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Around the World: Employment Law Changes

HR Column
Recently, we examined developments in employment law in different regions and countries. Let's delve into recent changes in other countries of interest.

Austria extends working hours

Austria adopted changes to the Working Time Act (WTA) that increases the maximum daily and weekly working hours to 12 and 60 hours, respectively. Under these new limits, employees can work more overtime while employers avoid administrative penalties previously assessed for exceeding the maximum working hours, which limited employees to working no more than 10 hours daily and 40 hours weekly.

There remains a 48-hour per week average limit that must not be exceeded during any 17-week period, calculated on a rolling basis. Executive employees and certain employees with independent decision-making authority are exempt from the WTA.

Greece grants joint and several liability for outsourced employees

Greece implemented stronger protections for employees of contractors and subcontractors by establishing joint and several liability. The new policy impacts principals, their contractors, and subcontractors, relative to payment of wages, social security contributions, and severance indemnity owed to employees.

To take advantage of the new requirements, the contract with the principal must refer to the contractor/subcontractor’s obligation to comply with the relevant legal provisions, which includes Law 4554/2018. If the principal can demonstrate due diligence in attempting to enforce the contractor’s compliance with its obligations toward employees, it has a right of recourse against the contractor for noncompliance. Due diligence is presumed if the principal:

  • Obtains monthly evidence of wages and social security contributions paid by the contractor on behalf of workers;
  • Notifies the contractor that it has 15 days to comply in the event of noncompliance; and
  • Terminates the agreement if the contractor fails to cure the noncompliance within the 15-day time frame.

India considers update to wage laws

India intends to combine its Minimum Wages Act 1948, Payment of Wages Act 1936, Payment of Bonus Act 1965, and the Equal Remuneration Act 1976 into a single law. Intended outcomes of this consolidation include a universal definition of wages, introduction of a national minimum wage, and uniform penalties for employers who fail to pay minimum wages or bonuses, or who take unauthorized deductions.

The new Code on Wages Bill 2017 was introduced in the Indian lower house of parliament and is pending approval by the upper house of parliament. Enactment would come after approval by the president and required notifications.

Saudi Arabia expands opportunities for women

In advance of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia lifted a ban on female drivers. Before the ban was lifted, women had to be chauffeured by a male relative, even to run minor errands. Anticipating dissent and resistance to the reform, the Saudi government also enacted a law prohibiting sexual harassment and warned men against stalking female drivers. Violations are punishable by up to five years in prison.

According to GulfTalent, 82 percent of women intend to drive within the first year of the ban being lifted. It is expected that driving will empower Saudi women and increase the number of women who ascend to senior leadership roles traditionally held by men.

A reshuffling will occur as women leave work of proximal necessity to take jobs that better fit their skills and interests. Women who live in small towns are expected to commute to larger cities for work as men do.

Spain implements digital disconnection rights

In Spain, Law 3/2018 on the protection of personal data and guarantee of digital rights (LOPD-GDD) implements the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It also institutes the right of employees to disconnect from work during non-working hours. This right aims to protect workers’ down time, family time, family privacy, and improve work-life balance.

While the right to disconnect is not entirely new, this right is not absolute and may be limited based on job requirements (e.g., if an employee works across different time zones and must be available after hours).

Collective bargaining and other agreements are expected to further develop specific policies around these rules, including employee training and guidance to employees on the reasonable use of company technological tools.

United Arab Emirates proclaims Year of Tolerance

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the UAE, wants the sovereign monarchy to be a global reference point for cultural and religious tolerance. UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid also serves as ruler of Dubai. He created the Supreme National Committee for Tolerance that will work on seven pillars developed by the initiative.

One of the proposed laws addresses multiculturalism and is intended to bolster the 2015 Anti-Hate Law legislation that imposes penalties for discrimination on the basis of religion, gender, and creed. Gender equality is a significant area of focus as the UAE continues efforts to increase its support for women in the workplace, which includes new part-time hours and an increase in maternity leave from 45 days to three months.

About the Author

Spiwe L. JeffersonSpiwe L. Jefferson is chief counsel of ChristLight Productions Ltd., patron fellow of the American Bar Foundation, and governance committee chair of the board of The BrandLab. She is a member of the ACC employment and labor, law department management, and litigation networks.

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