HR’s Guide to Compliance in 2021: COVID-19, Employment and Beyond

HR-related compliance considerations from COVID-19 regulations to HIPAA concerns

by Elle Mason - February 9, 2021

2020 already brought an influx of COVID-19 compliance updates that HR pros have already adjusted to. But many people are wondering what HR’s role in compliance for 2021 will be. This guide will cover everything from employment law-related compliance to enforcing COVID-19 safety rules and supporting working parents. And GoCo can help you track and manage these compliance requirements through the HRIS  – houses all HR-related documents, data, and tasks in one spot.


Workplace safety and exposure is top of mind for many HR professionals – which is why a number of organizations have planned to continue remote work arrangements through 2021.

But there are still accommodations needed because of COVID-19 – many workers are dealing with the impact on their family, safety, health, and childcare. To this end, paid leave requirements and allowances may be enacted or expanded to continue to make it easy for employees to qualify for FFCRA leave, allow them to support ill family members, and cover more types of leave. 

In 2020, The State of California issued regulations requiring employees to develop a prevention program that includes 11 detailed elements to protect workers. It’s quite possible that other states may adopt similar requirements. 

GoCo can help with COVID-19 leave tracking by helping you manage all EFMLA and EPSL with the click of a button in GoCo’s all-in-one HR platform. You can continue to do so in the new year, regardless of the new law.


 Lawsuits are anticipated to rise around COVID-19 topics – this can include exposure for employees returning to work during the pandemic, EPSL, EFMLA, healthcare changes, immigration changes, and vaccines.

Pay discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, sexual orientation discrimination, and hairstyle discrimination are all areas that have seen recent laws and protections enacted – therefore businesses who haven’t updated their rules, policies and practices to be in compliance should do so.

Given the volume of businesses that are downsizing and restructuring workforces, there may be an increase in suits related to workplace discrimination, harassment, wage, hour and labor law violations. Minimum wage, pay equity, and OSHA workplace safety enforcement are also top of mind, as a number of HR professionals anticipate regulation and oversight change – in fact more than 20 states and 30 cities increased their minimum wages on January 1, 2021, while others scheduled their changes for other times of the year. 

One of the best ways to stay ahead of this is by consulting with the experts. Fortunately,GoCo can help with compliance– the HR support center helps you stay up to date with 2021 legislation and related information, while advisors can give guidance on compliance.

COVID-19 Issues for Health Plans

HR professionals and businesses should review their group health plans and the degree to which they cover testing, treatment and vaccines for COVID-19. They can also expand employee assistance programs, or introduce benefit options such as telehealth. 

HR professionals should also be prepared to review new payment models and plan designs for prescription drug costs.

Transparency Rules for Hospitals

Hospitals must display negotiated charges on their websites as of January 1, 2020 – HR professionals should be prepared to review the final transparency rule, and explore opportunities to contract rates with individual hospitals directly.  

HIPAA Concerns

COVID-19 related healthcare changes may impact privacy concerns for group health plans, while mobile apps and other transparency tools and features may have implications for HIPAA. HR professionals should anticipate and be prepared to respond to updated HIPAA rules in 2021. 


The CARES act now allows additional nonprescription items to be purchased with HRA, HSA, and FSA funds. HR professionals and businesses must ensure administrative practices comply with COVID-19 relief rules – whether they’re optional or required. 

Preventative Services

Businesses and HR professionals must monitor development of COVID-19 preventative services or vaccines as plans must cover these items within 15 days after CDC recommendations. It’s critical to note that non-grandfathered health plans must cover without cost sharing. 

ACA Concerns in 2021 

There have been a number of plan design requirement changes in 2021, including: health flexible spending account (FSA) salary contribution limits, limits on cost-sharing for essential health benefits, and coverage affordability percentages under the employer shared responsibility rules. Additionally, penalty calculation amounts have changes in terms of: maximum penalties for ACA reporting violations and dollar amounts for calculating employer shared responsibility penalties. 

Benefits changes can be challenging to stay on top of – GoCo offers access to certified benefits advisors, and allows you to review benefits offered and make changes. 


The U.S. Equal Employment Commission released updated guidance on December 16, 2020, that addresses COVID-19 vaccinations and federal nondiscrimination laws. HR professionals should be aware that state and local jurisdictions may have laws that address vaccinations or privacy, so legal counsel should be consulted before implementing a vaccination policy.

Whether you’re creating new policies or updating old ones, Magic Docs is a GoCo feature that allows you to make updates to existing documents, and send out new ones to stay compliant for COVID-19. 

See how GoCo can simplify your HR