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How the World of Work Is Changing

September 17th, 2020

“The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed employment,” declares this year’s Labor Day Report from Littler Mendelson, one of the largest employment law firms in the world.

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“The challenges employees and employers continue to face this Labor Day are enormous and unprecedented. Even when the coronavirus is finally behind us, many of these challenges will remain," says the report, released on Labor Day.

In five, to-the-point parts the report lays out the current employment situation, explores the changes the pandemic has forced upon the world of work, details the legal complexities and examines federal and state efforts to cope with the crisis.

Business leaders and human resource professionals will find the legal section especially useful. There, the report authors discuss the COVID-inspired lawsuits with a focus on employment issues. The report examines wage and hour cases, layoffs, ADA discrimination, safety and health and similar matters.

In its provocative fifth section, the report attempts to predict what lies ahead, admittedly, says the report, “a fool’s errand.” Nevertheless, it highlights “certain factors and variables” the team of writers suggest will influence the US recovery and put a stamp on the durability of the employment changes COVID-19 has compelled.

Consequently, most of the predictions are really directional signposts, things to watch, rather than outright forecasts. Indeed over half the 10 entries discuss the various surveys and metrics to monitor in order to better judge the direction of the economy and the mood of consumers.

For example, to judge the health of the nation’s small businesses, which the report says is a “bellwether for the economy as a whole,” watch the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey.

“The survey asks 20 key questions worth monitoring, including whether small businesses permanently or temporarily closed a location, are operating at the same capacity relative to one year ago, are receiving federal financial assistance, or have changed their operations in other ways.

“How these responses trend over the coming weeks could be informative," advises the report.

Among the 10 entries in the section are three hints about the future of work:

  • The gig economy – “independent contractor work” the report calls it – will expand, helping to replace jobs that have permanently disappeared. “Because the economic recovery will be long and protracted, individuals will need to look to other avenues find work,” says the report.
  • Online shopping has expanded so much that it may have accelerated the closure of physical stores. In addition, “crowd avoidance may influence the number of people who plan to attend concerts and theaters, take public transportation, or travel when the pandemic subsides.”
  • “A safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine will go a long way to revitalizing jobs that require close personal contact, and boosting consumer confidence.”

The report concludes saying, “The challenges of the past six months have tested the resolve and resiliency of the U.S. population and economy. How businesses fare in the next six months may indicate how long these current struggles will last.”

Photo by Javier Allegue Barros

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