The Paradigm of Employment Law

The IBA Employment and Industrial Relations Law Committee and the IBA Discrimination Law Committee conference, titled the Paradigm of Employment Law, started in New York this week.

The conference is taking place just as, before the US Supreme Court, lawyers are pleading in the case of whether Obamacare is constitutional or not. After months of anticipation, thousands of pages of briefs and more than six hours of arguments, the justices will vote on the fate of President Barack Obama’s healthcare overhaul, a law that influences the lives of millions of American citizens. This matter only underlines the impact lawyers and the legislature have on everyday’s life.

No part of the law is more in the heart of society than employment law. Everybody will at some point in time have to deal with matters such as pensions, reorganisations, transfers of undertakings, severance payments and rights of temporary employees. 

Interestingly these matters are (no longer) the key issues to the employment law specialists from all over the world. This year’s topics included the challenges of cross-border investigations, cross-border litigation and the mobility of employees. Instead of comparing best practices in each country, these topics clearly put an accent on the globalisation of employment law.

The fact that employment law indeed has a global reach was confirmed by reality as on Wednesday a full page ad appeared in the New York Times. In the piece German T-Mobile trade union members asked the management of US T-Mobile subsidiaries to grant their US employees the same rights as their European colleagues. This advertisement only emphasised how global employment and labour law has become.

Global also applied to the participants of the conference. More than 260 employment lawyers from as far away as Australia, New Zealand, Chile and Japan found their way to New York. This underlines the fact that a speciality that until recently was considered merely national now has found a truly worldwide audience.

Stephan Swinkels is executive director of L&E Global, an integrated global alliance of employment law boutiques