Overview

In this month's edition of Be Global,  we bring you a summary of the most significant international employment law developments from the past 12 months, together with a look ahead at the key trends and changes expected to emerge in 2016.  

Contents

ASIA PACIFIC

Australia: Changes to the Fair Work Act Changes have been made to the regime governing protected industrial action; the rules on parental leave; and the laws on "Greenfield" collective bargaining agreements.

Australia: Ruling on sham contracting provisions The High Court has made clear that sham contracting protections extend to triangular arrangements where employees are purportedly engaged as independent contractors via a third party.

China: High Court decisions clarify areas of legal risk 2015 has seen judicial clarification of several keenly contested labor law issues such as double salary, labor dispatch, employer liability and penalty.

China: Rise in labor inspections in Beijing  Businesses operating in the PRC should be ready to respond to an inspection request at any time.

Hong Kong: Competition Ordinance in force from December 2015  The employment implications include Competition Commission concerns about employers sharing information on wages and bonuses; competitors agreeing to fix wages for particular staff types; and collective bargaining of wages or remuneration through the trade union federation.

Hong Kong: Paternity leave legislation introduced Male employees expecting a child after 27 February 2015 are entitled to 3 days' paid paternity leave if they fulfil the statutory requirements.

Japan: Drastic reforms to The Worker Dispatch Act     The changes have eliminated the so-called "26 specialized areas of work" where dispatched workers previously could be used for unlimited time periods and introduced a limit (in most cases of 3 years) on how long an employer can use a dispatched worker in the same business unit. 

Singapore: 2015 Developments   This year has seen changes to retrenchment benefits;  paternity leave and harassment law.

South Korea: Termination notice by email  The Supreme Court has ruled that an email termination notice can be an effective.

South Korea: Bonus and "ordinary wage"  The Seoul High Court has dismissed a claim seeking inclusion of regular bonus payments in "ordinary wage".

Taiwan: Maximum working hours and discrimination fines  The sectors subject to working hours regulation have expanded and discrimination fines are on the increase.

EMEA

EU Wide: Safe Harbor declared invalid: impact on employee data  In a shock decision in the Autumn,  the ECJ declared the Safe Harbor scheme for data transfer to the US invalid.   Our article, written immediately after the decision, explores the impact on employee data. 

EU Wide: ECJ decision in key collective redundancy consultation case   The ECJ issued a ruling in a key case on collective redundancy consultation requirements, with the outcome providing good news for employers.

EU Wide:  ECJ decision on working time for workers with no habitual place of work The ECJ decided that journeys made by workers without a fixed or habitual place of work, between their homes and the first and last customer of the day, constitute working time. Previously this time had been regarded as non-working time.

Belgium: Constitutional Court annuls unified notice period derogations   The Constitutional Court decided that the permanent difference in treatment between blue-collar and white-collar workers with regard to notice periods violates the Belgian Constitution.

France:  Macron Law significantly reforms French labor regulation   Significant changes came into force under the provisions of the Macron Law impacting on managing economic difficulties and dismissals; evening and Sunday work; sanctions for obstructing the operation of staff representative/trade union bodies;  business transfers in SMEs; alternative dispute resolution; posted worker arrangements;  and incentive schemes.  

France: Rebsamen Law reforms employee representation and involvement A new law was implemented with a view to improving social dialogue, valuing union membership and employees' collective involvement, improving quality of life at work and to ensuring better employee representation.   

Germany: National minimum wage  The first nationwide minimum hourly wage of EUR 8.50 came into effect at the start of the year. There are exceptions for interns, voluntary workers, young employees under 18 years of age and long-term unemployed people within the first six months of finding a new job.

Germany: No obligation to offer alternative employment abroad on termination The Federal Labour Court decided that the obligation to offer an alternative job to avoid termination does not require the offer of a transfer to a foreign branch.

Germany: Reform of parental allowance and parental leave   Following previous reforms during 2014, an additional option, "Parental Allowance Plus",  is available for parents of children born on and after 1 July 2015.

Gulf Cooperation Council: New health insurance and wage protection requirements 2015 has seen compulsory health insurance schemes implemented in the GCC as well wage protection in Qatar.

Ireland: New structure for employment claims   The Workplace Relations Act 2015,  which came into effect on 1 October 2015,  has introduced significant reforms to the resolution of workplace disputes and the enforcement of employment law in Ireland.

Italy: Labor law reforms  Significant changes to Italian labor law came into force during 2015.  Click here to read more about the rules governing dismissal; here to read more about changes to contract types and work/life balance; and here for more about the new National Labor Inspectorate, equal opportunities and termination by resignation/mutual consent.

