Welcome to our international quarterly newsletter. This Summer 2016 edition focuses on employment, pensions and benefits legal developments which took place in the EU, Belgium, China, France, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and the UK over the past 3 months. 

EUROPEAN UNION

BREXIT – WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR GLOBAL EMPLOYERS?

The news dominating the attention of the press, public and ourselves is the UK’s vote to leave the EU in the referendum on 23 June. This is set to trigger a period of uncertainty for global employers operating in Europe because no-one knows quite what the UK’s withdrawal process will entail and what form the UK’s relationship with the EU will take in the future. In our recent briefing on this topic, we tried to identify the key issues global employers are likely to be faced with.

SHARING ECONOMY DEVELOPMENTS

A variety of on-demand economy business models are rapidly emerging and growing across Europe and beyond, changing the way services are traditionally provided and creating a more competitive and innovative marketplace. These models operate through online platforms or mobile applications and span many services sectors and activities, such as swapping homes, sharing rides and organising deliveries. 
As anticipated in our Spring 2016 edition, on 2 June, the EU Commission finally issued a communication called “A European agenda for the collaborative economy”(otherwise referred to as “sharing economy” or “on-demand economy”), urging member states not to hamper it by excessive regulation (please read our full briefing here). 
While there is still no consensus on a clear legal definition of this phenomenon, the sharing economy is undisputedly providing benefits and opportunities to many people. Hence, the Commission stated that related activities should only be banned as a measure of last resort and business authorisations requirements should only be imposed when necessary to meet relevant public interest goals. 
The EU Commission addressed the crucial issue of the status of workers, calling on members states to provide guidance on the applicability of their national employment rules in light of labour (and related tax) patterns in the collaborative economy. While the Commission did not elaborate on its stance over the hotly disputed classification controversy on whether on-demand workers are employees or self- employed, in May this year theFrench social security authority (URSSAF) took legal action against Uber, claiming social security contributions on the basis that its drivers are employees, not independent contractors.

EU COMMISSION APPROVES EU-US PRIVACY SHIELD

After the EU-US data transfer framework - known as Safe Harbor - was declared invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union (the CJEU) on 6 October 2015 in the Schrems decision, US and EU authorities have been negotiating a new deal to address the concerns raised by the CJEU, including generalised mass surveillance by the US government and the lack of effective legal redress for individuals. 
The EU Commission presented the draft “EU-U.S. Privacy Shield” on 29 February. Since then, the independent data protection authorities ("Article 29 Working Party") and the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) issued their opinions to include additional clarifications and improvements. 
On 12 July, the EU Commission finally adopted the Privacy Shield. The official "adequacy decision" has been notified to the Member States on the same date and entered into force immediately. In the US, the Privacy Shield framework will be published in the Federal Register and US companies will be able to sign up to the Privacy Shield framework with the US Commerce Department from 1 August 2016. 
According to the EDPS Opinion (4/2016) however, the Privacy Shield does not adequately include all appropriate safeguards to protect EU citizens' rights to privacy and data protection, nor does it provide them with judicial redress in the US when their data is mishandled by US public authorities. In line with the EDPS’ statement, Max Schrems, whose complaint against Facebook sank the previous agreement, thinks Privacy Shield resembles Safe Harbour with a few additions – improved, but far from what the CJEU had asked for. 
Therefore, the use of model clauses and binding corporate rules is still recommended as the risk that the new mechanism is going to be challenged before the CJEU remains high.

EUROPEAN DATA PROTECTION SUPERVISOR’S STANCE ON THE NEW DATA PROTECTION REGULATION

The EDPS published its 2015 Annual Report last May, setting out its primary activities in 2015 as well as priorities and challenges for the year ahead. A key concept of the new data protection regulation is the creation of the toolkit on necessity to better equip EU legislators responsible for drafting and scrutinising measures relating to the processing of personal data where privacy and other freedoms are at risk of being infringed. The EDPS will work with the EU data protection authorities in the Article 29 Working Party (WP29) to prepare for the European Data Protection Board, which will replace WP29 and will be vital to achieving the proposed reform.

