Issue 35

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

Dutch workers cautious about returning to the office

A poll of over 900 people who return to the workplace after home working suggests they do not feel safe, says Dutch trade union CNV. One in five raised concerns that their work environments are not COVID-safe and do not adhere to government protocols. CNV chairman said, "if the office cannot be safe, employers should allow their people to work from home". The union is also advocating for employees to be reimbursed for both travel expenses and home office expenses in the new era of hybrid working. "We will make agreements about this with employers in the collective bargaining agreements," the union chairman said.

UK workers urged to return to the office

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has given workers in the UK the green light to return to the workplace after 19 July when COVID restrictions come to an end. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is encouraging young people to return to communal offices to enable young workers to "develop through face-to face interaction". Ultimately, it will be for employers to determine whether staff should be in the office but their obligation to ensure there is a safe working environment on the return continues irrespective of the 19 July relaxation of restrictions. Current law provides no legal right for employees to work from home.

Home working arrangements become a major part of hiring negotiations

As organisations compete for elite workers, flexible working arrangements have become a major part of hiring negotiations and compensation packages. Companies most likely to win talent are likely to be those offering a mix of remote and office working. A Microsoft study of 30,000 people revealed that 73% of workers want their employers to continue providing the flexibility remote working offers and 67% of workers want more face-to-face time with co-workers. “The data is clear. Extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace,” the survey notes.

Workers' well-being improved during the pandemic

Research from one of the Netherlands’ largest banks, ABN AMRO, found that employee well-being across 17 sectors has increased by 12% during the Coronavirus pandemic despite the economic slowdown. The categories considered include work-life balance, health, personal development, economy, equal opportunities, safety and climate. The study also revealed that while workers value increased family time and remote working led to fewer workplace conflicts or burnout complaints, companies are yet to establish access to equal opportunities and close the gender wage gap.

French Supreme Court rules continuous video surveillance of employees is unenforceable

In a 23 June 2021 decision, the French Supreme Court held video evidence that is invasive and disproportionate to the legitimate interests of the employer would be inadmissible. The case involved an employee who deliberately cut himself to get sick leave. The court ruled that CCTV cameras were an infringement of his personal life and constant surveillance was not proportionate to the employer's alleged goal of the safety of staff and property. The employee's dismissal based on this evidence was deemed unlawful.

Germans on short-term work falls to lowest level since February 2020

Germany's easing of coronavirus restrictions has created a surge in demand for jobs and reduced the number of employees on short-time work schemes, which in May represented 6.8% of employees. Introduced to prevent mass unemployment, the scheme allows employers to reduce staff working hours instead of laying them off. The Federal Labour Office reported that 331,000 people representing 30% of the hospitality sector remain on the scheme as the country comes out of lockdown.

Overseas executives exempt from quarantine for work

Overseas senior executives can temporarily leave COVID quarantine restrictions if their business activities are likely to bring "significant economic benefit to the UK" says the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). Exemptions would also cover those making a "financial investment in a UK-based business" or "establishing a new business within the UK" who have a "greater than 50% chance of creating or preserving at least 500 UK-based jobs. BEIS confirmed COVID rules would still apply between business activities. These guidelines have received criticism from government officials and small business owners who warn that it is "vital that the government does not overlook the crucial importance of helping SME business leaders getting back up and running by focusing purely on multinationals."