HR world today (20210114)

January is the traditional time for updating minimum wage rates. In this issue, we continue to report on these and also other pay-related subjects such as executive remuneration in Japan and bonus payments in the UK. 

As coronavirus variants enter their third, and even more extreme, phase home/tele/distance working continues to be a major issue in many countries such as Romania and Mexico, whilst Japan is struggling with companies that treat regular and nonregular workers differently. Revised schemes for supporting temporarily laid-off workers are not just being launched in large economies, but also micro-entities such as Gibraltar and Malta. Meanwhile, China is clearly concern with employers that are abusing the concept of “force majeure” to justify dismissal, whilst the EEOC in the USA is responding to concerns from employers about introducing compulsory vaccination policies.

New laws are coming into force in Alberta, Canada, on the calculation of working time, Colorado, USA on equal pay and opportunities, Saudi Arabia on “Saudization” and Sweden on taxing “economic employers”.  However, many laws introduced before the health crisis also remain poorly implemented – such as those covering fundamental labour rights in Ethiopia, including pay levels in Lithuanian job ads and providing IR information to new employees in New Zealand.

Strong contrasts exist on several fronts – whether they be the way downsizing is affecting Commerzbank and Continental in Germany, or how HR anti-trust actions are being prosecuted in Hungary, but carefully ring-fenced and played down in Canada. The European Court of Justice has fended off a challenge to posted worker rules in the EU at the same time as post-Brexit Britain is trying to make sense of the new concept of “detached workers” that seems to have erected a barrier for posting workers to all but a few friendly EFTA neighbours like Norway.

We highlight deadlines for employers in Slovakia and Finland that they could so easily overlook, together with final dates for responding to public consultations in the Irish Republic on “the right to disconnect” and the UK on the legal standing of non-compete clauses in employment contracts. Note should also be taken of additional public holidays this year in Thailand and the removal of obligations for paid leave per se for commercial workers in India‘s State of Madhya Pradesh.

What the last few weeks have underlined, is that the hoped-for end of the health crisis after mass vaccination was always something of a pipe-dream. Vaccination is not going ahead in most countries very quickly, it remains uncertain if it will be effective against new strains of coronavirus and the economic aftermath of the Pandemic will be at least as devastating as that after WW2. It took 15 years to recover after WW2, but unlike a war, the Pandemic is likely to have no abrupt end. A number of radical steps will be necessary by both governments and companies – including removing the critical link between living standards and employment. In a workless world, wealth will require new distribution mechanisms – something no-one has yet fully confronted. This outcome would also be a fundamental threat to the HR function itself.

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