EU CASE LAW (1) - HEADSCARF BAN JUSTIFIED BY EMPLOYER’S NEUTRALITY POLICY

Advocate General (AG) Kokott recently gave an opinion on the Achbita and another v G4S Secure Solutions NVcase submitted to the CJEU for preliminary ruling (C-157/15), stating that the Belgian company’s dress code banning headscarves and other religious symbols in the workplace does not amount to direct discrimination. 
Ms Achbita – who had been working for G4S as a receptionist for three years, previously only wearing her headscarf outside of the workplace– was laid off for refusing to stop wearing the headscarf in the workplace in spite of her employer’s regulation and subsequently brought a claim for wrongful dismissal and discrimination. 
The AG stated that there was no direct discrimination as the ban applied without distinction and to all religions and ideologies and it was incorporated into the company’s regulation in order to preserve neutrality on the workplace. Even if it did amount to direct discrimination, it could be regarded as a “genuine determining occupational requirement” under article 4(1) of the Equal Treatment Directive (2000/78/EC). 
Such ban might however constitute indirect discrimination under article 2(2)(b) of the same Directive, nevertheless it could be justified on the basis of the policy of neutrality pursued by G4S, insofar as the principle of proportionality is observed (taking into account the size and visibility of the religious symbol, the nature and context of the employee’s activity, the national identity of the member state concerned, etc.). 
Given the lack of equally suitable alternatives to achieve the same aim, the AG found that G4S’ policy was proportionate, appropriate and necessary. 
This opinion – if followed by the CJEU – may be welcomed by employers, however it must be remembered that the AG’s opinion is not binding on the Court, which could reach a different conclusion. The final ruling of the CJEU is expected within three to six months and will certainly be a landmark decision.

EU CASE LAW (2) - WORKER UNABLE TO TAKE ANNUAL LEAVE DUE TO SICKNESS CAN CARRY IT FORWARD TO NEXT YEAR

In Sobczyszyn v Szkoła Podstawowa w Rzeplinie (C-178/15), the CJEU held that a worker prevented from taking her previously scheduled annual leave before the end of the year due to sickness absence is entitled to carry the untaken holiday forward into the next year. Any national law or practice prohibiting this would be incompatible with Article 7 of the Working Time Directive (2003/88/EC). 
In the CJEU case law, the right to paid annual leave is intended to grant the worker a period of relaxation and leisure, whereas sick leave aims to enable a worker to recover from an illness. In light of this difference in purpose, the CJEU noted that it had previously found that a worker taking sick leave for the whole or part of the leave year has the right to request to take holiday at a different time than the scheduled annual leave. However, it is ultimately up to the national court to decide on this matter. So long as the national court concludes that the purposes of sick and paid annual leave are different, the worker must be allowed to take a different period of annual leave – compatible with any overriding interests – but which may fall outside the holiday year in which the annual leave should have been taken.

EU TRADE SECRETS DIRECTIVE ENTERED INTO FORCE

Further to our Spring edition update, on 27 May the EU Council formally adopted Directive (EU) 2016/943 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information (trade secrets) against their unlawful acquisition, use and disclosure. The Directive came into force on 5 July 2016. Member states will now have to transpose it into their national laws by 9 June 2018, being able to provide for a more far-reaching protection as they see fit.

MARKET ABUSE REGULATION ENTERED INTO FORCE

The Market Abuse Regulation (596/2014/EU) (MAR) came into force on 3 July 2016, replacing the existing framework that has been in place since 2005 and introducing a single market abuse rulebook across all EU Member States (as we reported in our Spring 2016 edition). 
In particular, MAR promotes financial incentives and protection for whistleblowers and introduces a requirement for employers who provide regulated financial services to implement internal procedures for their employees to report breaches of MAR. 
Moreover, it includes a more prescriptive format for insider lists of people that have access to inside information, triggering data protection issues that should be considered. 
There are changes to the reporting obligations and regulation of dealings by directors and persons discharging managerial responsibilities (PDMRs) and those closely associated with them. 

PDMRs will be prohibited from dealing within a 30-day closed period prior to certain announcements, however there is an exception for transactions made under, or related to employee share schemes, subject to issuer consent.

INFORMAL TRIALOGUE ON IORP

The Council of the European Union (via the Permanent Representatives Committee) approved an agreement with the European Parliament on institutions for occupational retirement provision (IORPs). The draft Directive is intended to improve the governance and transparency of IORPs, and to facilitate their cross-border activity. The draft Directive is expected to be approved by the European Parliament at its first reading, and member states will have two years to transpose it into their national legal 

BELGIUM

RIGHT TO BE OFFLINE

Given further technological developments which have increased the possibilities to work from home, the line between work and home is becoming increasingly blurred. Therefore, the idea of a right to be offline is being discussed, that could for example imply employees’ right not to respond to any work-related emails during part of their working hours and instead focus on other things during that time, in order to avoid the risk of a burnout. How such right would work in practice remains to be seen and will probably largely depend on company-level arrangements. 

