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24 May 2017

Challenges facing the world of HR

Where do I start with the challenges affecting HR professionals today? It’s difficult to boil it down to the three biggest issues, but I think the topics that are really coming to the fore at the moment are:
  1. Mental health issues – we are seeing a huge increase in reporting of mental health issues in the news, and the same applies to the workplace. Not only are employees suffering from mental health illnesses, but I think that an increasing public awareness of the issue means that they are gradually feeling more able to tell their employers about their problems. Of course, this covers a whole host of conditions, from work-related stress to serious lifelong conditions. All this means that HR professionals increasingly need to deal with absence management, reasonable adjustments and possible disability discrimination-related issues.

  1. The digital age – over the last ten to twenty years, this has become a huge part of our personal and professional lives. In the workplace context, this includes issues from what an employee has posted about their colleagues on their Facebook page to whether some roles should disappear and be replaced by computers. You may have seen recent news reports that up to half of jobs in Scotland could be replaced by robots in the next decade. I’m not convinced about that, but by way of example: in 2016 RBS axed 550 jobs and announced that it was replacing those employees with “robo-advisers”. Whether digital advances are leading to redundancies or merely changes in job specifications, this is going to affect the HR professionals who deal with recruitment and restructures, as well as the disciplinary issues which arise from misuse of IT systems and social media by their workforce.

  1. Changing attitudes towards the employment relationship – this is more generalised, but as an employment lawyer I have seen a shift in attitudes over the last few years among employees towards their employers. Perhaps this is because employment cases are widely reported in the news these days, or because it is easy to type “Unfair dismissal” into Google; whatever the reason, I believe that employees are becoming more aware of their rights at work and more willing to confront their employers about this. I have seen a growing sense of entitlement among employees to being able to enforce those rights. This ranges from employees being more likely to bring internal grievances to litigants in person conducting their own Employment Tribunal claims.

Fflur Jones
- Partner, Darwin Gray