5 May 2021
Work/Life – 27 of 56 Insights
Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update.
The European Commission has announced the introduction of a new policy which would set limits to the use of artificial intelligence, to try to guarantee the safety of this emerging technology. Discussing the new policy, European Commission executive vice president Margrethe Vestager said, "Trust is a must, not a nice-to-have. Future-proof and innovation-friendly, our rules will intervene where strictly needed – when the safety and fundamental rights of EU citizens are at stake."
"Unacceptable" uses of AI including live facial recognition in public spaces will be banned, unless for reasons associated to national security, while other uses, such as in self-driving cars, bank lending, school enrolment selection, and law enforcement will be more regulated. The regulations proposed would have significant implications for big tech firms, which have invested substantially in AI in recent years, and companies violating the rules could face fines up to 6% of global sales.
France's exceptional buying power bonus – first introduced in 2019 as the "Macron bonus" – has been renewed for a second time. The French government has confirmed that employers will be able to pay a tax-free bonus of up to €1,000 to employees earning up to three times the minimum wage in France.
The ceiling of the bonus may be raised to €2,000 if the company or the branch formally commit to actions to enhance the value of "second line" workers or if the company is covered by a profit-sharing agreement in force. The bonus may be paid until the beginning of 2022, and the rules will apply retroactively to bonuses paid from the filing of the adjusting finance bill, which will incorporate these measures in the summer.
The Minister of Labour announced that this bonus benefited nearly 5 million employees in 2019 and over 6 million employees in 2020.
As unemployment rises and companies put more staff on shorter working hours and subsidised schemes, the youth in Germany face an uncertain future. In a recent survey, more than 70% of young people acknowledged that employment opportunities have reduced amid the pandemic. 10% more young people fear their professional future will suffer long term, while over half contend that the government is not making enough effort to provide them with vocational training opportunities.
"We need to ensure that each and every young man and woman has the opportunity for professional training — especially in this time of crisis," commented Jörg Dräger, executive board member of the Bertelsmann foundation. Mr Dräger went on to say it was critical that Germany has enough skilled workers for the future to meet company demands: "Every crisis kills jobs. We saw that back in 2008. And this will be the same sort of thing."
Workers trying to block the sale of the Renault car parts factory in northwest France held seven managers captive for 12 hours last week. The carmaker was trying to find a buyer for the factory, which employs 350 people, to "maintain activity at the site and safeguard jobs". The foundry remains closed while angry workers continue to protest and demand Renault abandons its plans to sell.
The Dutch government recently approved a new arrangement that will allow parents nine additional weeks of partially paid parental leave at 50% of their original daily salary. The arrangement comes into effect from August 2022 and payouts will be capped at €111.70 per day. The government expects this change will allow parents to better balance childcare with their professional demands.
"By paying for parental leave during the first year, we reduce the obstacles for many families to actually take advantage of parental leave," said Wouter Koolmees, Minister of Social Affairs and Employment. Currently, Dutch employees are entitled to 26 weeks leave during the first eight years after the birth, although this is generally unpaid.
The IT sector in Hungary has continued to expand rapidly despite pandemic related issues. Reports estimate that almost 44,000 IT professionals are missing from the Hungarian labour market due to the digitalisation and automation of the workplace.
Several Dutch employers recently notified their employees that their yearly holiday payment, usually paid in May or June, will possibly be postponed or even not be paid at all. Under Dutch employment law, employees are entitled to a minimum holiday allowance of at least 8% of their annual salary.
This entitlement was first introduced as an incentive for employees to go on holiday, and in principle, employers must pay this sum. While employees have lodged complaints against this delay, it's unlikely to deter additional employers from pursuing a similar course of action due to their current financial difficulties. Court cases are expected to follow.
Germany's Federal Statistical Office announced on Labour Day (1 May) that full-time employees in Germany worked around 41 hours per week in 2019 – only 25 minutes less than full-time employees in 1991. The increase in individuals engaging in part-time employment has resulted in the average weekly working time of all employees decreasing by an average of four hours.