Issue 31

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

How much protection is necessary? Germany struggles to pass whistleblower protection law

The EU Member States must transpose the requirements of the EU Whistleblower Directive into national law by 17 December 2021, however, Germany’s governing coalition partners are debating whether its present draft goes unnecessarily beyond the requirements from Brussels. Companies must have in place a whistleblowing system, and whistleblowers are protected. To learn more about whistleblower protection law, see our recent webinar, which tackled the topic from the perspective of global Japanese businesses.

New Spanish labour laws protect gig riders

Spain has ordered food delivery companies to employ their delivery workers as staff within three months, following the approval of new legislation. The government will also require transparency of the artificial intelligence used to manage workforces. Some workers have protested the law, arguing that it jeopardises the benefits attached to their self-employed status. Nevertheless, Labour Minister Yolanda Diaz maintains that workers have the right to know what defines the relationship between delivery platforms and their workforce. Some business industry representatives fear that these laws will be "a hard blow for the future of the digital economy in Spain".

Gig workers and UK mandatory pension rights

Several UK national media outlets are reporting that the UK's pensions regulator is to announce an industry-wide approach to pension auto-enrolment – the right to contributions from a business for any person who is a "worker" under UK law. The regulator apparently intends to encourage broader compliance, rather than having businesses which engage drivers, delivery people and other platform workers assess their compliance obligations on a case by case basis. Details are currently sketchy.

UK staff who refuse masks can be fired

In one of the pandemic's first employment judgments, an employment tribunal has ruled that company bosses are within their rights to dismiss workers who refuse to wear a face mask. While the Tribunal Judge said that issuing a warning would have been more reasonable, a food firm in Kent was found to have acted fairly when sacking a truck driver who refused to wear a mask while making a delivery to a client. For more on this topic, see the Times' recent coverage, as well as this article from our Law at Work update.

UK calls for job flexibility

The UK government’s Flexible Working Taskforce is urging for employees to be given the right to work on a flexible basis, regardless of the type of contract they are on. Over 70% of firms reported that homeworking had no significant impact on productivity, yet only 30% have announced plans to introduce flexible working arrangements over the next six to 12 months. "There is an opportunity to shift ways of working, which have barely changed for generations. It will allow more people with other life commitments to participate in work and it will improve wellbeing" said Peter Cheese, co-chair of the taskforce.

Burnout among Dutch employees doubled since last fall

Dutch trade union CNV has reported that one in five of its members is close to a burnout. This is double the amount since the last similar research last autumn. Research showed that employees are experiencing tension between colleagues and aggression from customers, and working from home is also have an adverse effect on them.

Boris Johnson expected to ease homeworking rules in England

Ministers are hoping for an economic revival in England's city centres as lockdown restrictions continue to lift. Workers are on track to return to the office without masks, enforced social distancing or proof of vaccination, provided that COVID-19 cases continue to drop as the vaccination rollout extends to under 40s.UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to drop the "work from home if you can" guidance and report an ease to home-working requirements before 21 June.

French law puts women in top jobs

The French Parliament has approved a bill requiring companies with +1,000 employees to have 30% female senior managers by 2027, and 40% by 2030. The bill also proposes annual gender pay gap reporting.

Netherlands pension reforms to be postponed

New legislation to reform the Dutch pension system will not come into effect until 1 January 2023 – over a year later than expected – social affairs minister Wouter Koolmees has told MPs in a briefing. The delay in passing the new legislation is due to the complexity of the issue. The government has been discussing this issue for over 11 years.

Fighting population ageing – will Germany’s eased migration and family-friendly policies pay off?

While China and USA are recording their slowest population growths in decades, Germany's family-friendly policies and migration politics – designed to combat the labour shortage caused by an aging work force in the long run – seem to be bearing fruit. The birth rate has risen over the nine months since Germany's first COVID-19 lockdown, while a notable uptick in migrant arrivals pre-pandemic has also had a positive effect.