Big things to look out for in 2019

From top employment lawyers to recruitment and business transformation experts, we have rounded up exclusive content on the big things HR professionals should look out for in 2019. 

Below, our experts comment on what HR should expect next year, on areas such as employment law, recruitment, reporting and digital transformation:


Matt Weston, UK Managing Director, Robert Half, comments,

Many different factors will impact the employment market in 2019. From a political point of view, the past 12 months have been dominated by the Government’s Brexit negotiations. A key element to emerge from this will be access to talent while the UK grapples with its current skills shortage. Businesses need to prepare their organisations for the impact a final deal will have on their long-term plans, but securing the right talent to support those plans is a more burning issue and needs to be addressed.

Alongside Brexit, digitisation will continue to be a key driving force in shaping hiring trends. The traditional jobs market is evolving at rapid pace, as are the skills required by organisations from their workforce. However, the UK talent market is experiencing a growing lack of the digital skills needed to help businesses adapt to AI and automation. In particular, demand for skilled professionals in finance, technology, marketing and business support will continue to grow in line with the sharpening focus on productivity, digitisation and automation over the course of 2019.

The professional gig economy boomed over the last year, something we expect to continue into 2019, as organisations increasingly turn to contract or temporary workers to plug critical skills gaps while they upskill their permanent workforce. Organisations will likely rely more heavily on flexible recruitment models, in order to balance this lack of available talent and ongoing economic uncertainty. Whatever 2019 brings, the growing digitisation trend means that employers will have little choice but to hire the right people who can help shape and transform business processes.

James Townsend, Partner and Head of London Employment at Michelmores law firm, comments,

In 2019, we expect some of the biggest employment law trends to arise off the back of the growing need to define ‘employment status’, particularly for those who are self-employed or gig economy workers. This follows key 2018 legal cases involving Uber and Pimlico Plumbers which have catalysed the need for these roles to be better categorised, defining clearly the workers’ rights within the workplace.

Another turning point will be around ‘gagging clauses’, or employee confidentiality as it is more widely known. The next twelve months will reveal the extent to which use of these clauses will be regulated, high-profile cases such as that of Sir Philip Green who was named publicly over harassment claims earlier this year have been at the heart of this. For HR professionals, we highly advise staying ahead of legal changes such as these and seeking instruction where needed.

Alice Hallsworth, Solicitor, Child & Child (Globalaw), comments,

Equality and accountability will be a key issue for HR teams in 2019. Gender pay gap reporting is due to extend into the public sector, and it is expected that other protected characteristics such as ethnicity reporting will soon follow. Executive pay gap reporting will also become compulsory for all UK listed companies (250+ UK employees) and we expect the first reports to be published in 2020.

Sexual harassment will continue to be a major concern, with further discussion on Non-Disclosure Agreements, as well as further investigation into what more can be done to create a supportive and open culture for those reporting sexual misconduct.

Post-Brexit employment law will dominate HR teams, and hiring managers should expect a difference recruiting workers that possess certain skill sets, with the conditions of employment becoming more dependent on changes to immigration rules. There will be continuing discussions and analysis into what workplace rights will look like in a (potentially) post-Brexit Britain.

A lot of consultations surrounding the dreaded ‘worker status’ question have taken place in 2017 and 2018, we can hope that 2019 will provide us with clarity and agreement on worker status for both employment and tax purposes. Itemised pay slips will be required for all workers from April 2019 in a move towards greater transparency.

Employment tribunals will become a central topic of discussion next year. There has been consultation on employment tribunal reforms in order to increase time limits, as well as to increase the cap on the claiming of awards in the ET. Despite this, there is a desperate need to improve the internal infrastructure and administrative as well as judicial support within the ETs to manage the increased volume of cases coming through.

And finally, GDPR is set to continue to be topical next year. It is hoped that the details surrounding GDPR compliance will be confirmed as employers are still getting to grips with GDPR. HR professionals need to follow and refine their new policies as it has been admitted by a third of HR teams that they are currently in breach of GDPR (according to a survey by CIPHR).

Matthew Howse, Partner and London Head of Employment, Global Law Firm, Morgan Lewis, comments,

Against the backdrop of #metoo and gender pay reporting in the UK, the issue of culture and conduct have remained a key theme in terms of employment law and of ever increasing importance for board members and senior management. This is likely to continue well into 2019, and beyond, as businesses increasingly look inwards at preventative steps to avoid misconduct.

It will be interesting to see the second round of reporting of gender pay statistics in April 2019 and whether comparisons can be drawn with 2018. Also how the extension of the Senior Manager and Certification Regime beds in for insures, ahead of further extension for financial firms in December 2019. Brexit will unsurprisingly be a key consideration in employment law and immigration matters too.

