COVID-19 Impact on HR & Legal recruitment in the Middle East

This article was written by Hayley Wilkins, Senior Manager – Customer Engagement and HR, Michael Page Middle East


I don’t need to tell you that we find ourselves in unprecedented circumstances in the recruitment world and whilst there are some with experience of challenges in the face of 2008 global financial crisis, this global pandemic has bought us a unique set of challenges.

Michael Page Middle East has been working from home since 18th March and we quickly adapted to new ways of engaging with our candidates and clients through new technology and recruitment processes. We will continue to put our employees, candidates and clients safety first as we emerge from our current situation with a gradual return to the office in line with UAE government guidelines.

We specialise in 15 sector markets across the Middle East and despite the circumstances we have seen some pockets of positive activity during the last 2 months.

  • Technology and telecommunicationsare at the forefront. Some businesses were forced to act quickly to get their teams working online, from home and in a short space of time. Some were more prepared than others,so we are having more conversations on hiring of key talent in technology to facilitate the development of this strategy moving forward.
  • FMCG businesses, especially those in staple foods and produce, were forced to up their supplies relativity quickly to equal demand. Recruitment still continues in this industry mainly in Legal and Sales and we anticipate that this industry will continue to recruit critical hires whilst other industries wait it out.
  • Financial Services mainly in investment and private equity continue to hire with recruitment of roles across all functions still going strong.

How has the HR recruitment market been impacted by Covid-19?

I personally manage HR recruitment and have been specialising in this space for 7 years in the Middle East. I have seen a number of changes over the years in the direction of HR functions and the last 12 months have been no different!

The HR function has been one of the most heavily impacted functions in most businesses during the current pandemic as HR professionals, of all levels, have been involved with devising new work from home policies, restructuring of teams and salary budgets as well handling day to day employee services. All whilst maintaining the safety and wellbeing of all employees.I have also seen some excellent, innovative approaches to employee engagement and performance management during this time so I applaud HR professionals who have continually adapted and worked round the clock to ensure these policies are implemented effectively. They have also been on the frontline handling difficult situations related to the economical impact of their employers.

Moving forward post COVID19, we will see a continued demand for creative HR candidates especially with achievements under their belt in employee engagement and retention as well as candidates with expertise in talent development and performance management.If you have this experience, highlight it on your CV and Linkedin profile! Key hires will be made in these areas with blended operational and strategic capabilities so senior candidates need to be prepared to take on more operational tasks as HR functions become more streamlined.

How has the legal recruitment market been impacted by Covid-19?

Companies who are recruiting for lawyers in this climate are looking for different skills out of their counsel compared to last year. Along with an increasing demand for employment lawyers who have an excellent understanding of the new employment law changes across the GCC, the visa restrictions, and how to best approach employee disputes, we are finding that restructuring, insolvency and bankruptcy lawyers are also enjoying a hike in interest. This is predominantly within private practice.

For in-house, it is the FMCG companies such as food & beverage, consumer durables and hygiene products distributors that have ramped up their hiring processes and are moving at a surprisingly quick pace. We have also observed an increase in job flow for lawyers who have over 5 years of experience in technology, telecoms, and media. The main skills sought after here are data protection, public policy, intellectual property and cloud computing. 

Learn more about Michael Page Human Resources and Michael Page Legal.

Download our GCC Employment Law publication released in partnership with DWF and LexisNexis. With employment law such a hot topic currently, we are pleased to officially launch this employment law publication. You can treat this publication as your personal employment law handbook that covers all GCC jurisdictions and is published in English & Arabic. Save the link to refer to when needed and we will continually update it as new resolutions and articles are released.

Also take a look at our online recordings of webinars conducted in the last couple of months. Information is up to date at the time of the recording and may continue to change as the situation evolves.