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HR directors hampered by lack of transnational employment laws

HR directors hampered by lack of transnational employment laws
A report by the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI) has found the globalisation of human resources and human capital fields (collectively referred to as HR) to be the number one stay-awake issue among HR directors in multinational firms.
Published today, the IBA GEI report, Looking to the Key Human Resources Legal Issues of the Next Decade: The 10/20 Survey, shows that the growing number and reach of multinational organisations is causing significant HR challenges and could create the need for transnational employment laws.
The IBA GEI asked the HR directors of 119 large multinationals with headquarters in 22 countries to rank ten HR issues in order of importance, giving ten points to the most significant. By far the highest ranking issue was new HR challenges arising from transnational company operations, such as restructuring, mergers and acquisitions, and outsourcing. This scored 71 per cent of the maximum 1,190 points.
Salvador del Rey, Chair of the IBA GEI, commented: The extension of multinationals to new countries and sectors is making corporate operations ever more complex. Collective dismissals, reorganisations, and outsourcing, for instance, are all challenging HR issues in their own right but on an international scale they become a minefield. Most of the law relating to these areas is very local in character, so the question of which law to apply is at the heart of HR directors concerns. The IBA GEI will be monitoring this issue closely as we may soon need a set of genuine transnational employment, labour and immigration laws.
Also, there is no international legal framework for flexible working, part time contracts and sabbatical leaves. This links to the second most import issue for the HR directors surveyed: the work-life balance of employees and its impact on recruitment and retention.
Mariann Norrbom, an IBA GEI Vice-Co-Chair for knowledge management, said: HR directors recognise the increasing importance of work-life balance to employees, who increasingly expect firms to offer greater flexibility as a matter of course. But it is not only about attracting the best people if there is no work-life balance, an employee may succumb to stress, and in the worst case stop working altogether. Ensuring the right person has the right job can go some way to avoiding these problems.
The prominence of work-life balance in the survey may also reflect the extent to which employers are increasingly taking responsibility for the psychological and physical well-being of their employees, whether through providing physical exercise in the workplace, or access to life coaches.
Like work-life balance, the rise of the internet generation and social media is a relatively recent phenomenon and ranked the fifth most important issue for HR directors surveyed. While most large organisations have now implemented basic policies in this area, further challenges lie ahead as the generations who have grown up with the internet enter the workplace.
Of least concern to the HR directors surveyed are unions and collective bargaining, perhaps reflecting that unions are very fragile at an international level. The report suggests that the relatively low score could be because many multinationals have been focused on this issue for some time so it is not a burning concern. Some HR directors may also believe unions and collective bargaining are on the decline.
The full results of the Survey will be presented together with the conclusions drawn by the IBA GEI at the forthcoming IBA Employment Law and Discrimination Law Conference - The changing world of work: responding to the challenges of the 21st century from a global and an EU perspective, taking place on 14 and 15 April 2011 in Brussels, Belgium. At the event HR decision makers will be able to discuss ways to develop the appropriate strategies and policies to address these issues for the future.

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