The results of Pannone Corporate’s 2023 Regulatory survey are in!
Earlier this year we invited responses on a number of issues, to gauge the current concerns and anxieties within businesses as to their compliance obligations and worries for the coming year.
Responses continue to be received, although at this early stage a number of clear trends have already started to emerge.
What EHS issues are currently causing the greatest concerns for businesses?
By far and away the most common concern for recipients of the survey is the issue and impact of sustainability, with 75% of respondents highlighting this as an area of current concern for them and their business.
- Much commentary has already been prepared as to the increasing awareness and presence of sustainability as a concept, and we consider that the focus on re-use, recycling and drive towards a circular economy will continue to pervade all aspects of day-to-day business operations, across sectors.
- We have already started to see claims in the UK against Boards regarding the accuracy of their green credentials, and this area only looks set to further dominate business attention over the coming months and years.
Of almost equal concern amongst respondents to our survey (62%) was their ability to attract and retain quality staff.
- This is an issue which may have its roots in Brexit, but which has likely been exacerbated by global events since 2020. In our experience, employees are now more conscious of issues arising within their working environment and less likely to accept conditions that may be prejudicial to them.
However, somewhat surprisingly, less than 40% of respondents ranked employee wellbeing as a current concern for their business.
- Despite recent emphasis on employee wellbeing within the wider media, and an express intention by the Health and Safety Executive in its current Business Strategy to address workplace stress, on a practical level it does not appear that this external pressure has translated into a significant business priority at this time.
- It is only a matter of time before enforcement action is taken in connection with employee wellbeing, and it is hoped that businesses address their mind to this growing area sooner rather than later.
What has had the biggest impact on EHS?
A clear concern amongst respondents to our survey is confusion caused around the introduction of new legislation, the extent to which new regulations will apply to them and the potentially limited guidance available from central Government in respect of discrete issues, with one respondent stating a desire for, “plain and simple,” language to be used. For regulations and guidance to be effective, they need to be capable of understanding and comprehension by recipients.
Added to this, the still unknown impact of the Retained EU Law Bill is continuing to cause anxiety for many respondents to our survey, with a number highlighting this as a concern for the immediate future.
The draft Bill continues to work its way through Parliament but, if enacted in its current form, risks removing overnight the majority of EU-derived workplace regulations, including the Working Time Directive, Work at Height Regulations and CDM. Were this to occur, it would have a seismic impact on all businesses and would fundamentally change the nature of workplace regulation.
How can businesses prepare?
The world of workplace and business regulation has been evolving over a number of years, and global events since 2020 have accelerated this change. For example, not only has there been an increase in the number of matters subject to regulation, but the manner and methodology by which regulators discharge their functions has also had to be revised.
These changes look set to continue, and what is clear from the survey responses is that businesses appear to be less concerned with traditional compliance issues and physical health and safety and are currently focused instead on novel issues.
No one can predict the future, but the recent shift in the nature of workplace compliance looks set to continue and businesses should take steps to embrace these changes.
As Lord Robens suggested in his 1972 report, which laid the foundation for the Health and Safety at Work etc Act, what he considered was required was a “greater acceptance of shared responsibility, for more reliance on self-inspection and self-regulation and less on state regulation.”
Going forwards, we consider that rather than businesses addressing their mind to specific risk as they arise – as may have been the case in respect of traditional health and safety concerns and risks to physical safety – what the world of workplace compliance increasingly requires now is a holistic approach.
For example, in respect of employee wellbeing, provision of workplace perks is unlikely to be sufficient on its own. Whilst such measures will usually be appreciated by a workforce, what is of increasing importance is the condition of their entire employment relationship, including in respect of management culture, monotony of daily routines and efficiency of IT systems.
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