CHINA

DECREASE IN EMPLOYER’S CONTRIBUTION RATE TO SOCIAL INSURANCE

Chinese authorities are looking at reducing labour costs through further decrease in social insurance contributions. 
More specifically, as to contributions to the basic pension insurance, in the provinces where the employer’s required contribution rate to the basic pension insurance is higher than 20%, the rate now should be capped at 20%; in provinces where the contribution rate is 20% and the accumulated balance of the basic pension insurance funds for employees as at the end of 2015 can afford the payments for more than nine months, the employer's contribution rate may be lowered to 19% by stages. 
With respect to unemployment insurance, the overall unemployment insurance payment rate is further reduced to 1-1.5% by stages. These decreased contribution rates would be applied for two years temporarily. 
As indicated by this notice, specific plans for contribution rate reduction shall be made by each province. It is expected to see detailed local implementing rules to be enforced. 

EXPECTED AMENDMENT TO PRC EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT LAW

The PRC Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security is in the process of reviewing the current PRC Employment Contract Law and may propose amendments to the National People's Congress - the supreme legislative body of China - in due course, aiming at introducing more flexibility to employment and reducing labour costs. The PRC Employment Contract Law is the fundamental legislation in PRC labour law system, addressing most of the important issues with respect to the employment relationship. 

Recent discussions have focused on whether to abolish the written employment contract requirement, to allow employer and employee to contract out statutory termination grounds, to reduce statutory severance, to expand the applicable scope of liquidated damages to be (currently) paid by the employee who breaches his/her obligations under a training bond or post-termination non-competition covenant to the employer, etc. However, the PRC Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has not disclosed what amendments would be proposed yet. 

FRANCE

CONS. PRUD’H. PARIS, 7 JUIN 2016, KERVIEL C/ SOCIÉTÉ GÉNÉRALE, N° 15/08164

After having been criminally convicted for his illegal trades, Jérôme Kerviel – a former Société Générale SA trader - obtained an unfair dismissal ruling from the Paris labour court‎ last June. 
In October 2010, Kerviel was sentenced to a 5-year prison term (out of which two years on probation), decision which was confirmed in March 2014 by the Supreme Court. On 7 June 2016, the Paris labour court held his dismissal notified for wilful misconduct as unfair stating that the facts quoted in the dismissal letter were time-barred. 
French employers are prohibited from punishing an employee for any misconduct - irrespective of its nature or gravity - acknowledged more than two months before initiating the disciplinary procedure. Once the misconduct is discovered, the employer has two months to decide whether or not to take a disciplinary measure against the employee. Failure to do so will result in the dismissal being automatically qualified as unfair.‎ 
In the case at hand, the Paris labour court considered - based on the evidence produced by the claimant - that Société Générale had been aware of Kerviel's actions for longer than two months before initiating the disciplinary proceedings which rendered the dismissal unfair; Kerviel's superiors had actually tolerated his illegal trades as long as these were profitable. In its defence, Société Générale argued that the mere criminal character of Kerviel's actions justified his dismissal, even though the 2-month timeframe had not been observed. The Paris labour court did not allow this argument and granted Kerviel damages for unfair dismissal in the amount of €100,000 (11 months' average salary). Given the broad mediatization of his case, Kerviel was also granted damages in the amount €20,000 as compensation for the vexatious circumstances of his dismissal. ‎ 

GERMANY

BAFIN ESTABLISHES WHISTLEBLOWER PLATFORM

Germany’s financial regulator (BaFin) created a dedicated platform via which financial sector employees can report suspected regulatory violations and wrongdoings within their company. While illustrating the different possibilities for potential whistleblowers to contact it (also anonymously) by mail, email, phone or in person, BaFin also stressed that it will follow a special procedure to ensure their identity is protected at all times. This new central contact point operates since 2 July and is accessible via BaFin’s website

UPDATE ON THE NEW "TEMPORARY EMPLOYMENT ACT"

In our Winter 2016 edition we reported on the discussions around a new "Temporary Employment Act”. As agreed at political level, the latest draft of the Act contains the following substantial changes:

Maximum hire term

Exemptions to the new 18 months maximum hire term for temporary employees, which the Act is looking at introducing, are being provided for. 
In particular, it will be possible to agree on a maximum hire term of 24 months by way of collective bargaining agreement of the sector of the hiring company or by a works agreement if the company is not bound by any collective bargaining agreement. Hire times prior to 1 January 2017 shall not be taken into account for the 18 months period.