Martin Ewings, Director of Specialist Markets, Experis, comments,

Voice technology risks becoming the next big IT skills gap and a real barrier to innovation. The value of the market is forecast to reach $8.30bn by 2023 – but this rising demand is set to have an impact as early as next year.

While voice technology has been around in the consumer world for the past few years, enterprise adoption is the next major focus for organisations. It will impact every technology interface and could transform the employee and customer experience. But our research found that the available talent pool to support this innovation will soon be exhausted, with salaries and day rates rising significantly as candidate availability becomes stretched.

Businesses need to get ahead of the potential talent shortage by targeting those with adjacent skills in coding languages like C, C++, Java, and PHP. Employers must look both within and beyond their businesses for talent and consider cross-training those with relevant coding skills to fill the anticipated void in voice technology talent.

Julian Outen, Partner and Head of Employment Team, Ellisons Solicitors, comments,

On the employment law front, the big theme for 2019 will be the status of “Gig” economy workers, and Self-employment/Employment/Worker rights and status generally. The Court of Appeal judgment on the status of Uber drivers is expected. We will also receive the outcome of consultations on Worker rights and status following the Taylor Review, with the possibility of new rights being introduced. Workers will be entitled to itemised pay statements from next April. There is a hard balance for the Government to strike between facilitating flexible working arrangements for modern business platforms, reducing scope for exploitation of workers, and ensuring income tax is collected through PAYE whenever appropriate. As part of this, new “off-payroll” tax rules similar to those recently applied in the Public Sector for individuals operating through personal service companies, will be released with a view to implementation in the Private Sector the following year.

 Claire Jones, Associate Director, United Minds, comments,

In 2018, Glassdoor held almost 42 million reviews for more than 800,000 companies, with more than 55 million unique users visiting its app and site each month. Just a fraction compared to LinkedIn’s 562 million users across more than 200 countries and territories. With social media sites like these, complemented by the continued uptake of internal social platforms too, the opportunity for employees to have their voices heard can only can only become greater.

In 2019, we expect employees’ voices to get louder and become more impactful than ever before. HR has a role to play in listening to these voices and facilitating the conversation between employees and leadership. The organisations that can do this effectively, will be the ones that can earn their people’s trust, loyalty and continued commitment, particularly among younger factions of the workforce. They will be also the ones that reap a virtuous benefit as their engaged employees become advocates, prepared to speak out with credibility and authenticity on social media.

Chris Dyer, Author; CEO and founder of PeopleG2

The events of 2018 alert us to look ahead toward what the next year may bring, and I see culture as the dividing line for many businesses. While technology has marched along in areas such as artificial intelligence, political and climactic changes may shrink the human talent pool. Hiring for fit and retaining those people will be more difficult, but a culture of teamwork and positivity can help us prepare.

Specific skill sets may be in short supply in 2019. To keep your best people, hire those with personal styles that fit your company’s mission and values. And look for folks who focus more on “solving” than on “problems.” Positivity goes a long way in heading off threats.

Exploring contingencies also helps in meeting unavoidable challenges. In my company, to do this, we convene a “tsunami meeting.” I’ll ask my staff: What if a big account doubles our business next year? What if a recession hits? Or, what would you do if I, the CEO, die tomorrow?

Posing what-ifs helps us find workable solutions or prepare for change. Taking a positive and creative approach—before action is needed—relieves stress today and helps look forward to tomorrow.

Thomas Davies, CEO and founder, Temporall, comments,

The next big thing to hit HR will be the rise of organisational network analysis and the need to understand and analyse business attitude and culture. Using AI and machine learning to tap into the data behind a company’s culture can paint a picture of the business sentiment internally with regards to certain topics, particularly sensitive issues that employees would be hesitant to come forward about.

Culture is often believed to be related to just employee engagement. But, when measuring culture accurately, you can use this information to create a strong business strategy and drive a high-performance team. Business leaders will need to analyse the people, organisation, leadership and technology within a firm as these are the core elements that drive performance. The analytics behind these can help businesses to track and adapt the company culture. 2019 will be the year that business leaders recognise that culture is the new KPI on the block.

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Aphrodite is a creative writer and editor specialising in publishing and communications. She is passionate about undertaking projects in diverse sectors. She has written and edited copy for media as varied as social enterprise, art, fashion and education. She is at her most happy owning a project from its very conception, focusing on the client and project research in the first instance, and working closely with CEOs and Directors throughout the consultation process. Much of her work has focused on rebranding; messaging and tone of voice is one of her expertise, as is a distinctively unique writing style in my most of her creative projects. Her work is always driven by the versatility of language to galvanise image and to change perception, as it is by inspiring and being inspired by the wondrous diversity of people with whom paths she crosses cross!

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