Companies will prioritize ESG and mental health in employee retention and recruitment
As the great resignation continues to drive the employment sector, partner at KPMG Law predicts a greater emphasis on environmental, social and governance (ESG) criteria and employee mental health in 2022. In an exclusive interview about upcoming trends in the legal profession, employment and labour lawyer Lisa Cabel anticipates that employers will make substantive changes to workplace retention and recruitment policies to address equity, diversity, and inclusion better.
The Federal Pay Equity Act introduced for federally regulated employers in August 2021 will be a recurring theme in 2022. Cabel says KPMG Law developed a pay equity practice to assist clients with compliance and that the firm receives questions about the act as company boards prioritize ESG. “As we meet with boards and talk about what they can be focusing on from a people audit perspective, pay equity and health and safety compliance comes up.”
“We have the technology to work through the pay equity exercise with clients, and we are seeing that this is a compliance issue for the act,” she says, “and it’s brand new, so this will be something that continues over the next years.”
Another significant trend in 2022 will be compliance with Ontario’s right to disconnect and non-compete ban in Bill 27, which Cabel says is an urgent requirement for companies. Employers with more than 25 employees had six months from Dec. 2, when it was enacted, to develop a right to disconnect policy.
Regulations providing more information about the policy are coming, and Cabel says KPMG Law has gathered information from international colleagues already implementing a similar approach and informed clients on things to consider. “For many organizations, fitting these obligations in their business is going to be complex, so there’s an urgency to it.”
When regulations become available, and with the history of what they have seen in other countries, Cabel says the firm will have better guidance and be in a good position to help clients.
As many companies focus on regulation compliance and growing and expanding their business, employee mental health is also a priority. Cabel says the employment law group at KPMG in 2021 focused on helping employers navigate disability claims and reduce or adjust work arrangements.
There was a shift from the downsizing and restructuring needed for layoffs to expanding into recruiting to transform workplace policies and practices, Cabel says. Employers adjusted compensation policies or implemented a new bonus structure as part of that shift.
There was less litigation for wrongful dismissals and more focus on retention and recruitment in 2021 — a trend Cabel foresees in 2022.
Cabel says employers showed more interest in hiring people internationally and allowing employees to work from anywhere as alternative work arrangements became a requirement for the recruitment and retention of employees. Employers recognized these benefits and tried to implement policies to create a permanent working relationship.
The employment law group at KPMG in 2021 helped clients manage legal and human rights considerations through agreements, policies, or performance management.
As COVID health and safety regulations dominate workplace arrangements, Cabel says many employers continuously examine how to manage health obligations and transition into a permanent hybrid or remote work setting. For example, as vaccines became available, employers considered how the accessibility would connect with their work and obligations to health and safety standards, accommodate employees and balance privacy laws.
KPMG Law has helped many employers navigate employee vaccinations and legal requirements to accommodate an employee who refused to be vaccinated, Cabel says.
“Towards the end of 2021, we saw more case law guidance that reinforced the requirement to balance the individual’s interest and the employers’ health and safety standards,” Cabel says. “We’re looking forward to hopefully greater economic recovery” in 2022.
Nancy White, senior manager for external communications at KPMG, informed Law Times that a survey conducted by the corporation identified labour and skill shortages as a risk factor for companies in 2022. She says that that trend can affect the employment and legal landscape as employers compete with large companies for digitally skilled employees.