Global employment and labour law update
13 May 2019
Welcome to the second edition of our quarterly Global Employment Law Update. Working with lawyers from our international team, we have identified key trends in employment law to provide you with a country by-country overview of significant developments across the globe.
Whilst the detail and level of changes we can see varies, of course, from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, there are some common themes and trends that can be observed across countries and continents. The most prominent themes reﬂect the political and societal issues that employers have to grapple with across the globe and that often go hand in hand with the impact of technology on our lives and workplaces.
One of the key themes is transparency and compliance, most clearly evidenced by whistleblower protection but also in provisions aimed at giving greater clarity on employment status and worker rights. A number of European countries have recently taken or are taking steps to bolster whistleblower protection, even before a new EU Whistleblowing Directive has had to be implemented, examples being Norway and Poland who are introducing increased safeguards. Slovakia has even opted to create a distinct overseeing authority for whistleblowing allegations, one of very few countries to do so.
But such developments are by no means confined to Europe, as the United Arab Emirates have also revealed significant new protections for whistleblowers in the coming months. In a similar vein, greater protection for those making criminal disclosures is also in evidence in the US, where a further US State has now outlawed the use of non-disclosure agreements in employment contracts and settlement agreements.
As to transparency and compliance regarding employment status and workers’ rights the EU is working towards a new directive promoting transparent and predictable working conditions, but in advance of this several countries are already introducing stricter requirements.
This issue is not limited to Europe, however, and across the world we can see developments aimed at ensuring the protection of those considered to be in more vulnerable types of employment, whether lower paid or less secure, the use of which has become far more wide spread with increased technological change. This can be seen, for example, in case law and legislative developments regarding deemed employment status of agency workers (South Africa); the tightening of use of fixed-term contracts (Germany) and of rules on low-hour and zero-hour employees (Ireland and Netherlands); stricter rules for hiring of temporary workers and greater rights for fixed term and part time workers (Norway); clearer pay information (UK) and the increase in the threshold for exempt status under the FLSA in the USA.
The transparency theme is also present in pay reporting requirements where it goes hand in hand with the drive towards greater equality, in particular in respect of gender equality, and therefore the wider topic of diversity and inclusion. Pay reporting requirements are mainly aimed at progressing a reduction in gender pay diﬀerences but in some instances also support a wider diversity and inclusion and/or fairness agenda, as seen for example in the UK with its pay ratio reporting requirements and consultation on plans for ethnicity pay gap reporting. Ireland is introducing gender pay gap reporting provisions for the very first time, whilst Switzerland and Spain have revealed extensions to the law in this area.
The equality theme also manifests itself in extensions of family friendly rights that can be seen across many and very diverse jurisdictions. In Ireland, we are seeing for the first time state supported paid parental leave of two weeks and in Spain, in addition to bringing a larger number of employers under the rules requiring implementation of an equality plan and a right to request a change to working arrangements, paternity leave will gradually be extended to match maternity leave and to include some element of compulsory paternity leave. Rights for working parents are also being improved in Asia and the Middle East where discrimination laws and their enforcement are also being strengthened.
Finally, demographic changes and an aging population continue to pose a challenge for pension provision with some countries addressing this through planned increases in retirement age (Russia and Sweden) and, others, through increased private saving for retirement (Poland).
Reﬂecting some of these key trends, we are pleased to include two extra features in this edition that explore the topics of global corporate campaigns (page 72) and pre-employment background checks around the world (page 76).
We hope you will find this update useful.
See also:(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)