10 March 2022
Work/Life – 8 of 56 Insights
Welcome to the latest edition of our international employment news update. Given the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, we wanted to direct readers to our practical resources aimed at supporting those who wish to understand and help the circumstances of Ukrainian people who want to be able to live and work. Here is the link led by our CE offices:
HSBC faces an investigation by US regulators over alleged misuse of WhatsApp, it revealed in its annual report. HSBC's finance chief said the probe is not specific to HSBC and is part of a broader US investigation into the use of non-work approved messaging platforms to discuss business. Deutsche Bank has also instructed staff not to delete WhatsApp messages from their phones as the German lender steps up scrutiny of employees’ private communications amid a US crackdown. The bank earlier this year circulated a staff memo cautioning employees that business-related messages distributed through private channels mustn’t be deleted as the act could be considered a crime under US law, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Staff were also reminded that using messages sent from private phones for business is a violation of company policy. The bank is also looking at how to better store WhatsApp messages sent from company phones, people with knowledge of the matter said earlier this month.
The European Commission has proposed a law to force large companies operating in the European Union to check that their global suppliers comply with environmental standards and do not use slave or child labour. The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence law will require the directors of firms in the EU to ensure that their business strategy aligns with limiting global warming to 1.5 Celsius, as under the Paris climate agreement. The proposal would compel EU firms to assess their supply chains at least yearly and before major business decisions or launching new activities, for risks including forced labour, child labour, inadequate workplace safety, and environmental impacts including pollution and ecosystem degradation. "We can no longer turn a blind eye on what happens down our value chains," EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said. Countries such as the UK (see our article on the Modern Slavery Act) already have laws covering some of these issues.
According to the Czech Republic’s Confederation of Industry the local labour market has to deal with a further labour shortage as men of working age are returning to Ukraine. The Czech construction industry also misses workers as Ukrainians are not able to return to the Czech Republic. The Czech labour market has been dealing with a shortage in the foreign workforce for a long time and yet the Czech unemployment rate was the lowest in the EU as of 31 January.
The Dutch Bar Association has issued a warning to Dutch lawyers to be vigilant of any attempts by Russian clients to subvert EU and US sanctions. It is thought that Russian individuals and companies have billions of euros in assets stationed in the Netherlands. Should a Russian client attempt to transact in a suspicious manner, lawyers have been told to not cooperate with such requests and instead, this activity should be reported to the Dutch financial security service, the FIU.
The so-called “3G” requirement at work (tested, vaccinated or recovered), which had been in place in Austria since 1 November 2021 and which applied to all workplaces where close contact with others could not be avoided, was repealed as of March 5 together with many other Covid measurements.
New applications for unemployment benefits edged lower near historically low levels, reflecting a tight labor market as COVID-19 cases continued to decline. The Labor Department said that initial jobless claims fell 17,000 to a seasonally-adjusted 232,000 for the week ended 19 February 2022, down from a revised 249,000 the previous week. The four-week average fell by 7,250 to 236,250. In total, 1.476m Americans were collecting jobless aid the week that ended 5 February 2022, a decrease of about 112,000 the previous week and the lowest level since 14 March 1970, the government said. “Demand for labor is strong and there are no reasons to believe that this will change any time soon, barring another wave of a new COVID variant,” said Thomas Simons and Aneta Markowska of Jefferies Financial Group.
BDO's Employment Index increased for the fourth consecutive month marking this as the first time the British labour market has attained pre-pandemic levels. Kaley Crossthwaite, partner at BDO attributed the resilience of the UK job market to the Government furlough scheme and as restrictions ease, that resilience is turning to growth. Crossthwaite warns that with inflation rising faster than wages along with the cost of living going up, this growth could prove fragile.
Under French law, an employee cannot be sanctioned twice for one issue. So, if an employee is sanctioned with a warning letter, they cannot be further sanctioned with a dismissal unless they have persisted in the conduct.
The French Supreme Court specified that its decision was rendered in consideration of the precise terms used in the performance report of the employee concerned and not of the generic nature of the report. Employers should take extra care when writing the report of their employees’ annual review and they should limit observations to the employee's work without highlighting faults, and without setting out any requirement for change.
UK women's health minister, Maria Caulfield has announced menopausal women will receive more flexible working options, time off for GP visits and access to quiet rooms at work. The announcement was made for International Women's Day in the Government's capacity as employer, not lawmaker. Aside from the 250,000 women in the Civil Service who will benefit, private companies such as News UK, Tesco, Sainsbury's, PwC and Santander UK have also signed the Charter presented by Ms Caulfield. The Sun newspaper has launched the Fabulous Menopause Matters campaign to push the issue. Eleanor Mills, founder of Noon, a platform for women in their midlife commented that more companies are doing more to support such women in the workplace.