Key Issues


Employee engagement, information, consultation and the future of work

Employee engagement, information, consultation and the future of work - image

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.

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

New engagement demands new arrangements

The issue lies in the manner in which businesses engage with their workers. Digital transformation is certainly generating new jobs, but business owners are recognising the need to restructure their operations and shedding non-core business to make the most of technological change. They’re looking at new ways of creating engaged workforces from direct employment, and contingent worker and managed service solutions (heralding the rise of the ‘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. And board members of large multinational organisations can be forgiven for lacking experience in all facets of emerging employment legislation, which is often multi-jurisdictional.

Our clients recognise that taking appropriate action is, however, more than simply a legal requirement. It’s a smart, commercially advantageous move. Businesses who 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 in a hyper-competitive market.

Taking an international perspective

Increasingly, we’re advising clients on their strategic approach to worker information and consultation. For larger clients, this can involve a cascade beginning with a European Works Council (EWC), which represents workers across the whole of the European Economic Area. Training management, planning for meetings and renegotiating the EWC Agreement itself require thought and training, which Osborne Clarke is experienced in.

The information and consultation exercise is often about restructuring the business for suitability and success in a changing market, sometimes involving consultation on redundancies and business transfers (‘TUPE’) at a national level. Dovetailing all of this across differing timescales requires careful planning and execution, particularly if it’s on a worldwide basis.

With new staffing models, businesses are developing strategies for engaging with a contingent workforce. These engagements will raise challenges around protecting trade secrets and confidential information, and avoiding serious tax and employment status risk under measures like IR35 in the UK and equivalent measures elsewhere.

Unsurprisingly, ensuring that your worker-contract models are fit for purpose is an area where expert legal advice can make a critical difference. With deep expertise and an enviable EU/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. They’ll be happier, more productive and more trusting. They’ll feel deeper loyalty and engage more fully with your goals. They’ll often become your organisations 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.