HR world today (20210128)

In this edition, we continue to provide updates on improved minimum wage rates around the World. These are still being introduced, in spite of the difficult economic environment facing employers. The stand out moves, however, come from Slovenia, where the government is partially subsidising the increase granted and Spain where a decision has surprisingly been made to freeze the rate this year.

Wage subsidies also remain centre stage, with the Netherlands entering into its NOW 3.2 phase and South Korea extending wage top-ups to dispatch workers. Italy is offering other assistance programmes to companies that have not received subsidies to date, whilst Brazil surprisingly has withdrawn subsidies altogether – although presumably on a temporary basis.

The Pandemic has necessitated a great deal of adjustment to visa and work permit validity periods. For some countries, such as Finland and Zambia, it has been a time to start profiting by inflating fee charges, whilst other countries – such as Vietnam – have introduced exemptions for those who will benefit the economy. In Russia and UAE, visa free concessions have been put on hold because of the Pandemic, whilst Bahrain, Malaysia and Singapore have elaborated their nationals-first policies by introducing procedures to deter companies from hiring expatriates.

In the news too are several examples of fundamental changes that could have a large impact on employers. One examples of this is the job posting proposal for staffing agencies unwittingly made by the Advocate General to the European Court of Justice – that could potentially assist companies in the UK if the recommendation is accepted by the court. Ohio‘s Senate Bill 201 on Alternative Employer Organisations could hugely enhance the scope for flexible working relationships, whilst Brazil‘s proposed form of cut-price social security could be a way forward for poorer countries with large grey economies – like India. The simplified approach to determining employment status made by the US Department of Labour is a welcome move other countries should adopt. This contrasts with the hugely complex system of criteria devised by the Dutch government and crystalized in a self-help tool that simply does not work.

Although largely confined to their own jurisdictions, some rulings with wider implications have recently come from courts and regulatory bodies. This includes New Zealand’s ERA on drugs/alcohol testing in the workplace and Germany Rhineland-Palatinate regional labour court concerning its ruling that if an employee threatens their employer with taking spurious sick leave in order to avoid a disciplinary challenge, they could legitimately be subject to immediate dismissal for gross misconduct.

Finally, we cannot end without making the observation that, if we wished to do so, we could easily fill a Newswire with reforms being currently made in the Russian Federation. Many of these are quite small, but all evidence a country that is – in parallel with suppressing free speech like never before –  clearly seeking to display an image of being both anti-bureaucratic and reasonable in respect to employment issues. There is an old Russian saying: “In a quiet lagoon, devils dwell”.

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