Employment & Benefits updates

Australia

Contributed by Lander & Rogers
The untouchable employee and dangers of playing office politics
  • Australia
  • 15 May 2019

Following a recent Federal Court decision, a power solutions company was forced to reinstate a senior employee who it had fired three years previously and pay him A$1.1 million in back pay. This case serves as a reminder that employers must be aware of the dangers of unlawfully terminating an employee, particularly given that the employee may be reinstated into their position should it be held that they suffered adverse action.

#MeToo inspires employees to act: Fair Work Commission upholds dismissal of Coles manager
  • Australia
  • 17 April 2019

The Fair Work Commission recently considered whether a Coles employee, whose conduct had been found to breach the chain's code of conduct and equal opportunity policy, had been unfairly dismissed. The commission noted that the #MeToo movement had commenced and gained traction in late 2017 and was likely to have encouraged the initial complainant and other complainants to report the employee's conduct.

Worker sacked for taking Nurofen Plus – how does your drug and alcohol policy stack up?
  • Australia
  • 10 April 2019

The Fair Work Commission recently confirmed that it would be inappropriate to reinstate an employee who had tested positive for Nurofen Plus after failing to declare that he had been taking it, as required by his employer's drug and alcohol policy. The decision highlights that non-compliance with a drug and alcohol policy can be a valid reason for dismissal and that employers must closely consider mitigating circumstances before deciding to dismiss an employee.

How to nurture an ageing workforce
  • Australia
  • 03 April 2019

Ageism is one of the most reported types of discriminatory behaviour. According to the Australian Human Rights Commission, more than one-quarter of Australians aged over 50 have experienced age discrimination in the past few years. This issue will affect everyone and has long flown under the radar. So, what can workplaces do to best manage an ageing workforce and tackle ageism?

Do employees have the right to remain silent?
  • Australia
  • 06 March 2019

The Fair Work Commission recently addressed a case in which an employer – a self-proclaimed 'Nazi sparky' – tried to force one of his apprentices to provide him with information. The crux of the issue was whether an employee's common law right against self-incrimination (ie, the right to remain silent) prevents employers from requesting information from employees while conducting investigations.


Austria

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Supreme Court on hairstyles and discrimination
  • Austria
  • 08 May 2019

An employee recently sued for damages and compensation for gender discrimination when his job application was rejected because he had long hair. Originally unsuccessful, when the employee learned that the defendant's employee handbook contained rules on employees' outer appearance, he sued again and succeeded, as the Supreme Court found that the employee handbook was prima facie evidence of gender discrimination.

ECJ rules on Austria's Good Friday dilemma
  • Austria
  • 27 February 2019

The European Court of Justice advocate general recently confirmed that the Austrian regulation which sets out that Good Friday is a paid public holiday only for members of four specific churches is discriminatory. Further, the advocate general concluded that each affected employee could claim holiday pay for past periods, unless such claims were already time barred, in which case claims could be brought against the Austrian state.

Strikes and right to strike
  • Austria
  • 12 December 2018

It is widely understood that the Austrian concept of 'social partnership' (ie, the system for cooperation between the two sides of industry) has largely contributed to peaceful industrial relations. The social partnership recently agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement for the metal industry. However, negotiations in several other trades and industries have followed, and in a less constructive atmosphere, further strikes may be forthcoming.

Good Friday and direct discrimination on religious grounds
  • Austria
  • 03 October 2018

Under Austrian law, Good Friday is a paid public holiday only for members of four churches. An employee who belonged to none of these churches took issue with this and sued his employer. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which requested a preliminary ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). In his recently issued opinion, the ECJ advocate general delivered what will likely also constitute the court's position on the matter.

Parliament passes new Working Time Act
  • Austria
  • 18 July 2018

Parliament recently passed a new law that brings sweeping changes to the Working Time Act and will come into effect on 1 September 2018. The law – which was heavily debated in the media and caused much controversy among the 'social partnership' (the Austrian system for cooperation between the two sides of industry) – sets the stage for more flexibility in a changing work environment.


Bermuda

Know your rights when made redundant
Carey Olsen Bermuda
  • Bermuda
  • 06 March 2019

Bermuda's reinsurance market has not been immune to changes in the world's economic market. A rise in mergers and acquisitions has led to an increase in redundancies within the Bermuda workforce. Employees should be aware of their rights when made redundant and should always seek legal advice to ensure that their redundancy is both lawful and fair.


Brazil

First impressions: labour reform one year on
  • Brazil
  • 07 November 2018

Almost one year on from the enactment of Law 13467/17 (the labour reform), early feedback suggests that the reform has proved to be an effective and positive change. In particular, the reform has increased the use of remote workers, reduced the imbalance of power between employers and employees, made union contributions voluntary and reduced the number of labour-related lawsuits.

Supreme Court upholds labour reform's ban on mandatory union contributions
  • Brazil
  • 12 September 2018

When the labour reform came into force, it amended the provision requiring employees to pay annual contributions to relevant unions, instead making union contributions optional. After the reform was enacted, more than 15,000 lawsuits were filed to challenge union contribution-related matters. The Supreme Court recently ruled that the end of mandatory union contributions was constitutional.

Arbitration now permitted for employment disputes
  • Brazil
  • 18 July 2018

The recent labour and employment reform enacted in Brazil has introduced important changes to labour and employment relations. One of the principal changes is the introduction of arbitration for the resolution of employment disputes. Although the changing law requires a change of mindset, employers should take advantage of it and begin to consider the possibility of instituting arbitration for certain employment contracts.

How to avoid overtime costs: overview of compensatory time off agreements
  • Brazil
  • 23 May 2018

In Brazil, employees who work overtime are entitled to statutory premium pay at one-and-one-half times the regular rate. In the past, the courts often voided compensatory time off agreements and granted overtime payment claims to employees on the grounds that their employer had failed to comply with legal requirements. However, the 2017 labour reform introduced more flexible requirements, which should curb litigation on compensatory time off agreements and encourage their use.

Impact of labour reform on awards paid to employees
  • Brazil
  • 07 February 2018

The discussion regarding the legal nature of awards is not new to Brazilian labour courts, especially because amounts paid as awards could be considered salary, obliging the employer to include the award in the employee's salary and pay him or her every month or include this amount as a basis for determining the employee's labour rights. The legislative branch has tried to clarify this matter, defining the legal nature of awards, as well as the concept and legal criteria for their application.


British Virgin Islands

Legislation to change work permit fee calculation enacted
  • British Virgin Islands
  • 09 August 2017

The government recently enacted a measure regarding the fees payable for work permits in the British Virgin Islands. The amendment order replaces the employee flat fee system with an incremental calculation based on salary bands, which now generally assume a higher gross salary. It also replaces most exceptions to the previous scheme, keeping only those for domestic workers.