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Inspiring Women In Law - An interview with Rosa María Arenales: How are Technology and Remote Work transforming labor relations?

Latin Counsel spoke with Rosa María Arenales, partner at Arias Law in Guatemala since 2021, about the changes in labor relations in times of remote work and technological advances such as artificial intelligence. The lawyer recognized by Chambers Latin America and The Legal 500 and specialist in labor, immigration, regulatory and corporate law also explained why labor relations have become more flexible in recent years and gave details of her latest high-impact projects.

Marina Vanni,  March 4, 2024

Latin Counsel: How do you help your clients improve employment relations and what are the most frequent difficulties they encounter?

Rosa María Arenales: One of the most effective ways in which we help our clients who have a direct impact on employment relations is through preventive legal advice, training, and verification of compliance with employment obligations. This allows us to identify opportunities for improvement and risks, and suggest mitigation actions, and implement best practices in labor and occupational health and safety, among others. This is essential for good employment relations and to identify areas of opportunity that require improvement.

In addition to the ordinary challenges that arise in any organization with its human talent, such as disciplinary processes, dismissals, and administrative and/or judicial claims. I believe that one of the most important current challenges is the retention of talent, which has implied that employers have to innovate in their compensation models to be more competitive, be flexible in the way they work, promote the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and offer additional benefits related to people’s wellbeing and health.

LC: How has the rise of remote work transformed labor relations and their legal aspects?

RMA: What the rise of remote work and the transformation in labor relations has shown us is that it is necessary to adapt to prosper in an increasingly digitalized world, which, as Heraclitus of Ephesus said more than 2,500 years ago, "the only constant is change", and labor relations are no exception.

So we are certain that labor relations will continue to evolve and transform, and it will be the ability to adapt, continuous training, flexibility, and effective collaboration between work teams that allows and will allow us to face these new situations.

To date, in Guatemala we do not have specific regulations of remote work, however, this has not prevented its implementation, with the challenges involved in implementing flexible policies and modalities that lack a specific regulatory framework.

This leads me to mention that it is necessary to promote a legislative reform in labor matters to be congruent with the challenges presented by the digital transformation in labor relations, and to safeguard and properly protect the needs of both workers and employers.

LC: Has what employers and employees look for in an employment relationship changed in recent years? What major changes do you notice in recruiting, hiring, and retaining talent?

RMA: All these processes have evolved, but from my perspective, I could say that the aspects that stand out the most are: labor flexibility, of course there will always be an important focus on aptitude to perform the job, professional ethics, technical and technological skills, but now more value is given to soft skills, opportunities for professional growth within the company and a focus on measuring productivity and results.

There is also a growing awareness of the need to create healthy, diverse, and inclusive work environments.

LC: How do you see the future of labor relations in an increasingly technology-dependent world?

RMA: I see more dynamic labor relations, constantly adapting to a world where technology changes and advances at a very fast pace and plays an increasingly important role in every business.

Highly rigid structures seem to be a thing of the past. In today’s labor relations, we must consider flexible hiring schemes, both from the perspective of the place and time in the provision of services (remote work, hybrid, flexible, partial, etc.) as well as different remuneration schemes. But there is also another series of situations that must be considered, such as the proper use of work tools, use of Artificial Intelligence, information security, data protection, and privacy, among others. 

I mentioned it before, but one of the challenges we lawyers face, at least in Guatemala, is to match the agility, flexibility, and dynamism that technological advances offer us with the legal regulations we have, which date back many years and do not consider the different ways and facilities in which we can work now thanks to technology and an increasingly digitized work environment.

LC: What was the last high-impact project you worked on?

RMA: Fortunately at the Firm we have been able to participate in large projects resulting from acquisitions, mergers, or corporate restructurings with great impact on labor relations. However, I find most rewarding the projects that have an impact on people and communities, and that we have carried out as part of our pro-bono project.  Recently, I had the opportunity to support the family reunification of a child with his immigrant father abroad; and to formalize a training center led by indigenous women who seek to support the children of their community, teaching them the art of weaving and the importance of learning different skills, dedicating their time to healthy activities and encouraging them to constantly improve themselves; and to provide them with training on labor rights in general and effective preparation for job interviews.

I had the joy of contributing my grain of sand to these projects, and they are the ones that have given me the greatest sense of personal and professional fulfillment. 

Learn more about Rosa María Arenales - Arias Law

Interview by: Marina Vanni

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