Key Issues

Employee engagement, information, consultation and the future of work

New and disruptive digital technologies are creating enticing opportunities for businesses of all sizes. Even against the backdrop of an uncertain global economy, innovation and change are seen as desirable objectives. Rapid change and the adoption of digital tools have been pushed to the top of the agenda by the coronavirus pandemic, including for businesses which were previously slow or reluctant adopters.

But in the wake of inexorable technological advance, are people being lost and potential liabilities being created? In some cases, and without the right legal advice, the answer is yes.

New engagement demands new arrangements

Digital transformation is certainly generating new jobs, but business owners are also recognising the need to restructure their operations, potentially shedding non-core business to make the most of technological change. Many are looking at new ways of creating engaged workforces by blending direct employment with contingent worker and managed service solutions (the so-called ‘gig economy’), which carry complex tax, immigration and employment status issues.

This kind of restructuring means longstanding employment agreements may no longer be suitable – or even legal. Our clients recognise that taking appropriate action is, however, more than simply a legal requirement. It’s a smart, commercially advantageous move. Businesses which call on our legal support can find themselves one step ahead of change, giving themselves the best possible chance of retaining key people and attracting the best talent.

Taking an international perspective

Increasingly, we’re advising clients on their strategic approach to worker information and consultation. For larger clients with a European presence, this can involve a cascade beginning with a European Works Council (EWC). Planning for meetings and renegotiating the EWC Agreement itself require thought and training.

The information and consultation exercise is often about restructuring the business for success in a changing market, sometimes involving redundancies and statutory business transfers. Dovetailing all of this across differing timescales requires careful planning and execution.

Engaging with a contingent workforce raises challenges around protecting trade secrets and confidential information, and avoiding serious tax and employment status risk. Expert legal advice can make a critical difference to ensuring that your worker-contract models are fit for purpose. With deep expertise and an enviable international footprint, Osborne Clarke is a market leader in contingent workforce and gig worker issues.

Applying intelligence to transformation

The recruitment process is also undergoing digital transformation, through the adoption of AI in the search and selection of suitable candidates. The ability of intelligent technology to streamline candidate pools and reduce selection bias is hugely appealing, but can present serious challenges relating to data privacy, candidate ‘ownership’ and diversity.

Again, we have a solution. We’ve developed a platform which enables our clients to understand in real time the HR issues on which they are seeking our advice around the world. Those issues include immigration, contracts, policies, benefits, tax and employee claims, and health and wellbeing.

While our legal expertise and advice might be specialist, the outcomes pervade almost every aspect of your business. By implementing the right strategies, approaches and processes, you can motivate your employees to achieve ongoing success, to feel deeper loyalty and even become your organisation's greatest advocates. With those key building blocks in place and the support of our experienced workforce team, you can build a standout ‘employer brand’, and look forward to the future of work with well-founded optimism.