Employment law across the globe: what’s happened and what’s coming up?

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This document was prepared for our 2024 Managing an International Workforce conference on 20th June 2024.

2024 is the year of elections. Polls are happening – or have happened – everywhere from India, Mexico and South Africa to the EU, the UK, the USA and (as a result of President Macron’s surprising decision) France. More elections take place this year than in any previous year in history. In fact, almost half of the adult population of the globe will be voting – in elections that will no doubt shape the employment law landscape as well as the political and economic agenda.

People are heading to the ballot box amid ongoing conflict. We opened last year’s conference discussing the war in Ukraine. That conflict has continued into this year, and on top of it we now have a new war between Israel and Hamas. The situation in Gaza has divided opinion not just on US college campuses but across the globe. Debate has spilled into social media platforms and internal workplace chat channels, presenting new questions for employers about how to manage free speech at work.

This all comes at a time when many employers are still trying to define their new normal working arrangements in the wake of the pandemic. It’s clear that employees continue to want remote working options but – for many employers – this has been a year of drawing up new lines and expectations around office attendance requirements. While some employers hit the headlines for insisting that everyone should be in the office 5 days a week, most are grappling with some sort of hybrid model – and how to encourage or enforce that.

Another legacy of the pandemic is, of course, the rise in the number of employees working remotely from overseas locations. Last year, we discussed how many local employers had gradually become international employers with an expanding number of employees working occasionally or regularly from other countries, and the challenges of regulating that. This year, we are looking at global mobility from the perspective of managing talent shortages. A whole host of factors – including Brexit, an ageing workforce and general skills shortages – are combining to create fierce competition for good people. As countries pursue their own differing tax and immigration strategies, how can international employers think strategically about global mobility when it comes to attracting and retaining talent?