Equal Pay

According to the original draft, the principle of equal pay shall apply no later than after nine months. After this period a temporary employee must not be paid less than a comparable employee in the organisation of the hiring company. However, if collective bargaining agreements concerning gradual harmonization of the material working conditions (Tarifverträge über stufenweise Branchenzuschläge) apply, these agreements remain valid if it is guaranteed that temporary employees receive a remuneration that the tariff parties consider equivalent to the remuneration of comparable employees in the sector. Such equivalent remuneration must be achieved after 15 months of service as a temporary employee at the latest. Given the fact that such collective bargaining agreements are in place in most of the relevant sectors with significant pay gaps, it is expected that not much will change in practice. In contrast to the initial planning, these regulations shall not have a retroactive effect so the relevant period for the application of the equal pay principle will not start elapsing before the new law comes into force. 
The lack of a clear definition of the equal pay term is harshly criticized as it is unclear whether the equal pay principle refers to base salary only or if allowances and other benefits, e.g. for canteen meals or a company kindergarten, also need to be recognized.

Statutory definition of the term “employment relationship”

The highly controversial definition of the term “employment relationship” has been revised and the initial list of eight criteria of key importance has been deleted. The wording is now limited to the definition that has been developed by the Federal Employment Court.

Strike

The initial draft bill also prohibited the use of temporary employees as “strike breakers” if a business was directly affected by a labour dispute. Now it is agreed that temporary workers may still be used during a strike if they continue to work in the same workplace they have been hired for but they shall not carry out additional tasks performed by striking employees.

Co-determination

No changes have been made in this field compared to the initial draft, i.e. the latest draft still provides for an obligation to inform the works council about “the term of the hire of temporary employees, their place of work and their work responsibilities”. In addition, the draft bill provides that temporary employees must be taken into account when calculating thresholds stated in the law on works councils (e.g. with regard to the number of works council members). 

It is still envisaged that the law shall come into force on 1 January 2017.

FIRST DECISION OF THE GERMAN FEDERAL EMPLOYMENT COURT ON MINIMUM WAGE

On 25 May 2016, the German Federal Employment Court issued the first decision on the 2015 German Minimum Wage Act (Mindestlohngesetz), focusing on the issue of which elements of an employee’s remuneration should be taken into account when assessing whether the minimum wage is complied with. The full decision has not been published yet and the following initial information are based on the court’s press release. 
The claimant argued that the inclusion of special payments (Christmas bonus and vacation pay, paid in monthly instalments) in the calculation of minimum wage constitutes a violation of the law. Furthermore, she argued that allowances paid for overtime, night work and Sunday work shall not be taken into account for the calculation of the minimum wage either. 

The Federal Employment Court stressed that the minimum wage is owed for payments which are a compensation for the employee’s work. In light of this, the following distinction between the recognition of special payments and allowances shall be made, with regard to the calculation of minimum wage:

Special payments

The pay-out of Christmas bonus or holiday pay in monthly instalments does not violate the Minimum Wage Act if such special payments are granted each calendar month irrevocably and without reservation. It is therefore recommended – if possible – to split annual Christmas bonuses or holiday payments to monthly instalments to prevent violation of the minimum wage in the low-pay sectors. However, special payments which are not a compensation of the employee’s work (e.g. intended to reward the employee’s years of service with the company), cannot be taken into account for the calculation of the minimum wage. 

Allowances

The court also ruled that where the payment of allowances is based on a statutory rule (which is the case for night work in accordance with the German Working Time Act), such allowances cannot be taken into account for the calculation of the minimum wage. On the other hand, where the allowance is meant to compensate the employee’s performance or a special hardship but is not required by law it can be included in the calculation of the minimum wage. So, from the information provided in the press release, it appears that a deduction is only excluded in those rare cases where there is a legal obligation to pay allowances. 

As a preliminary conclusion – subject to a review of the reasons of the ruling – it seems that this decision is in line with the aim pursued by the Minimum Wage Act: securing the subsistence level. 

JAPAN

AMENDMENTS TO UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE AND PARENTAL/CARE LEAVE

Unemployment insurance

The premium rate for unemployment insurance has been reduced from one per cent to 0.8 per cent because of the improvement of the financial situation of employment insurance. 
Review of parental leave and care leave systems 
In recognition of the different kinds of families in Japan, the requirement of taking childcare leave for adoptive parents have been relaxed. In addition, the scope of workers who are entitled to take childcare leave has been broadened to cover various forms of employment. 
In order to prevent workers from leaving their jobs to take care of their parents, the care leave system has been expanded as well. Under the amended law, workers are able to take care leave separately. In addition, workers are entitled to exemption from working overtime and allowed to take half leave. Finally, the pay-out rates for care leave benefits has been increased.

