Issue 48

Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update.

Belgian civil servants' get the right to disconnect

From February, a "right to disconnect" will be introduced in Belgium that will effectively ban civil service bosses from contacting employees when they are not at work, apart from in emergency or other exceptional circumstances. Ministers believe the line between work and personal life has become increasingly blurred during the pandemic. Extending the practice to the private sector may meet opposition: "The right to disconnect should not be expanded towards the private sector," says Eric Laureys from Voka, the Flemish Network of Enterprises.

Work/life: Monzo offers paid sabbaticals

New bank Monzo is to offer paid sabbaticals up to 3 months to employees.

Dismissal based on facts revealed via video surveillance: employee's right to privacy vs. French employer's right to evidence

Under French law, video surveillance can be implemented within the company’s premises to monitor the employees’ activity subject to their prior knowledge and the consultation with the works council. Otherwise, the facts collected via the video surveillance cannot be used by the employer to sanction an employee; the evidence will be considered illegal.

The French Supreme Court often reminds employers of this rule. However, it has also recently held that, even if the proof is obtained via a video surveillance system invalidly implemented, it will not necessarily be rejected by the judge in litigious cases. Indeed, the judge may assess whether the use of this proof undermines the fairness of the procedure and if such use is essential to ensure the right to evidence without resulting in a disproportionate infringement to the right to respect for the employee’s personal life.

German immigration to increase to 400,000 a year

To counteract the effect of COVID-19 and demographic change, the new German coalition government is planning an annual immigration rate of 400,000 qualified workers. According to a forecast by the employer-friendly German Economic Institute, 5 million people will be lost from the workforce by 2030 due to ageing. This will not only lead to a shortage of workers in Germany, but will also put the pension system to a serious stress test.

UK Banker wins £2m for sex discrimination

Stacey Macken was awarded over £2m for discrimination that included male colleagues leaving a witch's hat on her desk, and a boss belittling her by repeatedly saying "not now, Stacey", to the extent this became her nickname. BNP Paribas paid her hundreds of thousands of pounds less than her male comparators, and claimed that when she raised the disparity, she received unfair treatment.

Dutch employees want to work from home after pandemic: Trade Union

A large majority of employees in the Netherlands surveyed by a Trade Union (FNV) believe they should keep the option of working from home following the pandemic.

Research shows that employees who are able to work at home want to have more control over their workplace in the future, for example by including remote work in the collective labour agreement. A bill will also be debated in the Tweede Kamer (parliament) that is intended to give employees more control over their workplace.

Malaysia summons companies facing US bans over forced labour

Malaysia’s Human Resources Ministry is to summon all companies facing US import bans over suspected forced labour practices to consider immediate action to address the claims. Disposable glove maker YTY Group and palm oil producer Sime Darby are the latest companies identified by US Customs and Border Protection as using forced labour at a time when Malaysian factories have been under increased scrutiny over allegations of abuse of migrant workers, who constitute much of the South East Asian country’s manufacturing workforce. Human Resources Minister M. Saravanan acknowledged that forced labour allegations against local firms had affected investors’ confidence in Malaysia.

UK firms flout governance code

Thomson Reuters' research indicates most FTSE 350 companies do not fully follow the UK's Corporate Governance Code. Annual reports of 272 companies within the FTSE 350 and Thomson Reuters' records of AGM meetings shows that just 45% of FTSE 100 companies were fully compliant, with FTSE 250 companies at 37%.

Vaccines mandate U-turn for NHS

NHS staff in England will not be required to have coronavirus vaccinations. The decision will be subject to a government consultation. Rules for mandatory vaccines were due to come into effect for NHS staff on 1 April. It is said mandatory vaccines are now less important because the Omicron variant of Covid-19 appears to be more transmissible and less severe than others. The prospect of private sector dismissals for failure to vaccinate may now recede a little.

Fire and rehire: hot news

A controversial UK judgment has stopped supermarket Tesco from changing pay terms by the practice of fire and rehire. Union USDAW has obtained an injunction to prevent the use of the method, rather than them having to claim for unfair dismissal and mere compensation.

Business services sector to hire more skilled foreigners in the Czech Republic

This sector, which employs a tenth of all foreigners in the Czech Republic, saw a slowdown in hiring during the first year of the pandemic as many foreign workers considered a return to their home countries. But now demand has spiked and several findings predict a post-pandemic hiring boom with Czech-based companies intensively hiring workers from abroad.

Poland moves to increase parental leave and workers’ rights

Poland’s government has proposed amendments to the labour code designed to strengthen workers’ rights, and in particular support family life. The changes implement EU directives on working conditions and work-life balance for parents and carers. They include an extension of parental leave by nine weeks, the introduction of additional days off for carers, flexible work and a requirement for employers to provide an explanation for termination of the work relationship regardless of the contract type. The flexible work rules are to apply to working parents of children under eight and people taking care of family members requiring special support.

Hungary claims to cut employment taxes the most in EU

Over the past decade, Hungary has reduced employers' wage-related costs to the greatest extent in the European Union, according to its analysis of Eurostat data. Wage-related costs fell by 9.5% in Hungary between 2009 and 2020 and it continues to position itself as an attractive low taxation venue for employers.