European Union

  • EU employment law protects the rights of workers across the EU. However, these laws often operate differently in different member states as most EU employment law is created at EU level and is then brought into national law by each member state
  • Areas covered by EU law include:
    • Working time, part-time and fixed-term work
    • Protection from discrimination, the protection of pregnant workers and equal pay rights
    • Informing and consulting workers on workplace issues, including collective redundancies and business transfers
    • Protection of employees' rights on a business transfer
    • Protection of personal data


  • Non-EU nationals must obtain an employment permit, a work permit, and an exemption certificate or a Red-White-Red card to work legally in Austria
  • Legislation regulates basic employment protection and entitlements, and practically every employer and employee is subject to a collective bargaining agreement
  • There is no national minimum wage but salaries must comply with collective bargaining agreement provisions regarding industry-wide minimum salaries
  • Austrian law does not restrict terminating employment to specific conduct or causes.
  • Although the termination procedure differs for blue and white collar workers, Austria is moving towards unifying these procedures


  • All labour documents and labour-related communications with employees must be in Dutch, French or German, depending on the location of the employer's operating unit
  • The notice period regime, which applies to blue and white collar workers, is based solely on length of service
  • Employer notice periods in Belgium are lengthy for longserving employees e.g. employees with eight years' service are entitled to 27 weeks' notice and with 17 years' service, to 54 weeks' notice
  • Well-being and anti-discrimination laws have great importance in Belgian labour relations, in particular in relation to the treatment of psychosocial risks in the workplace


  • Usually, employees work 35 hours a week. Only hours worked at the request of the employee`s superior will be regarded as overtime
  • French employment law offers wide powers to "representative" trade unions and also to elected staff representative bodies
  • For indefinite term contracts, there must be real and serious grounds for dismissal there are two types of valid grounds: personal and economic
  • Severance payments are only awarded if the employee has the minimum required length of service and this is provided for in the relevant collective bargaining agreement
  • New guidelines for awarding unfair dismissal damages have recently been introduced


  • Employees who are not from the EU/EEA require a residence title and work permit
  • A statutory minimum wage of EUR 8.84 per hour generally applies to all employees in all sectors of business. Aside from the statutory minimum wage, there are special regulations and collective bargaining agreements within certain sectors
  • Overtime pay is not expressly regulated by law, but is subject to the employment agreement, collective bargaining agreements and works council agreements
  • Trade union representatives support employees and works councils, but do not have participation rights within a company. However, works councils have far-reaching co-determination rights, which limit the employer's rights to unilaterally execute certain measures
  • Due to the high level of protection against dismissal, it is reasonably common for employees to challenge their dismissal in court, where the parties often agree on termination on the basis a severance payment is made


  • From 2015, new recruits gain gradual protection, directly linked to their length of service
  • For each industry sector, there is a National Collective Bargaining Agreement that regulates the employment relationship
  • Poor performance is not a statutory reason for dismissal
  • The grounds of dismissal must be given in the termination letter; failure to do so renders the termination invalid
  • Reinstatement is no longer the sole remedy for unfair and wrongful dismissal; this has largely been replaced by an award of damages, calculated on the basis of length of service


  • The labour market in Luxembourg is characterised by the number of commuters from Belgium, France and Germany, which represents over 50% of the labour force
  • The Labour Code came into effect on 1 September 2006 and regrouped all existing employment rules
  • The termination of contracts is strictly regulated by the Labour Code with specified notice periods depending of the employee's length of service
  • The right of workers to strike is implicitly guaranteed by the Constitution under the freedom of association but is only possible under specific conditions. A peace obligation exists for the duration of a collective labour agreement. Moreover, to be legal, every strike or lockout movement must first be referred to the National Office of Conciliation
  • Overtime is strictly regulated and is only permitted with prior authorisation from, or notification to the Minister for Employment

