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Last week, the world watched as U.S. citizens cast their final ballots to elect their president, a choice between incumbent Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. With the unprecedented number of mail-in ballots cast this year, the final tallying continued throughout the week, lengthening the amount of time it usually takes to declare a winner. On 7 November, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were officially declared President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, though President Trump is pursuing legal challenges against the election results.
The Global Workforce Symposium Public Policy Forums took place on 4 and 5 November. Throughout a year unlike any other, the workforce mobility industry and its leaders have stepped up to the task of tackling challenging policy issues. Covering policy topics across real estate, tax, immigration, global developments, compliance, and yes, even the U.S. election, the forums provided a space for industry and policy leaders to discuss top issues affecting workforce mobility this year and beyond.
On 4 November, following a long night of election coverage with largely inconclusive results, Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy Rebecca Peters kicked off the Public Policy discussion with a session of policymakers and policy experts on the U.S. election and its effect on the workforce mobility industry. As the election was moving toward a conclusion, the panel discussed the possibility of how a new Biden-Harris administration and Congressional makeup could alter public policy priorities that mobility professionals will need to be aware of moving into 2021. While we could see a lot of gridlock, should Republicans hold onto the U.S. Senate (something that will be determined in early January 2021), upcoming priorities in the Lame Duck sessions are likely to be a new government funding bill and the possibility of a new COVID economic stimulus package. Depending on final election results, early on we could also see consideration of other items important to workforce mobility employers like COVID liability protection for employers, tax extenders, an employee retention tax credit and the revisiting of visa entry bans.
Following the U.S. Elections Impact conversation was the Global Forum roundtable led by Worldwide ERC® Global Forum Chair Nino Nelissen, with the Executive Mobility Group and Vice Chair Dale Collins, with Graebel. The global issues top of mind for employers, the mobile workforces they manage and organization clients’ as we look ahead to 2021 include how technology is driving and changing mobility, the displacement of talent, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and fall of the EU-US privacy shield on the transfer of personal data. With the privacy shield struck down, the protection of the transfer and retention of data from the EU to the U.S. is top of mind as technology drives change in mobility. The other challenge will continue to be COVID-19 and its displacement of talent, as remote work continues to take center stage.
Completing the first day of the Public Policy discussions was the Tax Forum roundtable led by Worldwide ERC® Tax Forum Chair Craig E. Anderson, with AECC Mobility and Vice Chair Jennifer Stein, with Global Tax Network. As the world of work has had to grapple with unprecedented changes that caused many around the world to shift to remote work, the temporary location tax treatment of employees working from home has been top of mind. In the U.S., the issue varies by state as to work presence (Nexus) and payroll tax withholding with each state to be looked at separately from other states. Grappling with remote work policies will need to take into consideration policies around tracking, benefits, payroll tax and expense reimbursements. The pandemic has also complicated the global taxation of remote workers and transferees as many workers have moved back to their country of citizenship and are not meeting residency requirements of individual countries and are subject to different tax rules. Canada has issued additional T4 reporting requirements due to COVID-19 which, similar the Paycheck Protection Program in the U.S., could provide temporary subsidies for employers. Additionally, it will remain top priority to track U.S. tax changes as a new stimulus package is discussed and we move into a new Biden-Harris administration.
The second and final day of the Public Policy Forums began with the Real Estate & Mortgage roundtable led by Worldwide ERC® Real Estate & Mortgage Forum Chair Jay Hershman, with Baillie & Hershman, P.C. and Vice Chair Patrick McManamy, with McManamy McLeod Heller, LLC. Even as the COVID-19 pandemic took its toll on the U.S. economy and the workers who support it, the real estate market has shown considerable resiliency in the face of unprecedented challenges. The health of real estate continues as the seller’s market was able to shift its strategy to meet the needs of the consumers. Whether through such methods as e-notarization, remote online notarizations (RON), remote ink notarization (RIN), and more, closings were largely able to resume. Currently, 42 states allow the use of e-notarization for real estate transactions. The use of e-mortgage has increased from 0.5% to 4.25% as of June 2020 with the steady increase further fueled by the pandemic. As these methods gain prominence, data security will be of utmost importance to real estate practitioners to protect consumer data in the continued purchasing of mortgages and homes in the U.S. Also, while the number of moves has decreased during the pandemic, interest rates have continued to drop with decreases in home inventory and rising sale prices.
The Public Policy Forums continued with an Immigration Forum roundtable led by Worldwide ERC® Immigration Forum Chair Jurga McCluskey with Deloitte LLP in the U.K. and Vice Chair Azmina Aboobaker, with Facebook. The combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, setbacks from the U.S. administration, and Brexit have all challenged traditional workforce immigration systems. This forum discussed the top issues impacting employers and organizations’ clients as we move into next year including: remote work due to border openings and closings, remote work occurring in a location that is not the main office and visa entry bans’ impact on workforce planning. It also discussed the volatility of immigration public policy and its impact on workforce planning. Top issues identified in the Forum included the travel bans put into place by the Trump Administration on immigrant and non-immigrant visas and entry restrictions put into place by all countries to curb the spread of COVID-19. The Forum also discussed the new regulations on H-1B and certain other visas by the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security and Labor and USCIS to increase the wage level requirements and a new lottery system based on highest prevailing wages.
Finally, the Public Policy Forums concluded with a Regulatory and Compliance Forum roundtable led by Worldwide ERC® Regulatory and Compliance Forum Chair Jeff Margolis, with SIRVA Worldwide, Inc. and Vice Chair George Powdar, with Altair Global. The panel discussed issues identified as top priorities moving into next year including the European Posted Workers Directive and its impact on employees on temporary assignments to the EU; data privacy and protection and the obligation of businesses to protect consumer information; and the placement of global talent. On the European Posted Workers Directive, as of 30 July 2020, employers with employees on temporary assignments in EU countries must adhere to a framework of protections for the workers including minimum salaries and a set of work conditions. The Forum also discussed the growing trend of worker protection laws in areas other than the EU with the rise in use of contractors and whether they should have same rights and benefits as employees. Finally, corporate responsibility especially in regard to a global pandemic is a hot issue as well as the increased expectations and policies for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) around the globe.
If you happened to miss the Public Policy Forums and are registered for our GWS which goes until 20 November, you can watch them in the GWS platform library while the conference is active. We encourage you to also reach out to our Vice President of Member Engagement and Public Policy at email@example.com if you want to get involved in our public policy forums and efforts moving into 2021.
From educational sessions and breakouts to networking and connection among peers, GWS will continue to foster connection and learning across the globe for all sectors of the industry. There’s something for everyone at mobility’s biggest annual gathering, and we encourage you to check out our schedule of events and speakers to get a glimpse of what this year’s GWS has to offer.
If you haven’t already: register now! It’s not too late to sign up to experience this new format with all the elements you’ve come to expect from the Global Workforce Symposium. Join us at the first-ever virtual, month-long Global Workforce Symposium from now until 20 November 2020.
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Mobility is Worldwide ERC®’s monthly magazine, delivering industry and business news and updates, as well as insights on global talent mobility programs, tips and trends.