Employment of older persons

An employee over the age of 65 years is now able to be covered by employment insurance. 
Japan’s current demographic issues, such as the declining birthrate and an ageing population, as well as the economic recession, have pushed the Japanese government to introduce these amendments and, accordingly, employers are required to take appropriate measures. 

Most of the amendments were enacted on 1 April 2016 and others are expected to come into force shortly. 

THE NETHERLANDS

TRANSITIONAL LAW ON STATUTORY SEVERANCE NO LONGER APPLIES

As mentioned in our Summer 2015 edition, as of 1 July 2015 employees are entitled to a “transitional compensation” (a statutory entitlement to a severance payment) upon termination of the employment agreement, if the conditions are met. 
A transitional law was voted, preventing the new rule to result in employers having to pay double because of contractual severance arrangements in place before the law was enacted. Such law provided that in case of collective agreements with trade unions, these would override the statutory arrangement. In case of other existing severance agreements (e.g. with individual employees or the works council), the employee could choose between the statutory transitional compensation or the (individual) agreement by its employer. 
As of 1 July 2016 this transitional law has been abolished, meaning that the employee is entitled to the transitional compensation regardless of whether that would lead to double payment, for example in case the contractual arrangement does not provide for a discount for the statutory pay.

POSITION OF SECONDED WORKERS IN THE EU

Based on the June 2016 Act on Employment Conditions of Seconded Employees in the EU, employees of European companies temporarily working in the Netherlands are now entitled to the same employment terms and conditions as Dutch employees. The employees of European companies are entitled to the most important terms and conditions of Dutch employees, such as: minimum wage, a minimum number of holidays, safe working conditions, and if a generally binding collective labour agreement applies, they are also entitled to its ‘core’ terms and conditions. Furthermore, the Act contains a reporting requirement for certain foreign companies and self-employed individuals wishing to provide services in the Netherlands.

AMENDMENT TO LABOUR MARKET FRAUD ( BOGUS SCHEMES) ACT POSTPONED

The enactment of new provisions of the Labour Market Fraud (Bogus Schemes) Act - prohibiting employers to make certain wage deductions resulting in such wage being lower than the statutory minimum wage or mandatory wage under applicable collective labour agreements - has been postponed from 1 July 2016 to 1 January 2017.

CHANGE OF STATUTORY MINIMUM WAGE

With effect from 1 July 2016 the statutory monthly minimum wage (gross) has been increased as follows: €1,537.20 for employees aged 23 and over in full-time employment, while the minimum weekly wage is now € 354.75 and the minimum daily wage is € 70.95.

CHAIN PROVISION LOOSENED FOR SEASONAL WORKERS

The basic general rule is that fixed term employment contracts that have followed one another with six months or less in between are considered consecutive contracts. Dutch law allows at maximum three consecutive fixed term employment contracts for a maximum total duration of 24 months (including the interruption). Consecutive fixed term contracts entered into in excess of this number and/or duration are automatically converted into a permanent contract. 
With effect from 1 July 2016 the interval of six months can be brought back to three months for seasonal workers, provided that this is done through a collective labour agreement and only in respect of seasonal workers who generally cannot work for more than nine months per year due to climatic conditions. After the three months, a new “chain” of fixed term employment contracts will start. This change will mainly affect companies that are active in seasonal employment as in the agriculture and horticulture sectors. The only current collective labour agreement with this interval is the CLA Open Cultivation. 

RUSSIA

CLARIFICATION OF THE PROCEDURE FOR A SPECIAL ASSESSMENT OF WORKING CONDITIONS

As from 1 May 2016, a declaration assessing working conditions’ compliance with the labour safety regulations must also be filed in relation to those workplaces, were working conditions were recognised as optimum (1st class) or satisfactory (2nd class), and not only in relation to workplaces where no harmful or dangerous conditions were detected during the special assessment. 
The new procedure applies to labour relations entered into from 1 January 2014. Such self-declaration is valid for five years from the date of approval of the report on the special assessment of working conditions. Unless there is an accident at the workplace, the workplace is found to be the cause of an occupational disease, or breaches of labour safety are detected during such term of validity, the declaration will automatically be extended for another five years.

