Practice Area Articles
International Employment Law Map
By Paul Hastings Professional
MAPPING THE TRENDS 2021 – INTRODUCTION/EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
Stay-ahead of the curve with the must-know list of regional key employment law developments
Successfully navigating the complex and dynamic international employment landscape is more challenging than ever in today’s global marketplace. The latest edition of our guide, “Mapping the Trends: The Global Employer Update 2021,” provides updates on the key employment law developments across 81 jurisdictions to help our clients manage their global workforces. After all, local realities impact global strategies.
Top Three Trends to Follow
The Global Pandemic
The pandemic continues to wreak havoc on our daily lives, our working practices and many of our business plans. Last year, our perceptions of normality, predictability and risk were turned on their heads as COVID-19 accelerated disruptive trends. This is an issue flagged by local counsel in each of our jurisdictions. As we look ahead, we see a myriad of employment law and people issues to navigate. Key issues include the phased return to work, the continuation of remote working, physical and mental health, safety and well-being, the roll-out of vaccinations and anticipated government and employer responses, and Covid-related litigation from reductions in force and whistleblowing allegations
Economic Challenges & Recovery
While dealing with the impact of COVID-19 and identifying new paths to growth, employers have been simultaneously grappling with a period of quite unprecedented macroeconomic change. The UK’s transition period with the EU ended on 31 December 2020 and the lasting impact of Brexit is yet to be fully understood. We have also seen mass employment disruption globally and state intervention, a US-China trade war, a US Presidential election, the global impact of the Black Lives Matter movement and the move up the corporate agenda of ESG issues. Looking ahead, governments will be ending or reducing COVID-19 support and putting in place measures to prop up or stimulate economic recovery. This is something particularly mentioned by local counsel in Norway and Saudi Arabia and we will see this in the UK. All of these are likely to impact business and flow down to employers and their workforce in one way or another
The Future of Work
Accelerated by the disruption from COVID-19, it is clear that the future of work & flexible and agile working is a key issue for 2021 and beyond. This impacts where we work from, how we work, what work we do and to some extent who works, including issues around remote working, the integration of digital technology into all areas of the business and HR processes and steps to secure and protect confidential information, IP and data. This is an issue called out by local counsel in Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Kazakhstan, Russia and by us for the UK.
It has been reported that the UK government is considering introducing a right to work from home and has consulted on making it an employer’s default position. The German government is also considering introducing similar legislation and local counsel in Belgium, France, Greece, Kazakhstan and Russia all reference it.
The COVID-19 pandemic has broken down cultural, technological and legal barriers to remote and flexible working. Although we are not out of the crisis just yet, some employers have already announced that there will not be a return to the office. Others, are considering their approach to these arrangements, both in the short and longer term. We are also seeing a growing interest in productivity generally and ‘productivity intelligence’ software that records not just key strokes but also interactions with diaries and emails.
For employers preferring a return to office based work, it will now be more difficult for an employer to refuse any request to work flexibly or remotely. Although an absolute right to work from home in most jurisdictions is unlikely, existing legislation is being amended so this is a dynamic area and there may be more applications, challenges and greater scrutiny of employer decisions. Therefore, we recommend the review of HR and employee policies to ensure that they are fit for purpose and to achieve a consistent outcome to requests across the business based upon tasks and activities.
One issue that has been largely overlooked by many employers in the grip of the crisis is the approach to remote working on a more permanent basis. This throws up a myriad of issues:
- Managing a remote or hybrid workforce
- Maintaining workplace culture
- The rise of technology
- Social justice priorities
- Greater emphasis on well-being
- Attracting and retaining talent requiring flex and without geographical limitations
- Will a gig model be the new normal?
We encourage you to explore our guide to learn more about how the trends above are playing out across the 81 jurisdictions covered in this edition. To discuss any of these updates and how they may impact your company, please contact me or another member of our International Employment practice.
Suzanne Horne, Partner
Kirsty Devine, Associate
Aashna Parekh, Associate
With special thanks to the many local counsel for their invaluable contributions to this survey.