Hogan Lovells sets out upcoming changes and challenges for employers in 2024
31 January 2024 - The uncertain political and economic global climate will continue to play a dominant role in 2024, as employers contemplate the impact upcoming elections in more than 60 jurisdictions will have on employee rights. This could have repercussions on a number of employment issues, including productivity, dismissals, whistleblowing and data privacy.
Hogan Lovells partner, Ed Bowyer, said: “There are a number of pressing issues that employers will need to address as Covid-related workplace restrictions continue to be phased out and demand for flexible working escalates. Approaches vary by sector and region but employers may find themselves constrained by employee demands and tight labour markets.”
Employers will also be adapting to new legislative changes, from the Pay Transparency Law in New York State, to Japan’s amended Childcare and Family Leave Care Act, to the EU’s Whistleblowing Directive. Kerstin Neighbour, Global Head of Employment at Hogan Lovells, said: “Most European countries have already implemented the EU Whistleblowing Directive but in some parts of Europe there has been some cultural hostility towards whistleblowing protections. This has created some challenges for U.S. corporations in particular that are bound by certain policies and procedures.”
Drawing experience and expertise from Hogan Lovells lawyers across 16 countries, Employment Horizons 2024 considers the following topics and key themes:
Making it harder to dismiss employees
- Dismissals involving 50 or more employees take longer in Italy and Spain if a business is closing a workplace or stopping an activity.
- Some U.S. states have extended their Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) requirements, going beyond federal law requirements.
- In New Jersey, paying severance on redundancy becomes mandatory for the first time.
Encouraging permanent employment
- Italy, Spain and Poland are making it harder for employers to use fixed-term contracts to hire employees.
- Reforms limit the situations where fixed-term contracts are allowed or require employers to explain why they’re ending a contract.
- Germany and the Netherlands may introduce similar restrictions or limit how many successive fixed-term contracts employers can offer.
Protecting gig economy and vulnerable workers
- Courts continue to establish the factors relevant to determine whether a platform worker is an employee or self-employed – similar factors apply in most regions.
- The United Kingdom and the Netherlands may ban zero-hours contracts, while it is a criminal offence to use disguised employment structures in Spain.
- The EU Platform Work Directive will probably be adopted in early 2024, making it easier for a platform worker to show they’re an employee.
- The United States is proposing federal rules banning non-compete clauses in employment agreements.
- The United Kingdom may limit the non-competes to three months, although it’s unclear if or when this will go ahead.
- Countries such as Mexico and Spain are reducing or considering reducing normal weekly working hours, with trials of a four-day week taking place in the United Kingdom.
Hybrid and remote working
- Most sectors and regions have moved to hybrid working, although this is less common in Asia-Pacific.
- Flexible working rights are extending from working parents to other employees with caring responsibilities.
- Extended flexible working rights are also a response to tackling economic inactivity, particularly in the United Kingdom.
Balancing work and family life
- Paternity leave entitlements are increasing or becoming more flexible.
- Countries such as Spain and Poland are introducing longer periods of non-transferable parental leave.
- Carers leave is becoming more common, allowing employees caring for adult relatives to take part-paid or unpaid leave.
- Many EU member states implemented the EU Whistleblowing Directive in 2023, later than the December 2021 deadline.
- Penalties for breaching whistleblowing rules vary widely from country to country.
- The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is clamping down on clauses that purport to prevent employees reporting breaches of securities law.
- Pay transparency requirements are widespread in the United States.
- In Europe existing gender pay gap reporting requirements will be harmonised when the Pay Transparency Directive is implemented by June 2026. Extending protection against sexual harassment in the workplace remains a priority in some countries.
- Investors are beginning to drive action on diversity in Asia-Pacific and Mexico.
Regulation and compliance – AI and data privacy
- There’s little legislation specifically regulating AI in employment.
- This is changing in the United States, where New York City regulates AI as a recruitment tool.
- Other countries typically use general data privacy laws to regulate AI.