Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.
The COVID-19 pandemic required nearly every employer around the globe to take stock of its workforce, policies and practices, and adapt to a rapidly changing and unpredictable environment. COVID-19 will eventually pass, but transformative issues laid bare by the pandemic—which were already in motion—will remain, likely at an accelerated pace.
Remote work for many is here to stay. By the end of 2021, it is predicted that over a quarter of the workforce will remain remote. Employers that continue providing a remote work option will need to contend with Wandering Workers—those employees who perform their job functions in a different state or even country from their employer’s brick-and-mortar location, or who frequently move job locations while employed. The Wandering Worker phenomenon raises a host of employment considerations:
- Recruiting, hiring, onboarding, managing, and firing employees is going virtual.
- Employment taxes and withholding become increasingly complex when the employer and Wandering Worker do not work in the same location.
- Determining which state and local benefits apply is particularly tricky.
- Employers are struggling to implement systems for tracking and compensating working and travel time for non-exempt employees, among other wage and hour concerns.
- Privacy and data security issues emerge, particularly as the trend towards global workforces accelerates.
- Union organizing is rapidly adapting to the new work regime.
Those performing work at the employer’s worksite are contending with an increasingly automated environment. As the worksite becomes more automated with robots, cobots, and other automated machines, employers must be cognizant of safety and health hazards that could be introduced, as well as privacy considerations.
The pandemic has accelerated job displacement. In October 2020, the World Economic Forum reported that 43% of the businesses it surveyed were planning to reduce their workforce because of the increased use of technology. As the workplace transforms and becomes more dependent on technological platforms and initiatives, business leaders must reevaluate how to deliver new business models in the post-pandemic era, and be prepared to address the host of labor and employment law issues that arise when workers are displaced. Given these recent developments, employers will face more business restructurings for the purpose of (a) acquiring new talent and (b) enhancing technological capabilities. And when initiatives lead to worker displacement, employers will need to navigate a variety of labor and employment issues to mitigate risk.
The workforce of tomorrow needs new skills today. Certain jobs hit hard by the lagging economy will never return, and others will eventually be performed by machines. One recent report predicted that a quarter of the workforce may need to change industries by the year 2030. To that end, workers will need to gain new skillsets to work in an environment where AI and automation is on the rise, or switch industries entirely.
The workplace needs to recognize and prepare for these changes. Employers will need to reevaluate how, where, and when employees work, and take affirmative steps to facilitate necessary changes. This workplace transformation will require careful planning and deliberation. A primary goal of this Report is to highlight the myriad and overlapping labor and employment issues that arise as the workplace transforms, and the imperative that successful solutions will require significant cross-disciplinary collaboration.