As in-house employment lawyers in a pharmaceutical group with a global footprint, we are part of people & culture and work with many internal interfaces. We are happy to share our insights into labor law trends:
(1) Recording working time – quo vadis?
Since 2019, the labor law world has been eagerly awaiting draft legislation that would provide clarity on whether and, if so, what working time has to be recorded, whose responsibility it is, and in what form it has to be done. Since then, at any rate, German labor lawyers have not been bored interpreting the case law that has been handed down. At least the German Federal Labor Court gave the friendly hint that a look at the German Occupational Health and Safety Act would be helpful when drafting a law. That’s just how we labor lawyers are: forward-thinking and pragmatic.
(2) Predictive analytics – tech trends push IT co-determination to its limits
IT co-determination is old hat and a lawyer advising their employer has to come to terms with the fact that case law interprets co-determination beyond the wording of the law. Processes have been established and larger companies have set up e-workflows so they can keep up with the mass of submissions. The next level in this subject area is coming up and is called predictive analytics. Synchronizing data and linking their statements to derive theses for the future will provide enough fodder for works councils, data protectionists, HR data analysts and labor lawyers to keep everyone busy for the next 10 years. The hope is to find the answers of the day after tomorrow to the questions of tomorrow.
(3) Labor and skills shortages – from transformation to evolution
While this is not an immediate labor law issue, there are creative labor law approaches that can be used to ease the situation. There could be points of contact with flexible and cross-company personnel deployment, the design of benefits for temporary employees, the use of recruiting tools using artificial intelligence, and applicant-oriented flexibilization of the time and local conditions of the employment relationship. Since we are no longer just talking about a shortage of skilled workers, but in some sectors already about a shortage of workforce, a rethink will become necessary. Reducing the workforce was yesterday, transforming organizations is today, and tomorrow will be all about the evolution of the workforce along the ever-changing demands made of jobs.
(4) New Work in the New Normal
New Work concepts have experienced a real boom since the beginning of the pandemic. It has long since ceased to be just about the design of office workspaces, such as “activity-based working”, desk sharing and technical support for hybrid meetings. Location flexibilization has become more important for (future) employees, as the desire for a work-life balance, as well as for autonomy and flexibility have increased. In this context, the structuring of labor law, whether on an individual or collective level, will continue to gain more importance in the future. Let us hope that the legal framework will continue to allow scope at company and collective bargaining level, that clear demarcation criteria to other work activities outside the company workplace will be defined, and that the principle of dual voluntariness within the framework of the right to give instructions will be maintained.
(5) Electronic certificate of incapacity to work – stumbling into digitization
Dear colleagues, it is time to revise warning letter templates. Even in the world of electronic sickness notification, the duty to notify and the duty to provide proof are still an issue and must be separated from each other. So far so good. But how employees fulfill their obligations and what actually happens if the data was transmitted incorrectly and can therefore not be found are completely new questions that we may face this year.