Edited by Giacinto Favalli
Labour law and HR management: what is the relationship? An in-depth knowledge of labour relations legislation is essential for those working in human resources management. Close cooperation with a lawyer specialised in this field is now essential for companies, all the more so in a context of rapid technological evolution and, consequently, of constant regulatory changes.
What is labour law?
Labour law is the set of rules that regulate the employment relationship, with the function of protecting the weaker party, offsetting the imbalance of power between the parties to the contract.It is a branch of private law, which over time, has acquired its own autonomy in terms of both procedure (labour disputes are subject to a special rite) and training: today it is recognised as one of the areas of specialisation within the legal profession.
Labour law and HR: what is the relationship?
Employment law is a complex field that is subject to frequent changes (also under the influence of EU provisions), which requires specific expertise from the lawyer specialising in it. Precisely for this reason, the labour lawyer has become one of the professionals of reference for HR departments, both for the ‘ordinary’ management of labour relations (recruitment, transfers, individual dismissals, disciplinary measures etc.), and – above all – in the case of company reorganisation processes (organisational changes, staff reductions, recourse to social support payments, outsourcing, tenders, etc.).Collaboration between companies and the legal specialist in the definition of corporate strategies and, in particular, of their implementation methods, in fact, makes it possible to manage and minimise the risks arising from the incorrect application of the rules and principles of labour law. Companies, especially the larger ones, have become accustomed to considering the labour lawyer as an interlocutor to be involved not only in the event of legal disputes, but also for a correct approach to the complex issues that labour law poses almost daily to the attention of HR departments. A wrong decision from a legal point of view, in fact, usually results in higher costs and also in organisational dysfunctions caused by situations of conflict within the company.
Intertwining with other areas of law
Moreover, labour law is intertwined with mutual influence, with other areas of law which may affect the management of labour relations in various ways. Think, for example, of the Privacy Code (as recently amended by the GDPR), corporate liability under Law No. 231/2001, or even the provisions of the Bank of Italy on remuneration policies and the organic relationship between companies and directors, etc. These regulatory entanglements open up further spaces for collaboration between companies and labour law specialists, which have particularly developed in recent years.
Labour law and technological innovation
Last but not least, it must be considered that technological innovation also presents complex and relevant problems in terms of labour law, both for companies and workers. It is undoubtedly a highly topical issue. For example, think of the controls on employees’ activities at work on digital platforms, regulated by the algorithms that determine their operation; think of remote working or artificial intelligence, which pose problems and issues that have never arisen before.These are phenomena in constant evolution, from which emerge – in perspective – new work models, which require an updating of the rules of law in order to reconcile, on the one hand, the needs of businesses and, on the other hand, the protection of workers, no longer intended only as a guarantee of adequate remuneration, but as attention to a broader range of personal rights (including work/life balance, prohibition of discrimination, safety, etc.).In short, a correct definition of HR strategies cannot disregard an adequate assessment of the limits – and, at the same time, of the opportunities – that may derive from the principles of labour law, which permeate every phase of the employment relationship, from its establishment to its termination. Knowledge of and respect for the rules, in fact, are the unavoidable prerequisite for the correct and efficient management of human resources within any company.