Paul Callaghan, Morten Langer and Geoff Weirich discuss recent developments in labour and employment law, with a focus on their respective jurisdictions. They also provide insight into the changing role of lawyers as businesses look to stay ahead in a globalised marketplace.
Paul Callaghan: I have certainly seen an awareness of the need to continually re-evaluate the structure of an organisation in the UK. Although the economy in the UK appears to be improving there is still a nervousness about what the future holds, which means that reducing costs where possible and ensuring the right people are in a post seems even more important than pre-2008.
Morten Langer: In my view, this is also very much the case in Denmark. Most restructuring work that was absolutely necessary has been done. Now companies are optimising their structures to further improve their results and to prepare for the future. The outsourcing of non-core activities is also becoming increasingly common.
Geoff Weirich: Although not on the massive scale that we saw at the height of the recent recession, restructuring continues in the US, as corporations make strategic decisions to optimise revenue and profit. Employers involved in such restructurings must continue to pay attention to the potential for discrimination claims arising out of forced reductions.
Morten Langer: Since HR issues are becoming more and more “public”, an increasing amount of work is related to compliance issues such as whistle-blowing. This calls for a more proactive approach with the lawyer supporting HR.
Geoff Weirich: In the US we have seen an amazing increase in the number of board-level inquiries into allegations of wrongdoing. Not only are they involved in discrimination and harassment allegations against high-level executives, and domestic whistleblowing issues, but boards are increasingly involved in selecting the legal expertise that the corporation will enlist to defend allegations under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Paul Callaghan: Responding to increasing globalisation is the biggest change in the way law firms offer services I have seen in the last few years. Now a large majority of my clients are international – either with parent companies outside the UK, or UK companies moving into other markets. It is no longer enough to offer only domestic advice. On an almost daily basis I now advise either directly or through one of our other offices or best friends on employment law issues for other EMEA jurisdictions.
I see the UK legal market dividing into two, if it has not done so already: those who look to provide domestic advice and those (like Taylor Wessing) who look to provide a one-stop shop in the whole EMEA region.
Morten Langer: I don’t anticipate consolidation to a major extent. On the other hand, alliances or other ways of establishing international contacts and access to highly qualified advice in other countries are becoming increasingly important. Also, there is a need for basic knowledge of what is going on in other countries, at least when you are based in and work from a small country.
Geoff Weirich: We have observed that having an international platform is increasingly important to those selecting counsel in a multitude of legal arenas. It is quite logical to expect this trend to continue as clients deal with expanding global markets and worldwide competition.
Morten Langer: We mainly see such changes in the financial sector, where the increasing level of regulation sometimes leads to companies more or less giving up in relation to almost everything other than ordinary pay, or at the very least minimising the group of employees participating in incentive schemes.
Paul Callaghan: There is certainly a move among employment lawyers to provide more of an overall compliance service. Compliance is a dull word but essentially it means employment lawyers being able to give at least workplace data privacy advice, more executive compensation advice, an understanding of financial services regulation as it affects employers and some immigration law advice. We need to know when to hand over to even more specialised lawyers but the trend is towards employment lawyers who were once seen as specialists becoming broader business advisers.