How will the employment landscape change in 2017? While LAW’s talents are reputedly numerous, prophecy is not one of them … but we can make some educated guesses from emerging trends and policy and legislative changes scheduled for this year.
It’s a fact rather than a prophecy that from April, employees in Jersey will be eligible for compensation if their employer has failed to provide them with some fundamental documents and rights, such signed written particulars, written payslips on or before payday and paid time off in lieu where their rest has been interrupted. For many businesses, this is all standard practice but LAW predicts that, unfortunately, some employers will not have their ducks in a row and make costly mistakes on these basic requirements.
As to predicting the future, it is likely that efforts to make the working environment more flexible and family friendly will continue. An Employment Forum consultation runs until mid-March and it’s entirely possible, the ultimate end of that process might be that all employees will have the right to request flexible working, not just those with caring responsibilities. Also, we may see longer periods of statutory maternity, parental and adoption leave; a sharing of leave by two parents; and an extension of rights (including, amongst other rights, time off for antenatal appointments), currently enjoyed by mothers only, to fathers and partners and surrogate parents.
The equal opportunities agenda also continues. We can expect disability to become more of an issue in Jersey in 2017. It is, however, unlikely that this ‘protected characteristic’ will be added to the Discrimination Law in September (because other employment issues have proved more urgent). Despite this delay, a disability strategy is at the consultation stage so there is real momentum. Employers need to start thinking now about their policies and provisions – and even partake in the consultation – to avoid a last-minute panic. Particularly, as last-minute invariably means expensive.
At a macro level, expect to read and hear more about the ‘gig economy’, which broadly means a workforce increasingly made up of short-term contracts or freelancers as opposed to those on permanent contracts. The high-profile champions of this trend are car-sharing service Uber and home-sharing site Airbnb. Jersey is unlikely to develop a gig economy overnight but with many Islanders already on zero-hours contracts, it’s something to follow with interest, particularly as we’d predict draft law on banning exclusivity in zero hours contracts to be shortly forthcoming.
Also, look out for the rise of augmented reality (‘AR’) or virtual reality (VR’) in the workplace. While there was a lot of hype around new forms of reality last year, companies are going to take it a lot more serious in 2017 as new equipment, programmes and positive examples surface. The technology that employees are experiencing outside of work will naturally influence them to want the same tech at the office. AR and VR could help close the experience gap for job seekers and allow employee training to be more engaging, cheaper and free of distractions. The British Army, for example, is already using VR in their recruitment process.
With several of LAW’s officers as parents to young adults, 2017 also marks the year that ‘Generation Z’ – those born after the Millennium – properly enter the adult world of responsibility i.e. work. They will invariably bring new perspectives, new demands, new digital skills and new expectations – particularly when it comes to work-life balance. Managing wide-ranging attitudes, skills sets, ideas and expectations is always a challenge for employers and this new generation will continue to put pressures on businesses to transform the office, reward employees, embrace flexibility, and perhaps align the corporate interests with a wider cause.
And then, of course, there’s Brexit and debates to be had on how we want our future local economy – think financial service, farming, fisheries, manufacturing and hospitality – to function and interplay with other jurisdictions let alone what we want (if anything) our hitherto Europeanesque law of the workplace to provide. Well, at least 2017 looks set to be another exciting year!