Legislative trends shaping workforce management – and what this means for (HR) leaders.

Labour law developments continue to shift as a result of the pandemic and will continue to affect many aspects of workplace practices, such as workers’ mandatory vaccination, hybrid and remote work, travel restrictions as well as a focus on ensuring access to the labour market, importantly for underserved workers. We thus expect a more diverse range of employment legislation to come into effect for more sustainable employment practices.

Labour market interventions

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the world of work and employment markets have undergone significant changes. Trade tensions, political uncertainty and disrupted supply chains made for some of the crisis' unprecedented impact on the labour market. We have seen unprecedented government interventions in the labour market and we can expect these to continue into the future. Policy had and will continue to play a significant role with a new set of employment rules and rising restrictions, often counter-intuitively standing in the way of increased flexibility.

European legal and policy frameworks are being adapted to allow for updated labour conditions. The EU Work-life Balance Directive entered into force in 2019 and there is a new proposal for pay transparency and equal pay for equal work as part of President von der Leyen’s agenda. The European Commission’s proposed directive on improving the conditions of platform work is another example of a policy initiative to regulate alternative employment forms. In its proposal the European Commission states that: “the sustainable growth of the platform economy therefore requires improved legal clarity for platforms and better working conditions for people working through platforms” (EC platform work proposed directive). (For more on platform work, see our paper “Delivery Pending” as well as our work on the Reshaping Work project)

The emergence of diverse forms of work and new ways to perform work such as via remote work, enabled by digital technologies, offers the opportunity for skills development and better work life balance. (For more on remote work, see our paper). Many countries are ramping up policies to meet those new realities.

Public pressure for greater sustainability, and workplace demands for more transparency

In light of employee demands for greater transparency and public pressure for more sustainability, we need a new social contract that aligns with the growing new environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues. At the Adecco Group, we believe that a Social Contract provides a frame for a set of expectations and responsibilities from each labour market stakeholder: be it employers, workers, and governments. Realigning those – as they have greatly evolved - will allow for a more peaceful and productive working world.

Even before the pandemic, demographics and digital disruption were posing a threat to the talent pool and forced us to reconsider our existing expectations and responsibilities. But adaptive leaders acknowledge the significant changes in workers’ preferences and behaviours caused by the pandemic. With the new demographic shifts, there will be a significant impact on the labour market over the next few years. Legislative initiatives and legislators will need to consider flexibility and adaptability while providing security to those who need it most. Any rules that are too rigid will hinder resilience and the fluidity of the labour market.

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Skills policies as the key to economic success

In the post-COVID-19 era, the workforce needs a sustainability-driven transformation, which requires a new set of skills. Recruiting and retaining top talent are a priority, but with emerging business models on the rise, there is a need to develop new employee value propositions.

A range of initiatives for job training and other programmes are being supported by policymakers to keep people in employment and prepare young people for the workplace. This offers significant opportunities for employers and workers. In an effort to create stronger connections between the worlds of education and work, an EU consultation is underway for the Individual Learning Account initiative (see here the TAG briefing note on ILA’s). The initiative is aimed at addressing structural changes in labour markets that will change the skills required for many jobs and enable workers to access financing mechanisms for their training path as they move between jobs and careers.

Besides government and private investment in upskilling and reskilling, another trend is the closer collaboration between companies and government agencies or public sector programmes to offer training to young people or any candidates requiring training (e.g. STEM training, EU ALMA). At the Adecco Group, we know that this is only one side of the coin as the most effective way to engage in skilling is to accompany it with career guidance and coaching (link to the Career Guidance Imperative).

The world of work can and should be shaped by us

Employers that remain flexible and on top of trends will do well in 2022. The pandemic required HR leaders to develop exceptional empathetic skills, empowerment abilities and flexibility.
Equally, those countries that have adapted to the shifting requirements and practices of workers and businesses alike will win the race for talent that has emerged.

They key is to sit at the table, negotiate, innovate and co-design with policy makers and other partners engaged in the policy debate. At the Adecco Group, we team up with experts working at the intersection of regulation and HR, and adopt an agile mindset to address any regulatory unpredictability, bringing solutions to the table.
In any event, companies must be prepared to deal with changes in employment and labour law.
The Adecco Group will monitor important developments throughout 2022 and provide insights.

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