Issue 19

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

WFH "privilege" tax?

Banks don't often push for new tax levies. Deutsche Bank has sparked a debate in Germany about the opportunity costs of remote work. It projects that work-related consumption (office attire, lunch out, passing trade etc) could significantly reduce the domestic economy.

Deutsche Bank also estimates the loss of tax revenue could amount to €15.9 billion (Germany), $48 billion (US) and £6.9 billion (UK). "Privileged" employees who are granted remote work by their employers in turn save on costs.

To even things out, Deutsche Bank has suggested a "privilege" WFH tax of 5% on staff salaries, to be paid by employers if they do not provide the employee with a permanent desk. This would generate additional public monies to finance grants to be provided to low-income workers.

California voters say gig workers aren't employees

California voters have approved Proposition 22, an exemption to the landmark "gig worker bill" which took effect on 1 January 2020, which means that workers at delivery and ride-hailing companies will remain classified as independent contractors. This is a big victory for gig-economy businesses such as DoorDash, Uber and Lyft among others, who spearheaded the campaign by providing $200 million of backing in order to protect their business model.

Retailers under pressure to pay supply chain factory workers

The Clean Clothes Campaign – the garment industry's largest alliance of labour unions and non-governmental organisations – is lobbying retailers including Primark, H&M and Nike to pay supply chain workers in full for clothing made before and during the pandemic. The group alleges that factory workers are owed up to £4.4 billion in wages by clothing manufacturers supplying major fashion brands due to the retailers cancelling their orders during the pandemic.

Draft bill allows Danish employers to test employees for coronavirus

Current rules in Denmark dictate that an employer can only access an employee's personal health information in limited circumstances. In a marked deviation from the norm, the Danish government has issued a draft bill which allows employers to require their employees to be tested for coronavirus, and to receive the result, until 31 December 2021. Companies must be able to objectively justify this by reason of limiting the spread of the virus or for significant operational considerations.

250,000 UK workers enjoy pay rise>

The voluntary "real living wage", paid by almost 7,000 employers in the UK, has risen to £10.85 in London (10p increase) and £9.50 elsewhere (20p increase) per hour. This equates to an additional £1,500 per year for full-time workers on the new £9.50 wage compared to the current minimum wage for over 25-year-olds. The Living Wage Foundation said this will "give a boost to hundreds of thousands of UK workers, including thousands of key and essential workers… who have kept our economy going" during incredibly challenging times.

Singapore entices top global tech talent with new work pass

Singapore is introducing a two-year work visa for top-tier foreign technology professionals in fields such as e-commerce, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity with a view to advancing its tech landscape. Participants in the Tech.Pass programme, which will be open for applications from January 2021 with an initial 500 places available, will be allowed to operate a business, mentor start-ups and invest in or be a director of Singapore-based companies.

Zurich UK looks to future-proof its workforce

Insurer Zurich has announced plans to retrain two thirds of its UK workforce over the next five years in robotics, data science and cybersecurity, to combat a growing skills gap resulting from the fast adoption of new advanced technologies. The firm hopes this reskilling of some 3,000 employees will save £1 million in recruitment and redundancy costs.