Looking to the future – will 2022 be the “year of life-hazardous” for hybrid work? | Seyfarth Shaw LLP

[co-author: Anna Codlin]

The pandemic has prompted many organizations to adopt “hybrid” work models. The world of Seyfarth Future of Work Survey in 2021, remote and hybrid work navigation was found to be the main concern of internal legal and business leaders as they emerge from the pandemic. There are a number of key reasons why “hybrid” work should continue, including:

  • health and security: With the new variants of COVID a continuing risk, working from home is likely to remain a key security measure for businesses.
  • employee contract: Surveys show that employees increasingly appreciate and expect working from home.
  • productivity: recent studies indicate that many employees work very productively from home.

With these pressures on business, now is the time to take stock, strategize and prepare for the future. So what are some of the key issues that future companies and HR leaders should think about when considering longer-term hybrid work options in 2022 and beyond?

How do you support best health and safety practices when you are not in control of the workplace?

Employers and their managers have a series of legal occupational health and safety obligations that cannot be outsourced and must always be fulfilled, whether employees are working in the office next to their manager or from their living room. . Employers often have much lower visibility and convenient control over remote work hazards such as non-ergonomic workstation layouts, cables, trip hazards, electrical or equipment safety, and hours of work. extra work, stress, anxiety, isolation or loneliness. Risks to physical and mental health and safety should be considered and addressed (noting that there has been growing attention to mental health risks direct consequence of the pandemic).

How do you create an inclusive culture and effectively mentor staff when people rarely meet in person?

There can be unintended cultural downsides to having a team that rarely interacts in person. Many companies will seek initiatives that allow all team members to feel included and valued, have opportunities to share ideas and progress, and access support and mentorship. Two-way communication has never been more important in a world where, without the right measures in place, employees can go a long time without meeting or meeting or their managers.

Technology can certainly go a long way in keeping people connected and engaged, but that’s not the end of it. In fact, there is always a risk that issues like bullying and harassment will multiply when workers think that no one is watching what needs to be done. carefully managed.

As more companies embrace flexibility, we are seeing reports creative solutions to stimulate personal engagement and foster collaboration and team building, such as ‘keep in touch’ days (where all staff or some teams meet in the office on agreed days), available to smaller satellite offices in the suburbs, etc. in-person training and celebrations.

How do you take into account the restrictions of industrial instruments on flexible working?

Many industrial instruments restrict when and where work can be performed, when breaks must be taken and what amounts must be paid to employees for work at different times. This adds a layer of complexity for hybrid labor policies, which could inadvertently violate a legal standard or fundamentally alter the compensation payable. All hybrid work arrangements should be assessed against legal requirements to ensure that there are no unintended consequences of allowing worker choice.

How does cross-border hybrid work affect employer compliance, insurance and risk?

Employees working in all jurisdictions create a number of challenges for global employers that need to be carefully considered. In Australia, employers must consider the impacts of any cross-border work on state compliance requirements, including, for example, any changes in choice of applicable law, jurisdictional coverage of discrimination and laws on discrimination. occupational health and safety, local workplace monitoring requirements and confirming that the correct payroll taxes and workers’ compensation arrangements are in place. Some states have also introduced criminal penalties for violations of laws on labor licensing, manslaughter and theft of wages, which should be observed if workers start working in those jurisdictions.

How do you ensure that remote working arrangements are not inadvertently discriminatory?

While flexible working has long been seen as a tool to break down barriers to diversity and inclusion, it also requires navigating through a range of possible risks of diversity and discrimination that may arise from working remotely.

What legal changes and claims may be on the horizon for hybrid work?

The law catches up with rapid cultural and technological changes. Globally, we have seen hybrid work lead to a series of industrial pressures and legal reforms. For example, Portugal recently followed countries such as France, Spain, Belgium, Italy, Philippines, Argentina and India by introducing a legal right to disconnect. The UK government is also considering a proposal to make flexible work the default. Locally, CUTA has also developed a series of homework claims.

In short, employers can and should expect to face additional claims and / or legal challenges as more workplaces move towards implementing hybrid work models. Employers who invest in comprehensive planning and risk management from the start will be in the best position to meet these challenges.

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