The Supreme Court recently concluded that time spent travelling on an employer's orders constitutes working time. This conclusion is in line with a recent European Free Trade Association Court advisory opinion and has ended a four-year legal battle. The judgment will have a broad impact on the Norwegian labour market, as it raises the level of protection available for employees.
A recent European Free Trade Association Court decision found that travel time in itself constitutes working time if the travel is ordered by the employer. Some employers have argued that the inclusion of travel time in the concept of working time may lead to inexpedient results. However, the court did not agree with this argument. Including necessary travel time in the concept of working time is inevitable in order to protect the safety and health of workers.
Zero-hour contracts are particularly controversial in Norway, which is generally known for its high level of employee protection. For example, in early 2017 a district court held that a formal arrangement under which a staffing agency's full-time employees had not received salary payments between assignments was illegal. Further, the government recently issued a discussion document outlining its proposal to amend the Working Environment Act, which is intended to target zero-hour contracts.
The Labour Court rules on matters concerning the establishment, termination and interpretation of collective agreements, as well as on the individual consequences of a breach of a contractual obligation agreed in such agreements. A recent Supreme Court case questioned the Labour Court's jurisdiction to declare an employee's termination invalid, as the collective agreement did not explicitly mention the consequences of a breach of contractual obligations.
The High Court recently confirmed the general criteria that must be considered when evaluating the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor. This distinction is subject to a concrete overall evaluation of the facts in the individual case, including whether the contract imposes a personal work commitment, where the work is conducted and who bears responsibility for the result.
The High Court recently ruled in a case regarding a workforce reduction following the closure of a department store, in which the employer had limited the selection of employees to be made redundant to those at the affected store. The court confirmed the general rule that an employer must consider all employees when reducing its workforce, but held that this rule may be deviated from if there are justifiable grounds to do so.
New rules on restrictive covenants in the labour market entered into force on January 1 2016. The rules are included in the Working Environment Act and include restrictions on clauses governing non-compete and non-solicitation of customers and employees. Employers may still protect their business secrets and know-how through non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, subject to certain restrictive conditions.
The Bogarting Court of Appeal recently ruled in a case regarding choice of law in an international employment dispute. The case, which is still pending, demonstrates the issues that can arise in international employment disputes, including jurisdiction, choice of law and recognition and enforcement. It is important that parties are aware of these issues when entering into international employment contracts.
The government has introduced a bill setting out new rules on restrictive covenants in the labour market. The proposal includes both non-compete clauses and non-solicitation clauses, and would make major amendments to the existing legislation. If implemented, the new rules will have significant implications for both employers and employees.
Traditionally, Norwegian employees have enjoyed extensive rights and protection and Norway has had some of the strictest regulations worldwide regarding the hiring of temporary employees. The rule has been that, subject to specified limitations, all employees are employed permanently. However, new legislation will give employers a general power to hire employees on temporary contracts of up to 12 months.
The Supreme Court recently assessed the question of the applicable standard of proof in a case regarding summary dismissal based on an alleged criminal offence. The court considered the application of the standard of proof in criminal proceedings and whether a lower standard of proof than 'beyond reasonable doubt' would constitute breach of the European Convention of Human Rights and the Norwegian Constitution.