Issue 46

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

France introduces new bill to promote economic and professional equality

A new law has come into force in France which aims to strengthen the existing legal framework on gender equality in the workplace. Key provisions include:

  • from 2022, companies with at least 50 employees must publish details of how they calculated their gender equality index on the French Labour Ministry's website
  • from March 2022, companies who have employed at least 1000 employees for three consecutive years must publish information on gender representation in their board and management bodies on an annual basis. The information will also be published on the French Labour Ministry's website
  • from March 2023, the Investment Public Bank will only be able to grant loans to companies with 50 or more employees if those companies comply with their obligations to publish their gender equality index annually
  • from March 2026, companies with at least 1000 employees will have to ensure that at least 30% of their board and management bodies are female. This will increase to 40% from March 2029. If companies have not met the 40% threshold by 2031, they may be ordered to pay a financial penalty up to 1% of their total payroll.

Working from home tax allowance in Germany

As millions of workers in Germany continue to work from home, making regular cups of coffee and charging their laptops, their electricity costs have increased. A study by price comparison portal Check24 indicates that the average employee's electricity costs have increased by 94 euros per year where the worker regularly work from home. This equates to around 25 to 43 cents per day. As a result of their increased running costs and other cost factors, the new German government has promised that they will continue with the 'home office lump sum' policy in 2022. It allows employees to deduct up to 600 euros on their annual tax return as compensation.

Changes affecting employers in the Czech Republic in 2022

The basic tax bracket is set to increase by CZK 3,000 (approx. EUR 123) to CZK 30,840 (approx. EUR 1,265) in January 2022. This means employees should get an additional CZK 250 (approx. EUR 10) per month. At the same time, employees will profit from an increase in the minimum wage by CZK 1,000 (approx. 41 EUR) to a gross income of CZK 16,200 (approx. EUR 665) per month. Those employeees who regularly undertake business travel will benefit from improved travel expenses for domestic business trips and visits to nine foreign countries, including France, Hungary, Romania, Croatia, and Lichtenstein, as employers will be required to pay higher meal allowances and employees who drive will be able to expense more on car travel due to the higher fuel costs.

In addition to monetary changes affecting workplaces in 2022, the Czech government has introduced a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for people working in hospitals and nursing homes as well as for other professions including police officers and soldiers, and all citizens aged 60 and older.

Campaigning for higher minimum wage in the Netherlands

The trade union federation FNV is continuing its campaign to increase the rate of minimum wage despite the new government’s current pledge to boost it by 7.5% over four years. At the moment, the minimum wage in the Netherlands is €1,725.00 for an adult working 40 hours a week, which equates to just under €80 a day. As part of its campaign, FNV is 'calling out' high earners including one CEO at Philips who has an annual pay package worth €6.4m. This means that by 6.45 am on 2 January 2022, the CEO had earned the equivalent of the minimum wage for an entire year.

More US companies introduce vaccine and testing requirements

In November 2021, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration introduced a requirement that employers with more than 100 staff initiate a 'vaccine or test' Covid-19 policy. More employers have taken steps to implement such a policy in the past month, even though its enforceability is currently being debated by the US Supreme Court. For example, Starbucks has become one of the first large restaurant chains to require its US staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or to take regular tests. In a letter to employees, Starbucks' chief operating officer, John Culver, said that it was his responsibility to 'do whatever we can to help keep you safe and create the safest working environment possible.' Macey's, the fashion retailer, has also recently requested that its US employees upload their vaccination status details to a third-party platform by 16 January 2022. If employees are unvaccinated, Macy's said it would "review [their] submission and [the employee] may be contacted by someone from the Colleague Advisory team to discuss next steps.' Citigroup has gone even further than Starbucks and Macy's, warning their US employees that they will be enforcing their 'no jab, no job' mandate if employees remain unvaccinated after the 14 January 2022 deadline.

Omicron spread causes worker shortages

The new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, is causing staff shortages in the US in various sectors, including retail and hospitality. Employers are combatting the issue in a number of ways including increased overtime and closing stores. The impact of Omicron is also being felt in the UK where staff absences are understood to be around double normal levels at major UK supermarkets including Tesco, Waitrose, the Co-op and Asda. The rail industry has also been badly affected.

Ikea reduces sick pay for UK unvaccinated workers

Ikea has reduced sick pay rates for some of their unvaccinated employees who are required to self-isolate for 10 days after they have come into close contact with a positive Covid-19 case as per government guidance. The policy may also apply to some cases of unvaccinated workers who test positive. This means that the affected staff could receive as little as the legal minimum of £96.35 a week under Statutory Sick Pay obligations. In a statement, Ikea recognised that the topic was an 'emotive one' and that it would consider individual cases where a worker is unvaccinated for medical reasons and tests positive.