Issue 39

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

Biden orders employees at large business to be vaccinated or face testing

President Biden has announced new COVID-19 measures that require workers at businesses with more than 100 workers to be vaccinated or face weekly testing. He also introduced a vaccine mandate for millions of federal government workers. The new requirements apply to around two thirds of all employees in the US. Jay Timmons, the President and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, commented on the expense of implementing these measures saying "it is important that undue compliance costs do not burden manufacturers, large and small alike."

Dutch employers want mandatory testing for workers coming to the office

A survey shows that over 100 employers in the Netherlands want their employees to get tested for COVID-19 before coming to the office. They find it the best way to allay the concerns of vaccinated workers. However, under GDPR rules this remains difficult.

All workers in Italy face mandatory health passes

A new measure in Italy, due to come into force on 15 October, makes it compulsory for all workers to have a COVID-19 'green pass'. This constitutes proof of vaccination, a negative test or recovery from the virus. Anyone without a pass may face suspension from work and possibly have their pay stopped after five days. These measures apply to the self-employed as well as all employees and workplaces. Staff and businesses could face fines of up to €1,500 if people are found to be working without valid green passes.

Employers saving with cheaper travel and work-from-home allowances

Dutch employers saw a significant cost saving during the work-from-home mandate in 2020. Based on analysis of 1.1 million payslips by payroll administration company, travel allowances and work-from-home allowances were almost 10 per cent lower in 2020 than the year before. These costs savings could be one of the reasons why employers are looking at hybrid working models moving forward.

Most UK office workers will not return full-time

A YouGov survey has revealed that most people do not believe workers will return to work in the office full-time after the pandemic. The majority of the workers who took part in the study said that they would prefer to work from home at least some of the time, or full-time. However, half of the 530 senior leaders also surveyed said that workers staying at home may impact on creativity and collaboration. The boss of Goldman Sachs has separately described working from home as an 'aberration' and rejected calls for more flexibility.

Netherlands court rules that Uber drivers are employees, not freelancers

Uber has lost a court battle in the Netherlands against the Federation of Dutch Trade Unions (FDN) over whether their drivers are employees or contractors. The court held that they are employees and are therefore entitled to greater rights under local labour laws. The judges also held that some drivers will be entitled to backpay in certain circumstances. Uber said it would appeal the decision. The Dutch case comes just months after an analogous UK court decision, and is another win for the FDN after it won a similar case against food delivery company Deliveroo earlier this year.

The definition of sexual harassment at work set to change in France

From 31 March 2022, the definition of sexual harassment at work in France will be expanded to include sexist behaviour. It will cover situations where an employee is subjected to comments or behaviour of a sexual or sexist nature, by several persons, in a concerted manner or at the instigation of one person. This will apply even if the commenting individuals have not made repeated comments individually. It will also include incidents where an employee is successively subjected to sexual or sexist comments or behaviour by several persons who, even in the absence of concerted action, know that the behaviour constitutes a repetition.

The new definition aligns with the one contained in France's criminal code, with one key difference – sexual harassment at work can be committed without the perpetrator intending to commit sexual harassment. In criminal law, intention is required.

Read more about the changes in a recent article from Dalloz-Actualite (French language)

Slovakia's minimum wage will see lowest year-on-year growth in almost a decade

A new formula has been used to calculate the Slovak minimum wage for next year. The formula specifies that the minimum wage should amount to 57 per cent of the average national wage from two years previously. This means that this year's minimum wage will see the lowest year-on-year growth in almost a decade, rising from €623 a month in 2021 to €646 a month in 2022, an increase of just €23.

Hungarian government calls for a sixth tender to establish workers hostels

The Hungarian government has invited tenders, this time worth HUF 10 billion, to help with the establishment of workers hostels. Non-refundable financing is available to municipal councils, associations of municipalities and private companies for the construction or refurbishment of hostels with at least 80 beds. Refundable support is available for the purchase of assets needed for completing the projects.

A few German political parties' innovative employment and immigration policies are 'inspired' by other countries

Reviewing German political parties' election manifestos and their stances on employment and immigration, one cannot help but notice that some share similarities with other countries' policies. For example, the SPD appear to have been inspired by the pension reform in Sweden, the Left Party by the four-day/30-hour working week in Iceland, and the FDP by Canada's points-based immigration system.

UK employers say British government's tax hike will cost jobs

From April 2022, National Insurance will increase by 1.25% for workers and employers. UK businesses have criticised Boris Johnson's plans to increase taxes to pay for health and social care reform, arguing that it will add an unnecessary burden to companies already struggling due to the pandemic. Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, said that the new 1.25% employer National Insurance contribution will "impact the wider economic recovery by landing significant costs on firms when they are already facing a raft of new cost pressures."