24 March 2022
Work/Life – 12 of 61 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:
Shipping company P&O fired its entire British workforce without communication – over 800 employees. The company reported £100m in losses and has taken steps to hire a cheaper workforce through third-party agencies. The Government initially denied it had any prior knowledge of the plan but has since acknowledged that some officials were made aware of the planned mass-sacking the day before. The cruise provider has reportedly begun hiring a foreign workforce paying significantly less than minimum wage. It is reported there are possible criminal sanctions including an unlimited fine as well as civil remedies.
Gareth Southgate on Qatar and the football world cup
Ariel Koren, a product marketing manager at Google for Education voiced criticism against Project Nimbus, a $1.2bn contract between the Israeli military, Google and Amazon Web Services. Soon after her complaint, she was presented with the choice of either relocating to Brazil or losing her position – a move she claims was retaliatory. An internal investigation found no retaliation had taken place. The Labor Board of San Francisco has begun an investigation following an official complaint by Koren. Over 500 colleagues have signed a petition supporting her. Meanwhile England's national football team manager, Gareth Southgate, has voiced concerns over England fans opting out of traveling to Qatar for the 2022 world cup due to the country's anti-LGBTQ+ laws and the rights of women. Southgate said the England team will be educated on these issues. England may join the likes of Denmark who have begun displaying messages critical of Qatar on their training kit and reducing commercial activity around the event. Southgate also raised issues surrounding the working conditions on the stadium construction “I think I’m quite clear on the areas of concern about this tournament,” he said. “The building of the stadiums was the first, and there’s nothing we can do about that now. They’re built." It is reported more than 6,500 migrant workers have died in Qatar's world cup preparation.
The CEO of Swiss listed Glencore, Gary Nagle, was docked £85,000 from his $2.1m bonus following four employee deaths during global operations. It is an increasing feature for workforce safety to feature as a consideration for executive pay among Swiss employees.
As of 20 March, German employers are no longer obligated to offer their employees the possibility to work from home. Previously, in response to rising corona rates, employers were required by law to offer work from home if the individual work situation allowed it. However, within a transitional period until 25 May, employers now must conduct a risk assessment that takes the regional infection pattern into account and verifies the implementation of working from home arrangements, hygiene and distance rules at the workplace as well as a corona test offering.
The French Ministry of Labor has presented its "economic and social resilience plan" which aims to support those businesses whose activities have slowed due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. The most notable aspect of the plan is to allow these employers to pay employees 60% of their usual wage (capped at 60% of 4.5 times the minimum wage) with the Government paying 36% of the wage (capped at 36% of 4.5 times the minimum wage). The plan also allows for the deferring of all or part of these companies' social security contributions.
European companies are introducing measures to make hiring Ukrainian refugees quicker. Most of these jobs have been vacant for some time since the reopening of much of the economy. Countries like Germany and Czech Republic have over 300,000 vacancies. But logistical issues such as lack of school spaces, language barriers and accommodation will slow down the process. Portuguese companies are offering language courses and in Lithuania they are providing on-site childcare services to help mitigate some of the issues. See our guidance for those leaving Ukraine for the UK.
Over 400 companies, including the likes of McDonald's, Starbucks and Meta (formerly Facebook), have withdrawn from Russia since its attacks on Ukraine commenced last month. Around 80 companies have retained some level of presence despite the mounting pressure. Pfizer for example has argued their withdrawal would lead to ordinary Russians suffering needlessly. In trying to find a middle ground, the pharmaceutical giant has pledged all profits coming from Russian sales will go towards humanitarian causes. President Putin has announced that any company which has withdrawn from Russia has forfeited its rights to any assets they left behind. British American Tobacco is one of the companies hesitant to withdraw and have stated that doing so would be classified as a criminal bankruptcy under Russian law which would open some of its employees to prosecution.
The rise in homeworking has led to employees having a higher degree of flexibility when it comes to where they live and naturally, this has led to an increase in the number of Americans looking to relocate. American property websites, Zillow and Redfin, have said their websites are busiest during work hours as opposed to the weekend.
An opinion piece in the Financial Times discusses four-day work week (see Law at Work). Iceland's experiment has proven a success with employee output remaining steady despite the reduction in hours. A UK experiment is underway with some employers testing a reduced work week whilst maintaining full pay. Gaming company Hutch has raised the pay of all those already on a four-day work week to match everyone else and are running regular surveys to monitor the effects of this change.
EU member states have drawn up plans to implement a quota for the number of women in top executive positions. Within five years, at least 40% of non-executive director roles or 33% of all board jobs must be filled by women. This quota is higher than the Netherlands requirement of 33% of supervisory directors must be women.
Microsoft have published their second iteration of the Microsoft Work Index which seeks to track trends in employee habits. 53% of workers are more likely to prioritise health and wellbeing as opposed to before the pandemic, 47% are more likely to put family and personal life over work – this number grows to 55% amongst parents. Hybrid working is becoming more popular with 57% of respondents currently working remotely saying they're willing to consider switching to hybrid.
Although an increase from 6% in 2018, Leyla Tindall, managing director for Robert Half Executive Search said time spent out of the workplace for childcare is a key reason why the figure remains low. The widespread introduction of schemes such as shared parental leave and better support for women returning to the workplace are not themselves enough to bridge the gap, Tindall says. A review led by Alison Rose, CEO of Natwest found that women have spent twice as long on caring responsibilities during Covid-19 as their male counterparts and that their businesses have been less likely to recover.
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