A new year brings new issues for employers to contend with. Some challenges are similar to previous years (overtime uncertainty), while others are more unique and complicated (legal marijuana and employment). Staying tuned in to these four trends can keep you ahead of the game in 2019.

Here are some of the top trends to watch in the coming months.

Opioids, Marijuana and the Workplace

Opioids have been concerning employers for the last few years, and quietly ravaging the country for even longer. In 2017, the opioid crisis was declared a national emergency due to tens of thousands dying each year from prescription painkillers. Many of these tragedies started with a legal prescription after a common medical procedure.

Beyond their deadly risks, opioids also cause absenteeism and performance issues in the workplace. Opioids are difficult to detect in a drug test and even harder to perceive without one. Knowing this, it’s critical to modernize your drug policy to address opioids and offer resources for alternative pain management strategies.

Legal marijuana is also complicating drug policies. Similar to opioids, marijuana is increasingly difficult to detect, with the growing popularity of oils and edibles. Moreover, the drug is legal for medical use in 30 states, making testing legally tricky.

You may find it easiest to adjust your drug policy to focus on workplace performance. For instance, clearly prohibiting impairment at work or the promotion of drug use through paraphernalia. Adopting a zero-tolerance policy may backfire with state laws, so be sure to have legal counsel review your policy before enforcing it.

Leave-related Issues

According to a recent XpertHR survey, 47 percent of employers were very challenged by state leave laws and 43 percent found it extremely difficult administrating employee leave in general.

Multistate businesses must contend with different state laws, but even smaller employers can find themselves juggling laws between localities. Without proper guidance, handling common requests like family leave, sick time and reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act can be a nightmare.

The first thing employers must do is determine which leave laws apply to them, remembering that certain localities might have different rules. Other aspects, like which leaves can be used concurrently and proper leave documentation should come next. And, of course, proper employee communication is a must; not just putting policies in a handbook, but also notifying employees and reminding them of the policies and procedures surrounding leave.

Wage and Hour Concerns

Hire more workers or pay overtime? That’s the question growing businesses must ask themselves. With overtime changes looming in the first quarter of 2019, you may think it’s easier to hire more workers at lower salaries. But, depending on your situation, that may not be true.

Many states have changed their minimum wages in 2019. What’s more, the majority of those rates are already higher than the federal minimum. If you’re considering hiring more workers, check to make sure you know how much you’ll have to pay them in your state. The same goes for federal contractors.

As for salaried employees, it looks like we won’t know anything about the overtime rule until at least March 2019. This leaves the current overtime threshold at $23,660. Experts expect that number to increase to between $32,000 and $35,000—far lower than the $47,476 rate initially proposed in 2016. This means you should keep watching for regulatory updates in the coming months.

Training Employees

If you have a new task that requires new skills, should you hire a new employee for that job? The current trend says no—you upskill current workers. Upskilling is the process of training current employees in new skills and responsibilities. Offering additional training to employees is a win-win for the organization and employees. The organization benefits from the increased knowledge and skills and employees feel more fulfilled and engaged in their work.

Each year brings about new changes in the landscape for employers. Watch these emerging trends and reach out to Helpside with any questions you may have.