In his final State of the Union address on January 12, 2016, President Obama cited a number of priority policy issues that have important implications for today's workplace. The address was a reminder to HR, benefits, compensation and payroll professionals that affect the world of work 

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SOTU Heralds Change—Especially for HR

Wed Jan 13, 2016

We live in a time of extraordinary change—change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality.

- President Obama, January 12, 2016 State of the Union Address

One word captured the theme of last night’s eighth State of the Union (SOTU) address of the President of the United States: Change. Especially change as it applies to Human Resources and the world of work. 

President Obama cited a number of priority policy issues that have important implications for today’s workplace:

  • Fixing a broken immigration system;
  • Equal pay for equal work;
  • Paid leave;
  • Raising the minimum wage.

Topping his list of “four big questions” the country must answer was a clear reference to a growing national concern: income inequality and wage stagnation. The President said, “How do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy?”

Of course this issue predates the Obama Administration and has proven particularly intractable. The President offered some answers—including “providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student.” Income inequality no doubt will be high on the agenda of the next president—regardless of party.

To be sure, as the presidential primary season heats up, with Democrats and Republicans already attacking each other’s views, President Obama’s last State of the Union address also sought to set forth policy themes he hopes will frame the 2016 election.

The address was a reminder to HR, benefits, compensation and payroll professionals that public policies that affect the world of work will hold a central place not only in the 2016 election but in the debates that follow in 2017 and beyond.