Littler, the leading employment and labour law practice globally, has published its sixth annual European Employer Survey Report, offering valuable insights into the evolving landscape of workplace management, policy, and culture.

The report is based on feedback from 780 HR executives, in-house lawyers, and business leaders across Europe, delving into how employers are adapting to changing work dynamics.


Flexibility: A New Workplace Standard

In the aftermath of recent global upheavals, European workplaces are embracing a new working paradigm, with flexible and hybrid work models becoming increasingly prevalent. The 2023 survey indicates a continuity from the previous year’s findings, with 30% of employers mandating fully in-person work, while a majority (58% in 2023 and 57% in 2022) adopt hybrid models offering a balance of in-person and remote work. Notably, European employers show a greater inclination towards in-office collaboration compared to their American counterparts, with only 16% of U.S. employers requiring fully in-person work.

However, enforcing these in-office work policies is not without challenges. Only 52% of respondents reported significant employee compliance with in-person work policies, and just 36% acknowledged that their work models align with employee preferences. Raoul Parekh, a Littler partner in the U.K., emphasized that the adoption of hybrid work models is key to aligning business needs with employee preferences, crucial in the competitive talent market.

Additionally, nearly half of the employers surveyed (48%) permit remote work from abroad, and 38% are considering a four-day workweek. Laura Jousselin, another Littler partner, highlighted the complexities such arrangements pose, particularly when adequate policies are not in place.


AI’s Growing Role in HR

The survey reveals a divided stance on the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in HR functions. While 61% of respondents use predictive AI for various HR tasks, and 59% employ generative AI, a significant proportion remains hesitant. The proposed AI Act in the European Union has not significantly altered the usage of AI, as 70% of those using AI in employment have not modified their practices in response to regulatory proposals. Jan-Ove Becker, a Littler partner in Germany, points out the importance of preparing for AI integration in HR to leverage its evolving benefits.


Navigating Workplace Legal and Social Issues

A major shift identified in the survey is the increasing pressure on employers to address divisive social and political issues in the workplace. With 75% of respondents finding it challenging to manage such expectations, these issues are garnering significant attention at the leadership level. Stephan Swinkels, Littler’s Coordinating Partner International, notes the rising importance of labour and employment law issues in executive discussions, underlining their substantial financial and reputational impacts.

The report also covers various legal and HR matters impacting European companies, including mental health accommodations, EU Directives on pay transparency, whistleblower protections, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) initiatives. It features U.S. comparisons and detailed country-specific results for major European economies, including Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the U.K.