HR world today (20210520)

The core of HR legal concerns has long been equality of opportunity and freedom from discrimination. This, however, takes on different forms in different places and at different times. In this issue we illustrate this in the USA, where there remains a concern about the proportion of women on company Boards. In France, the law is changing with a new ruling on the right to wear Islamic headscarves at work, whilst in Italy, a new scheme is being rolled out to reward companies that foster gender workplace diversity.

Labour relations has been taking a more important place in the HR arena in recent months. First there has been a plethora of collective agreements springing up in developing sectors such as fintech in Denmark, then the prospect of fair pay agreements in New Zealand and major disputes involving European manufacturers in both South Korea and India. Redundancy rights are also changing, with a ban on mutual separation agreements in Kazakhstan, new rehire rights in California, and a new facility to lay-off workers in an intermittent way in Norway.

Pay rises above the norm and generous benefits are now appearing in many unexpected places from Chipotle restaurants in the USA to extra paid and unpaid leave in Canada and special leave for miscarriage and IVF treatment in the UK fintech sector.

It is often the case that after regulations are first implemented they are found wanting. We report on two such instances – the extension of the right to 30 days notice for collective redundancies in the Irish Republic and the broadening of “freedom from detriment” provisions in the UK.

Although we have reported in recent issues the way authorities are enforcing curfews and guidelines for citizens moving around in public, in this issue, we look at a disturbing case in UAE where those in quarantine have been found to be flouting their restrictions and in South Africa where an employee diagnosed with COVID-19 continued to attend work.

Whilst many countries remain willing to extend expired visas and work permits in response to the pandemic, two countries – in particular – are becoming far more restrictive in respect to foreign nationals. Russia is seeking to lock out foreign IT/Internet companies and restrict lawyers from representing clients in court, whilst the UK has started to clamp down on EU citizens entering to seek work. It is also resuming the necessity for carrying out strict right to work checks.

Remote working continues to engage employers and governments alike, with local deals under the NCA on telework in Belgium, a slight relaxation of telework obligations introduced in France, and the hybrid business model being adopted by a new Alliance/BBVA joint venture in Spain to extend the operation of the virtual workplace.

The first signs of gathering price inflation reported in recent Newswires can now be further confirmed by recent figures published in Argentina, the USA, and UK. The most disturbing trend is in the UK where the underling movement of prices in “input costs” is still hidden, headline annual inflation appears to be within Bank of England limits and economists are generally predicting a brief upward surge followed by a resumption of low inflation levels. But longer-term forces are clearly at work, being led by oil prices, but with substantial rises in other cost categories such as “metals and non-metal products” and “chemicals”.

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