HR world today (20210617)

The last two weeks has been a busy time for governments, with G7 States deciding how they can reap a greater slice of multinational global profits, the UK concluding deals with Australia and EFTA States that open up labour markets through the mutual recognition of qualifications and Russia introducing an employment dimension into its accord with its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Pay and labour relations continue to enjoy centre stage, as India struggles to come up with a mechanism through which to set a national minimum wage and several EU Member states and Scandinavian trade unions react strongly against proposals for an EU common minimum rate. Meanwhile, Uber has reached its first union recognition agreement in the UK whilst Amazon seeks to adapt its anti-union policies as it fights for market share in Sweden. The overall picture for unions in Germany remains bleak, especially in the automotive industry – where successive mergers are hitting headcount. However, there have been two important deals reached recently in the rubber and meat sectors and in Spain, a recent court case on meal tickets for teleworkers illustrates how prepared unions now are to use litigation to further their claims.

The application of travel bans and restrictions are placing pressures on visa systems, with foreign nationals being trapped in other countries as their visas expire. Many immigration services have been coping with this by extended visa validity. Brexit has also placed an urgent month-end permit deadline on UK nationals living in some EU States. A more sympathetic approach is, however, being shown by countries such as Australia, Japan and the USA for Myanmar citizens who understandably do not wish to return to the tyranny in their home country.

Apart from COVID-19 related measures, the most popular legal amendments at US State level currently relate to issues such as discrimination due to hairstyle and gun laws. Globally, an ongoing legal concern remains with the position of women in the workplace. Mongolia‘s rising birth rate is hitting female participation due to the dearth of childcare, whilst ILO Convention 190 is opening up debate in countries, as unalike as Kenya and France, about domestic and workplace sexual violence. Argentina is eliminating gender-specific labour identity codes, whilst Singapore is seeking to raise the pay levels of its primarily female cleaning workers. Some workplace benefits remain regionally confined and, as we illustrate in one German case, there remains some way to go in changing male attitudes towards the reality of sexual harassment.

It is going to be many months, if not years, before the World can put the health crisis behind it. But already the agenda has moved on, particularly in the Americas – as Chile sets out rules for a return to work and Canada begins to relax restrictions on its nationals returning back from trips abroad – with eyes set on the reopening of the US border. The new focus, in the USA at least, is now on vaccinations and how far an employer can go to ensure employee immunity. Already we report one State – Montana – where vaccination has become a protected feature for employees and it shall not be long before an individual’s overall vaccination profile will be generally recognised as the next common characteristic protected by discrimination legislation.

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