HR world today (20210225)

Although there is the first prospect for over a year that the Pandemic could finally be coming to an end, there remains a danger that a further resurgence could still occur if measures are lifted, and precautions abandoned, too quickly. To some extent, the World is going to have to live with a series of crises for the foreseeable future – whether it be mutating viruses, social strife, famines, democratic decline or the frightening consequences of global warming.

The world of legislation didn’t go to sleep in the last year, but its reactivation is now widely evident. Needless to say, most changes (or impending changes) are not employer-friendly and their impact is likely to have wider repercussions as other jurisdictions respond to the lead being taken. Thus, in Nigeria, the impending ban on casualization after three months’ employment will no doubt be closely watched by governments in western Europe. The battle over employment status has yet to be won and the new Biden administration in the USA will no doubt add new hurdles to those wishing to remain as independent contractors – just as the HMRC, in Britain, clamps down on personal service companies through tough revised IR35 rules. The new US administration could also be good news for the progress of the Pro Act – which would tip the US labour market upside down with radically new rights for trade unions if ever finally passed through the Senate.

Other perennial HR issues on the move can also be seen with blue/white collar harmonisation in Austria, new core contractual hours for zero-hours workers in the Netherlands, redefining business travel to incorporate business driving time into working time in Switzerland, wider scope to take leave in New Zealand and job retention through encouraging sabbaticals in Japan.

None of us should underestimate the significance of the Schrems II judgement by the European Court of Justice last July. In the aftermath, the European Commission has been struggling to come up with supplementary measures that will allow legally compliant transfers of personal data to third countries. If an organisation has any operations in the EEA/Switzerland, it should take due note of its recent guidance. UK companies may enjoy the good news of more relaxed financial sector data transfers with the USA, but also face the prospect of a failed “adequacy decision” by the European Commission.

Finally, we are now running close to the deadline for India to publish its implementing regulations in respect to its four new labour codes. As we illustrate, not all the changes will be against the interests of employers, but many of the merged clauses and attempts at simplification in the Codes will actually make the interpretation of laws a great deal harder. Legislators have overlooked the fact that their legal system is based on “common law” and that the reason why it has worked at all since its original laws were introduced 70 years ago has been through the wisdom of the Supreme Court. Soon that combined wisdom will be replaced by a wasteland of good intent and years of renewed contention.

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