28 May 2020
Work/Life – 44 of 52 Insights
Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update.
Government support for employers and workers affected by the coronavirus pandemic is being exploited across Europe, the FT reports. Private detectives have uncovered violations of Germany's short-term leave scheme (Kurzarbeit), and it is estimated that 8% to 10% of money paid out to the 10 million German workers applying for Kurzarbeit will be lost to fraud. The French, Austrian and UK governments have also warned of 'furlough fraud', while government officials in the Netherlands started their investigations into fraudulent claims and recovering coronavirus subsidies this week. The cost to taxpayers in Europe's five largest economies of supporting tens of millions of workers during the pandemic is set to exceed €100 billion.
Companies borrowing more than £50 million under the UK government's loan scheme cannot pay cash bonuses to executives or dividends to shareholders until the money is repaid. Other countries have also attached strings to their state support. Denmark has excluded firms that take advantage of tax havens from its state aid measures.The Times warns that conditions on state aid will have a significant impact on the eligibility of private equity-backed businesses for support under the government's loan scheme.
After introducing stricter regulations for parcel delivery services earlier this year, the German government has shifted its focus to the meat industry. A ban on subcontractors and agency workers is expected after health and safety failings were exposed by coronavirus outbreaks in slaughterhouses across the country.
Five workers at McDonald's in Chicago claim that the fast food giant put their safety at risk and failed to provide enough masks, gloves and hand sanitiser to protect staff from the virus. The lawsuit said that "the damage done by McDonald's decisions is not confined to the walls of its restaurants, but instead has broader public health consequences for the Chicago community, the State of Illinois, and the entire country". There is a risk of further claims as McDonald's looks to reopen sites across the US.
Finland – recently crowned the happiest country in the world for the third year in a row – is offering to share its perspective on wellbeing with people across the globe. The "Rent a Finn" campaign offers people the chance to link up with virtual 'Happiness Guides' who will share their tips for happiness and feeling calm. "We feel that the happiness doesn't mean you're smiling all the time", said Heli Jimenez, senior director of international marketing at Business Finland. "It's inner peace. Even in the tough times, we can get through".
56% of the 2,000 adults recently surveyed by LinkedIn and the Mental Health Foundation said that their mental health has deteriorated while working from home during the lockdown. Mental Health Foundation spokesperson Chris O'Sullivan has warned that "people working from home during these unprecedented times are at a greater risk of burnout due to the high stakes environment we find ourselves in both globally and personally". But it is not just mental stresses affecting UK workers. Health insurer Bupa has revealed that nearly two-thirds of employees have injured their back, neck, knees or wrists as a a result of poor homeworking practices and a lack of suitable equipment.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen many people move to working from home, and this could soon be extended to truck drivers. Swedish tech company Einride is working on technology that will allow trucks to be driven remotely. This news comes as Reuters reports that freight companies are losing cash and laying off thousands of truck drivers across the globe. The International Road Transport Union recently announced that new freight contracts are down by 60% to 90% since the coronavirus outbreak.