As the economy falters, has the balance of power shifted between staff and bosses?

So many headlines are heralding the end of “the great resignation” and a reversal of home working. But is that true? Ahead of next month’s Business of Yorkshire Conference, Employment lawyer Catherine Devereux lifts the lid on how she’s helping clients at Knights and what that work can tell us about the balance of power between employers and employees.


Catherine, you’ve been an employment specialist for many years, what are the key things your clients are facing?

Recruitment is a big challenge in a variety of sectors right now.

Changes in working practices since the pandemic mean employees have re-thought how they work and look for other benefits and not just financial rewards in terms of their role. Even in an economic downturn, that shows no real sign of changing. 

Lots of employers are grappling with a drive to get people back into offices. But that is pitted against the fact that people want to have the flexibility over their time that hybrid working offers. 

In a similar vein, the ability to work remotely has widened the net for potential candidates. For that reason, many larger firms are seeking to recruit the best people, which has had an impact on smaller, regional businesses’ ability to recruit.

What would you say has changed recently?

There is certainly less turnover of staff amongst many workforces because of a difficulty in hiring in many sectors.

In years gone by, an employer may have cut ties with an employee at an early stage if they appear to be underperforming or are not the right fit for the business. 

They are now tending to persevere with staff for fear of not being able to recruit into the role. In some cases, it appears that a sub-standard employee is deemed a better option than no employee at all. Of course, that is by no means always the case. 

Something else that has been really noticeable lately is an increase in the number of people going to an employment tribunal without a lawyer or represented by someone without any qualification.

That is driven by the cost of seeking good legal advice. Facing someone with no representation often makes it difficult to settle a claim amicably as their expectations may be unrealistic or difficult to manage. 

How can you help employers right now and what do you think the future holds?

I advise employers on all aspects of employment law and HR practice across a variety of sectors and advise on both contentious and non-contentious matters. 

My main area of specialism are advising on business transfers as well as working alongside businesses on share sales/employment issues that may arise in such situations and on large and small scale redundancy exercises.

Employment law is forever changing and I imagine that with a general election coming up in the next year that we will see some quite big changes to employment legislation if there is a change in government. Watch this space!

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