now need to navigate. Here’s what you need to know.

what’s changing

The biggest features of the plan that employers need to be aware of are:

  • extended unemployment

In addition to the $1,400 per-person checks issued to households across America, federal unemployment assistance has also been extended through September 6, 2021. This extension will provide workers with $300 per week and a $100 continuation for Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation in addition to benefits received under PUA, PEUC or regular state unemployment benefits. Further, the first $10,200 of unemployment benefits will be tax-free for people making less than $150,000.

  • child tax credit expansion

The expanded Child Tax Credit covers children up to 17 years of age and is fully refundable. Eligible families claiming the credit can expect to receive up to $3,000 per child between the ages of six and 17 (up from the previous $2,000 allotted) and $3,600 for children under six. Half of the credit will be distributed in advanced monthly payments between July and December 2021, with the remaining half being included in a family’s taxes.

  • voluntary paid sick and family leave

The plan provides tax credits to eligible employers that provide paid sick and family leave to employees for pandemic-related absences through September 30, 2021.

  • changes to COBRA eligibility and premiums

Health insurance premiums have been lowered or eliminated altogether for low- and mid-income families, and a fully covered federal COBRA subsidy is available through September 1, 2021.

how it’s impacting the workplace

With these changes in full swing, we’re seeing challenges emerge for employers.

  • fewer candidates to choose from

With more workers able to sustain themselves on stimulus payments and extended unemployment, the talent pool is shrinking. Employers are struggling to find and retain talent with generous options available by way of expanded benefits. Between the costs of operating with vacancies and the loss in productivity from an understaffed workforce, employers are starting to see these changes impact their bottom lines.

  • Lack of women in the workforce

Further complicating matters is the widespread exodus of women from the workforce, with more women than men losing their jobs during the pandemic. Between shouldering the burden of childcare in wake of school closures to an increased susceptibility to layoffs — 22 percent of women, for instance, said they had a job where they could telecommute, compared to 28 percent of men — the pandemic has presented a tough road for women at work. One year later, and employers are still struggling to bring them back.

  • safety is still a concern

Despite widespread vaccination efforts, many workers are still hesitant to return to the workplace over questions of safety. In fact, 31 percent of employees said they would not be comfortable returning at all.

Now more than ever, employers must work hard to ensure they’re creating safe and compliant work environments. However, despite their best efforts, it may take some time for sentiment to change: A majority of employees don’t believe their companies will be able to adequately protect them, and 61 percent fear they’ll relax COVID-19 restrictions too soon. Fighting this perception must be top of mind for all leaders looking to attract talent this year.

what employers can do

Overcoming these employment challenges will require a new approach. First, make sure you’re offering competitive wages. Depending on your local market and the roles you’re looking to fill, you may need to go over and get a little creative. Alternative payment models like same-day pay or providing signing bonuses and retention incentives could help you get the talent you need to solidify your workforce in a pinch.

With external talent hard to come by, engage your existing workforce to help you fill critical skill gaps. Review job requirements to identify the areas where you feel you’re lacking then provide training, upskilling and reskilling opportunities to employees. Today’s workers are hungry for new learning opportunities, and offering enhanced training could help you increase retention at the same time. In some cases, you may even be able to change the job’s requirements and increase your talent profile options as a result.

Another perk that would be wise to consider is flexible scheduling. We’ve all witnessed the massive impact that remote work has had on the workplace last year, and many workers are now looking for increased forms of flexibility in their roles. From remote work to hybrid environments, four-day work weeks to split shifts, part-time opportunities to weekend options — a flexible work environment will open up your talent pool to new candidates such as women who have exited the workplace due to competing priorities at home, retirees, college students and even senior high school students for some roles.

get in touch

Navigating these changes may not be easy, but you don’t have to go it alone. Get in touch with the experts at Randstad to see all the ways we can offer support.