Netherlands:  Significant changes to dismissal and fixed-term employment rules  2015 saw significant employment law reforms in the Netherlands including changes to rules on termination and renewal of fixed-term contracts and to the dual dismissal system and termination payment regime.  

Netherlands: New maternity and paternity rights from January 2015     The changes provide for unpaid parental leave and permit maternity leave to be split into separate parts as well as extended where the baby is hospitalized.

Netherlands:  Non-compete restraint in fixed-term contract nullified  The Amsterdam court decided the first case regarding a non-compete in a fixed-term employment contract since new rules in this area came into effect. 

Romania: Suspension rights;  trade union protection;  posted workers; equal treatment;  medical leave  There have been significant case law and legislative changes in Romania during 2015  impacting various areas.

Russia: Game changing Data Protection Law    In September 2015, a new law came into force making significant changes to data protection rules for companies operating in Russia.

Saudi Arabia:  Major labor law reforms implemented in October 2015 Changes have been made to leave entitlements, notice periods and penalties for violations.

Spain: ECJ says Spanish collective redundancy law contravenes EU law  The ECJ decided that Spanish collective redundancy legislation's use of "undertaking" (company level) rather than "establishment" (local work site) as the trigger point for information and consultation is contrary to the Collective Redundancies Directive.

Spain:  Greater certainty for companies over corporate criminal compliance A new law provides greater certainty to the corporate criminal liability regime by specifying the requirements of a corporate criminal compliance program which, if met, will absolve a company from criminal liability for prescribed offenses.

Switzerland: Variable remuneration: welcome clarification  During 2015,  the Swiss Federal Court was given the opportunity to add greater detail to the rules applicable to variable remuneration in Switzerland.  

UAE:   New discrimination laws  A Federal Law on Preventing Discrimination and Hatred came into force in August 2015 to "guarantee the freedom of individuals from religious intolerance … and underpin the UAE’s policy of inclusiveness."  

UK: Shared parental leave  Parents expecting a baby, or matched for adoption, on or after 5 April 2015 may share up to 50 weeks of leave.

UK:  Transparency in supply chains: the Modern Slavery Act 2015 New legislation requires all businesses operating in the UK with an annual turnover of GBP 36 million or more to publish an annual slavery and human trafficking statement with effect from October 2015. 

AMERICAS

Brazil:  Waivers in voluntary dismissal/incentive termination programs declared valid The Supreme Federal Court declared such waivers valid when included in a collective bargaining agreement/other similar documents signed by the employees.

Brazil:  Reducing working hours and salary: companies in financial difficulty  A new programme has been implemented which permits employers to temporarily reduce working hours with a corresponding reduction in salary.

Canada: New federal legislation on genetic discrimination  The Government of Canada introduced the Protection Against Genetic Discrimination Act to address the new, but rising issue of genetic discrimination.    

Mexico: Unification of minimum wage   The Minimum Wage National Commission agreed to unify the applicability of the general and professional minimum wages to only one geographical area in the country beginning on October 1, 2015. Prior to this date, the country was divided in two geographical areas for purposes of applying the minimum wages.

Mexico: New standard on equal employment opportunities and non-discrimination  On 27 October 2015 a new Mexican Standard on Equal Employment Opportunities and Non-discrimination was issued.

US:  California pay equity measures signed into law  California's Governor signed into law the California Fair Pay Act to close wage differences between men and women. The bill was unanimously adopted by the legislature, with the surprising support of the California Chamber of Commerce.

US:  SEC issues guidance on Dodd-Frank/SOX whistleblowing regime   The Securities and Exchange Commission issued interpretative guidance which clarifies the protection from retaliation provisions.

US: SEC enforcement action for use of improper confidentiality agreement   The SEC caused shockwaves when it announced its first enforcement action against a company for using an allegedly improper confidentiality agreement during internal investigations.

US: Joint employer concept: what does is mean for franchising?  In August 2015 the NLRB adopted a broader and looser scope for determining joint employer status. This article looks at the far-reaching implications for the franchising industry.

Venezuela: Amendment of the Food Law  The maximum limit of the meal allowance benefit has been increased and its scope extended to all categories of employees without any cap on salary.

Venezuela: Reorganization of the Labor Ministry Offices  New regulations require the reorganization of the Labor Ministry Offices by late 2016.

Venezuela: Offsetting of foreign labor benefits  A case is progressing through the Courts which addresses the criteria under which it is permissible to offset benefits received by an employee according to foreign labor legislation against the benefits to which they are entitled under Venezuelan labor legislation.