The Netherlands

  • The maximum probationary period is two months
  • In 2015, a number of legislative provisions were introduced, making it increasingly difficult to dismiss employees which has led to more settlement agreements being used
  • Employees with at least two years' service are usually entitled to a payment on termination, which amounts to approximately 1/3 of a month's salary for each year of service
  • In most cases, employers cannot terminate an employment contract without seeking permission from the Employee Insurance Agency or applying to the sub-district court
  • New rules for fixed-term contracts apply, including the use of non-competition clauses and a payment equal to one month's salary on termination


  • Norway adopts most EU labour law legislation as part of the so-called EEA-Agreement with the EU
  • In some respects, the law in Norway is even more employee-friendly than EU legislation, such as the rules governing business transfers
  • There is no statutory minimum wage, but wage provisions can be set by collective agreements
  • There are a number of restrictions on fixed-term contracts, including the length of the term and the number of employees in the workforce on fixed-term contracts
  • Employees may not be dismissed unless it is objectively justified on the basis of circumstances relating to the undertaking, the employer or the employee


  • Given its low personnel costs, Poland is currently Europe's main outsourcing hub
  • The Polish tax and social security system is ever-evolving
  • Overtime is only permitted in certain circumstances
  • Fixed-term contracts have become more widely used recently
  • In the case of large employers, trade unions are active and have a strong presence
  • There has recently been a steady rise in the number of independent contractors


  • Most disputes involve financial claims from employees, usually for overtime payments, working conditions, bonuses etc
  • Employers often face collective actions by employees which are usually initiated by unions
  • Employers have the right to regulate working hours but special legal provisions, which are usually stricter than the EU rules, limit this right
  • Great importance is given to the form of the documents drafted by the employer. Court cases usually involve verifying the form of these documents and a large number of decisions are based only on this issue
  • Collective negotiation is mandatory for companies with more than 21 employees however this doesn't necessarily have to result in a collective agreement


  • In principle, employment contracts are presumed to be for an indefinite term. There are, however, a limited number of fixed-term employment contracts
  • In most cases the probationary period cannot exceed two months
  • Freedom of association and representation are fundamental rights under the Spanish Constitution
  • Termination can be based on objective or disciplinary grounds
  • Dismissals are null and void if the termination is discriminatory or involves protected employees


  • Probationary periods and fixed-term employment are permitted, provided certain requirements are met
  • Approximately 70% of employees in Sweden are members of a trade union
  • Although there is no national minimum wage, collective bargaining agreements usually provide for minimum salary levels and annual minimum salary increases
  • Positive discrimination: employers can choose a candidate because of their gender if they are seeking to redress a gender imbalance in the workforce or in a particular position, provided the candidate is equally, or almost equally, qualified for the job as the other candidates


  • Compared with other jurisdictions, Swiss employment law is employer-friendly
  • There is a limit to the number of non-EU and non-EFTA nationals who are permitted to work as managementlevel employees or specialists in Switzerland
  • Switzerland has stable labour relations and strikes are rare
  • If employees work overtime in excess of the statutory limit (45 or 50 hours, depending on the category of worker) the employer must pay them a supplement of 25% of their hourly wage
  • In principle, employers may terminate an employment relationship for any reason but employees have a statutory right to request written reasons for their dismissal


  • Termination of employment is process-driven so that if the right procedure is followed, liability can usually be avoided
  • Discrimination and whistleblowing laws provide a high degree of protection in the workplace; claims are frequently brought in the tribunals and compensation is based primarily on financial loss (with no cap), although there aren't any punitive damages
  • Although union representation is declining, workplace representation is becoming more common, but is generally not problematic for employers
  • Women are entitled to take one year's maternity leave, and this leave can be shared with their partner; maternity pay can also be shared but is limited to 39 weeks, capped at GBP 140.98 except for the first six weeks
  • Gender pay reporting rules for companies with at least 250 employees are in force from April 2017

Published in collaboration with L&E Global an alliance of employers’ counsel worldwide

To read the full publication: An international guide to employment law across 28 countries please click here.