Work/Life: international employment news update

Issue 23

Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update.

This month, our international Employment team collaborated on 21 questions and answers for HR managers in 2021, an online interactive guide that highlights common challenges HR will face this year in France, Germany, the UK, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Ukraine.

This week’s news stories

“Quereinsteiger” – HR’s new favourite German word?

Like Japan, traditional German labour concepts are still dominated by the ideal of working in the profession you learned when entering the jobs market, and remaining with one employer for a length of time that would shock other nations.

On average, Germans work in the same job for 11 years. However, recent surveys indicate that the opposite concept of “Quereinsteiger” – which refers to career changers – has become more popular in recent years.;

The German government, led by famous Quereinsteigerin Chancellor Angela Merkel (originally a research scientist), is seeking to destigmatise career changes, with the aim of combatting the predicted shortfall of 8 million workers in the next decade. Quereinsteiger from other countries can help with this, as Germany’s immigration rises.

Sustainable mobility package in France

France has introduced a “sustainable mobility package” (forfait mobilités durables) to encourage employees to reduce the use of their personal car to travel to work. It allows employers to cover the commuting costs of employees using environmentally friendly forms of transport.

The package, paid for by the employer, is exempt from income tax, CSG-CRDS and social security contributions up to (since 1 January 2021) a maximum of €500 per year per employee in the private sector and €200 for public sector employees. Employees can receive the benefit in their pay slip or in the form of a mobility voucher.

The package can be combined with the reimbursement of fuel costs or 50% of a public transport season ticket, within certain limits.

London’s financial centre to shift across the Channel?

Many London-based financial firms have opened subsidiaries in the European Union in anticipation of Brexit Britain completing its transition period. This allows these firms unrestrained access to the EU market.

Now that the transition period has come to an end, the French Central Bank has said more UK-based financial firms are expected to relocate to France. It is said that around 50 firms have received operating licences and almost 2,500 jobs have moved to France (although the great bulk are still in the UK for now).

Workplace confidants receive increasing reports of racism in the Netherlands

More than a third of workplace confidants in the Netherlands – whom staff can approach to share grievances confidentially – received reports of racism in the past 12 months.

The study by LVV, the national association for workplace counsellors, showed that 41% of incidents involved a colleague actively saying or doing something racist. Managers and bosses were responsible in 37% of instances.

The employees who confided in the confidants said that they were being excluded due to their ethnicity in 31% of cases, with examples including exclusion from a work social or a training opportunity.

Large European firms improve gender diversity at management level

The number of major European companies with high female representation in leadership roles has almost doubled since 2019. However, less progress has been made for jobs at the top of the corporate ladder. The study by European Women on Boards, an EU-sponsored non-profit organisation, analysed 668 of Europe’s leading listed companies.

Women accounted for over a third of the board level positions but made up only 14% of “chief” roles. Only 6% of CEO posts were held by women, but this was an increase from 4.7% in 2019. The most progressive companies were based in Norway, France, Britain, Finland and Sweden.

UK employers can step up to help domestic abuse victims

Employers have a duty to protect their employees’ health and safety including those working from home. However, the UK government has said few firms have adequate policies in place to address the issue of staff suffering domestic abuse. There has been a sharp increase in calls to domestic abuse helplines following the shift to remote working.

Business Minister Paul Scully has called on employers to do more to support staff who are victims. They can help by promoting information on support services, encouraging workers to share problems by facilitating a more open work environment, and offering practical support. Managers and colleagues are “uniquely placed” to spot signs of abuse, he said.

UK government to re-consider workers’ rights following Brexit

Now that the UK is no longer required to follow EU directives and can amend retained law, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has confirmed that UK employment law is under review.

In particular, rights and protections conferred by the EU’s Working Time Directive, including the 48-hour limit on the working week, the inclusion of overtime pay in holiday pay calculations, and rules on rest breaks, may be scrapped or changed. Kwarteng rejected the suggestion that the review is an attempt to “whittle down” labour market standards.

Calls for stricter rules on monitoring remote workers

The UK Labour Party, the official Opposition of the current government, has suggested that guidance on employment practices relating to remote working must be updated urgently to give workers greater protection against the dramatic increase in digital surveillance. The increase is highlighted by a recent YouGov/Skillcast survey which found 12% of all UK firms already engage in this practice.

Labour says the current regulatory framework is “woefully outdated” and inadequate to ensure that workers’ rights to privacy are respected. They suggest all personal data collected through monitoring software should be subject to a Data Protection Impact Assessment, and consultation with employees and trade unions should occur before it is introduced.

EU citizens financially incentivised to leave the UK

The UK government has added EU citizens to its voluntary returns scheme months before the deadline to apply for settled status on 30 June 2021. The scheme offers financial support, such as payment of flights and up to £2,000 resettlement money, to EEA nationals and their families to return to their countries of origin.

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