Newly published IBA GEI report on human resources trends includes special COVID-19 analysis

Monday 16 August 2021

Amid the unprecedented challenges that workplaces have faced due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ninth annual report by the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI) has been published with a dedicated section on the impact the virus has had on workplaces across the globe. The section includes analysis of both government-led initiatives and employers’ initiatives to mitigate effects on health and safety in workplaces and for societies in general.

The special section of the Ninth Annual IBA GEI Annual Global Report also references the explosion of mobile technology platforms and the movement toward ‘gig’ economies, which have resulted in increased non-traditional working arrangements – employees in some countries have demanded greater flexibility, especially in the form of remote working and flexible hours. The report also details how employers are struggling to attract new talent whilst negotiating the expectations for a better balance between the working component of their lives and time spent outside of it. In many cases, employers are allowing limited flexibility within set guidelines.

Björn Otto, Member of the IBA GEI, commented: ‘The IBA GEI Annual Global Report, which is based on research collected from lawyers in 50 countries, provides a valuable inside view of which types of human resources trends are likely to continue in the foreseeable future and those likely to decline. The breadth of issues that are assessed in the report can serve as a useful tool for planning purposes, particularly for multinationals that are seeking to expand to other countries and need an overview of HR issues they may have to address in times ahead.’

Descriptive as opposed to prescriptive, the report assesses trends rather than suggesting policy approaches. It builds on the historical perspective of prior reports and identifies global shifts and new developments in human resources law. Wide-ranging in scope, the research delves into the most pertinent labour and HR issues faced by global multinational companies during 2019 and the beginning of 2020. In addition to COVID-19 related measures, workplace issues covered include dismissal and retirement; corruption and whistleblowing; temporary and contract work arrangements; flexible working; family friendly policies; stress and mental health; data protection; privacy and human rights; discrimination; diversity; technology and artificial intelligence; collective bargaining and industrial action; executive remuneration and banking reform; gender pay inequalities; and immigration and talent. The report also provides a high-level overview of the impact of recent political and world events and expected future human resources challenges, as a result of, for example, greater prominence of the MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements as well as increased awareness around data privacy.

Issues include:

  • Achieving equal treatment of female employees and reducing sexual harassment and discrimination based on ethnicity or religion;
  • Responding to technological advancements, with specific focus on data privacy and cybersecurity issues;
  • Concern that artificial intelligence and the use of predictive analytics will replace the decision-making and accomplishment of repeatable tasks, potentially making certain jobs obsolete;
  • Concern around the economic impact of increasing nationalism and isolationism with restrictive immigration policies and tariffs, which could lead to unemployment;
  • A continuing problem of shortages of highly skilled workers, driven by talent migration, a lack of educational/training programmes, and insufficient economic incentives; and
  • Discrimination, relating to, inter alia, disabilities and gender is also a continued concern, despite anti-discrimination laws in place.

Todd A Solomon, IBA GEI Vice Chair of Membership and for Diversity and Inclusion, stated: ‘It is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a dramatic impact on workforces everywhere, with the working patterns and practices of most industries significantly altered, but there has also been great resilience and ingenuity. The IBA GEI’s latest annual report, together with past reports, will provide a clear picture of the changes. Future reports will also benefit from historical evidence as well as demonstrate the significance of any trends. Certainly, the landscape of the global workforce is forever changed. What remains to be seen is the degree to which governments, businesses, employers and employees will need to adapt. To this end, our reports are amassing empirical evidence.’ 

Gunther Mävers, IBA GEI Co-Chair, added: ‘With the publication of the Annual Global Reports the IBA GEI has set a guiding benchmark. These reports do not only provide a thorough summary of the latest trends and developments in labour and employment law matters all over the world, but serve as a valuable resource of information for inhouse and external HR and labour and employment law counsels. Reading how new issues – like new forms of employment or COVID-19 on the work floor – are dealt with in other countries often helps with addressing them in one’s own country. Our annual reports are a valuable addition to our topic-specific reports periodically published’.

The IBA GEI was formed in early 2010 for the purpose of developing a global and strategic approach to the main legal issues in the human resources and human capital fields for multinationals and worldwide institutions. It provides a unique employment, discrimination and immigration law contribution to private and public organisations throughout the world on a diverse range of global issues. This is designed to enhance the management, performance and productivity of those organisations and to achieve best practice in their human capital and management functions in a strategic perspective.

Since the establishment of the IBA GEI a number of topical reports have been published, including the recent ones on The On-Demand Economy and on Internal Investigations. A full list can be found here: www.ibanet.org/unit/Human+Resources+Section/committee/IBA+Global+Employment+Institute/3226.

The current Co-Chairs of the IBA GEI are Els de Wind and Gunther Mävers of the law firms Van Doorne NV in Netherlands and michels.pmks in Germany, respectively.


Notes to the Editor

  1. Click here to download a PDF of the Ninth Annual IBA GEI Annual Global Report from the IBA website.
  2. Members of the Working Group for the Ninth Annual IBA GEI Annual Global Report are:
    • Todd A Solomon McDermott Will & Emery, United States
    • Björn Otto CMS Hasche Sigle, Germany
    • Filip Saelens Loyens & Loeff, Belgium
    • Duncan Inverarity A&L Goodbody, Ireland
    • Caroline André-Hesse Ayache Salama, France
    • Marco Mazzeschi Mazzeschi, Italy
    • Rebecca Ford Clyde & Co, United Arab Emirates
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice.

    The IBA acts as a connector, enabler, and influencer, for the administration of justice, fair practice, and accountability worldwide. The IBA has collaborated on a broad range of ground-breaking, international projects with the United Nations, the European Parliament, the Council of Europe, The Commonwealth, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, among others.

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