Issue 25

Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update. We're in the home stretch of our 21 questions and answers for HR managers in 2021 thought leadership campaign this week. Visit our online interactive guide and learn more about common challenges HR will face this year in France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

Brexit and social security: EU member states will apply for the detached worker provision

All EU countries have opted in to apply the detached worker provision, meaning that any worker moving temporarily between the UK and EU will continue to pay social security contributions to their home state. This will impact employers, employees and the self-employed. The UK HM Revenue & Customs has updated its National Insurance rules for UK workers working in the EEA or Switzerland as a result.

Now, a worker, or their employer, should apply for a certificate or document in certain circumstances to ensure the worker continues to only pay National Insurance contributions in the UK. For example, going to work temporarily in the EU for up to two years, or a multistate worker working in the UK and one or more EU countries.

European policymakers consider new rules on gig workers' rights

Uber – which lost its Supreme Court appeal against the finding that UK drivers are workers on 18 February – has published a white paper coined A Better Deal which calls on EU regulators to recognise the value of independent contractors in job creation, while acknowledging the need to expand some benefits to these gig workers.

Joe Aiston, senior associate in our Employment, Pensions & Mobility team, commented to Tech Crunch "it makes sense for them to be pushing for a minimum standard of benefits", without the need to classify everyone as employees or workers and cause significant disruption to the business model.

Uber has defended its business model on several occasions previously and will push for a California style "Prop 22" outcome globally in which their platform workers will not be reclassified as employees. But they will now need to adapt to the UK finding that drivers are workers.

EU lawmakers are increasing scrutiny of working conditions on gig platforms and will consider the whole deal gig platform workers get when deciding on new rules.

Read our coverage of Uber's Supreme Court appeal result here.

Dutch Deliveroo riders deemed employees

The Court of Appeal in the Netherlands has ruled that delivery riders for the on-demand food delivery giant are employees. The method of payment of wages and the authority exercised among other factors indicate the presence of an employment contract. Now, the delivery workers can claim formal contracts, holiday and sick pay. Deliveroo will appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

Dutch chocolate brand axed from ethical chocolate list

Tony's Chocolonely has been a long-standing frontrunner of slave free chocolate production. Now, the American aid group Slave Free Chocolate has removed the confectionary company from its list of ethical operators due to collaboration with Barry Callebaut, one of the world's leading chocolate manufacturers, whose production line has been linked with child labour.

Fine boundary between work-life and child labour in Germany

Child labour is unlikely to bear any association with the German labour market in the eyes of the public. However, a court has found a folk singer guilty of violating Germany's strict child labour laws.

The singer's four-year-old son accompanied him on stage for at least 30 minutes during an evening concert, which is considered work by the Youth Labour Protection Act.

German law allows children aged three to six to take part in musical performances only for up to two hours per day between 8am and 5pm and with official approval from the relevant authority.

German law to combat rights abuses in global supply chain

The draft Supply Chain Law, which requires parliamentary approval, will oblige German companies to take appropriate measures to prevent human rights violations in their global supply chains.

Companies that fail to comply may face fines and risk sanctions or be excluded from public contracts. From 2023, 600 firms with more than 3,000 employees will need to observe the law, following which from 2024 its scope will be widened to nearly 3,000 companies with more than 1,000 workers.

The new rules have so far been met with criticism by industry groups who argue that the complexity and length of supply chains means companies cannot be held accountable for actions beyond their control.

French start-ups are thriving and stimulating job creation

Start-ups in France have not been systematically harmed by the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

In fact, this has accelerated the digital transformation of companies in all sectors and caused an unprecedented shift to telework for hundreds of thousands of employees and executives, who now engage in videoconferencing, remote collaborative work and sharing of dematerialised documents. To do so, they need tools and services developed specifically for this purpose by certain start-ups.

The 120 companies in the Next 40 and French Tech 120 indexes (the two benchmark rankings for France's top start-ups) are increasingly important players in the country's economic structure, having created 10,000 jobs in 2020.

Price to pay for the comfort of home working

Employees who move to cheaper locations to permanently work from home are likely to experience a reduction in pay and more limited career prospects, according to a survey of 250 HR executives by executive search firm Leathwaite.

45% said wages and bonuses should be adjusted for people who work remotely in areas with a lower cost of living. Leathwaite managing partner Andrew Wallace said, "a characteristic of the modern workplace will be the increased use of a more competitive, remote-based global talent pool".

Dutch employers set out new strategy with emphasis on sharing prosperity

The Netherlands' biggest employers organisations VNO-NCW and MKB-Nederland have outlined a new strategy with the aim of "contributing to broader prosperity across the country".

The 29-page document advocates increasing attention to equality and combating climate change and suggests that by 2030 everyone in the Netherlands should have work security and 20% higher prosperity than pre-pandemic.

Fewer mutually agreed terminations of employment in France 2020

According to the French Ministry of Labour, there were 424,283 confirmed terminations by mutual agreement in 2020 compared with 443,397 in 2019 – a decrease of 4.4% after almost 10 years of continuous increase.

The health situation (notably lockdowns and short-time work) clearly weighed on this decrease. In the first lockdown the number drastically reduced: some 15,000 were confirmed compared with 37,000 in April 2019. During the last three months of the year 2020 (October, November and December 2020), the number also decreased by 7.5% on average compared to the three months earlier.

But if you leave aside the "pinch point months" where the rate slowed, the underlying trend for 2020 is characterised by an increase in terminations by mutual agreement of more than 20,000 (6.8%).