HR world today (20210408)

One of the longest running items on the HR agenda remains equal opportunities for women. Yet hopes and uncertainties remain. In this issue, we report on the continuation of male guardianship in Qatar and rejection of the Istanbul Convention by the Turkish government. Moving in the contrary direction, however, are North Macedonia‘s plans for a new Gender Equality law, news from Canada about extended notice rights for pregnant women, the establishment of a new equal pay comparator principle by Asda workers in the UK and a strengthened gender pay gap law in the Irish Republic.

Pay and related tax developments we report cover a wide tranche of COVID-19 subsidy extensions in such countries as Australia, Bulgaria, the Irish Republic and Japan; the EU tax wedge on incomes; and a new minimum wage setting body in Vietnam. There are also potential hurdles such as the launch of a UAE-style wage protection system in Bahrain and a warning that tax-free short-time working payments in Germany may not be tax-free after all.

Changes in life expectancy continue to challenge policy makers. This is leading to a new pensions law in the Netherlands, major changes in retirement ages in China, new ways being sought in Japan to retain workers in employment until age 70 and legal questions such as what happens when employers do not submit pensions deductions to funding bodies in Nigeria and how should part-time worker pensions be calculated in Germany.

One of the biggest transformations taking place in the emerging post lockdown World concerns the role of trade unions and the future course of collective bargaining. Both unions and collective bargaining continue to be on the wane as labour relations changes its shape and orientation.

The good news for unions is the reestablishment of collective bargaining for US federal employees and the support from the Biden administration for union neutrality agreements. There is a call too for trade union codetermination in Chile and an end to employer-dominated unions in Mexico. But if we look instead at the traditional heartland of codetermination – Germany – we find a new engineering sector agreement that has an unchanged set of basic rates and no prospect of payouts in some companies – as workers trade one-off unconsolidated pay supplements for reduced working time. Unions in the UK and the European Insurance sector are also revealing their collective anxieties over the growth of automation, whilst in the Scandinavian stronghold of collective bargaining, Finland, employers are feeling confident enough to opt out of sectoral bargaining altogether.

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