Employment law: Key growth areas and workplace developments

5-Star employment lawyers highlight key growth areas in the employment law

Employment law: Key growth areas and workplace developments

Employment lawyers have a tricky time navigating fluid legislation changes through covid, but some stood out more than others. A special report on HRDs 5-Star Employment Lawyers discusses the challenges we’ve been facing and key growth areas moving forward.

Read the full special report here.

Lawyers have faced some unprecedented and complex challenges through the pandemic. From the legality of mandatory vaccinations to class action lawsuits changing the legal landscape. Legal practitioners are in high demand and busier than ever.

HRDs 5-Star Employment law firms demonstrate speed, skill and sophistication when meeting their client’s needs.

Main challenges in 2021

In 2020, employers were highly reactive in the early stages of the pandemic, in 2021 standdowns and introduction of JobKeeper meant the focus was squarely on prevention.

The most common issue for employers was around mandatory vaccinations and the legality of implementing such a policy. At first the case for implementing mandatory vaccinations seemed limited to high-risk industries but as the highly contagious Delta-strain took a grip on Australia, employers started to see vaccinations as a key tool to operate safely.

Charles Power, a partner at Holding Redlich and a 5-Star Employment Lawyer, said “what began as an occupational health and safety issue soon snowballed into other areas of the law.”

There were related concerns around privacy, as well as discrimination law and the requirements of the Therapeutic Goods Administration regarding incentivising vaccine, along with anticipating the way the courts would deal with claims that were inevitably going to be made by employees.

The key challenge for legal practitioners was providing a certainty in an uncertain world. HR leaders relied on their legal advisors navigate the unprecedented issues. “More than ever, clients came to us in distress or uncertainty over what they should be doing as a business,” said Luis Izzo, managing director at Australian Business Lawyers & Advisors.

Key growth areas for 2022

  • Litigation around mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies
  • Procedures and policies for handling sexual harassment complaints
  • Debate on gig economy and independent contractor vs employee status
  • Payroll and modern award compliance

Workplace developments

Legal teams across the board reported increased caseloads. HRDs research uncovered several growth industries, there have been spikes in demand from the retail, travel, and hospitality industries. The main growth area was workplace health and safety.

“Businesses are much more attuned to their WHS obligations with respect to something that we probably didn’t think was the employer’s responsibility in the past, particularly within office environments,” said Izzo.

Changes to the FWA meant that for the first time there was a legal definition of a casual employee which was another major area of work for law firms and was another time employers sought clarity around complex legislation. Similarly, independent contractor legislation will continue to expand this year. Key rulings around the way employers engage with contractors are due to be published in 2022 and could have ramifications for businesses. 

Additional growth areas include payroll compliance and the risk of underpaying after the changes to annualised salary agreements became more complex.

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