NOTICES OF EMPLOYMENT OF FOREIGN CITIZENS MUST BE FILED WITH THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR

On 1 June 2016, all functions and powers of the Federal Migration Service (FMS) were entirely transferred to the General Administration for Migration Issues of the Interior Ministry of Russia. Therefore, all notices of entering into or termination of employment contracts or civil law contracts with foreign citizens must now be sent to the local body of the General Administration for Migration Issues of the Ministry of Interior. 

SPAIN

DISMISSAL NULL AND VOID FOR DATA PRIVACY INFRINGEMENT

On 13 May 2016, the High Court of Madrid found that an employer has no right to ground a dismissal on the investigation of an employee’s work computer carried out in relation to a specific claim, where a set of personal emails - but no evidence regarding such claim - was found. 
Following an alleged intellectual property rights claim involving an employee having full access to related confidential information, his work computer was examined in search for evidence. During such investigation, a set of private emails sent from his work computer emerged and the employee was dismissed for disciplinary reasons. However, in the dismissal letter, the company only referred to the content of that set of personal e-mails as the cause for dismissal, even though no evidence on the intellectual property rights claim was found in them. 
The employee filed a claim against his employer stating that the dismissal was null and void since the company had infringed his fundamental rights, in particular relating to privacy and secrecy of communications. 
The first instance Labour Court rejected the employee’s claim and held the dismissal valid, however the High Court argued that the dismissal letter did not refer to the use made by the employee of his work computer, but to the content of the emails that were discovered during the investigation. Instead, the correct allegation should have referred to the wrongful use of the professional computer for private purposes. Once the company discovered that the personal emails bore no relation to the intellectual property rights claim, it should have stopped reviewing them, since they constituted private information protected by the right to privacy and to secrecy of communications. Consequently the evidenced obtained from the investigation was considered null and void, as was the dismissal, with the company having to reinstate the employee in his position and pay accrued salaries from termination. 

UNITED KINGDOM

TRADE UNIONS

After prolonged debate the Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent on 4 May, and has now become the Trade Union Act. The key changes which made it into the Act following debate are as follows: 

  •  increase ballot thresholds for industrial action so that, in addition to a majority of those voting being in favour of the action, at least 50% of all eligible members must have voted. Those engaged in ‘important public services’ will also need least 40% of those entitled to vote to have voted in favour of the action; 
  •  introduce new information and timing requirements in relation to industrial action; 
  •  impose legal requirements on unions for the supervision of picketing; 
  •  introduce regulation-making powers to control facility time in the public sector; and 
  •  regulate check-off (the system by which trade union subscription monies are processed directly via payroll) in the public sector.

ENTERPRISE ACT

On 4 May 2016, the Enterprise Bill also received Royal Assent and became the Enterprise Act 2016. 
The Act will give effect to a number of UK government commitments that are intended to support the growth of enterprise in the UK. Provisions that may be of particular interest include: 

  • a cap on exit payments in the public sector; 
  • measures concerning apprenticeships; and 
  • measures strengthening the rights of retail workers in relation to Sunday working (in particular, initial proposals to allow local authorities to extend Sunday trading hours were dropped during the progress of the Bill).

COMPENSATION FOR BLACKLISTED CONSTRUCTION WORKERS

Successful claims in the High Court in relation to some workers, followed by an out of court settlement being reached in relation to others, means that over 500 blacklisted workers will receive compensation totalling more than £260 million between them from some of the UK’s largest construction companies. This follows 3200 workers, mainly in the construction sector, being exposed as being named on a blacklist used by building companies vetting new recruits.

BREXIT AND THE GENERAL DATA PROTECTION REGULATION

Whilst the GDPR will come into force from 25 May 2018, if the UK is no longer a member of the EU at that time it will not apply in the UK. However, the UK Information Commissioner has nevertheless made it clear that he expects standards equivalent to the GDPR to be applied in the UK post-Brexit to enable businesses to transfer their data from the EU to the UK in the ordinary course of business. 

BREXIT AND UK PENSIONS

The vote of the UK electorate to leave the EU has already initiated a period of economic uncertainty in the UK, and indeed overseas. Currently, there is no consistent view on how the UK's trading relationship with the EU will look in the future, nor how long it might take for such trading relationship to be negotiated and agreed. In light of this, please see our briefing aimed at employers and trustees of UK defined benefit pension schemes, which considers the impact of the Leave vote on pension scheme funding and possible pension issues on any proposed restructuring that companies may now need to consider. This briefing also provides some analysis on the possible future direction of UK pensions litigation.