Two new draft laws were recently published which will directly affect employment contracts if passed. The first proposes introducing benefits for employees regarding the recruitment of workers aged between 16 and 24 and the regularisation of non-registered employees. The second proposes a temporary ban on dismissals in the public and private sectors without just cause.
The government recently enacted Decree 394/16, which increases the tax-free minimum salary, favouring pensioners and unionised employees. However, the taxation of severance payments in cases of dismissal without cause is a contentious issue for the tax authorities and taxpayers and there has been significant increase in claims for income tax withheld from employees on the termination of employment.
Jurisdiction, the application of local law and the currency of benefits based on share option plans were key factors that resulted in a $6 million award by the National Labour Court of Appeals in favour of a former director general of a large telecommunications corporation. The case illustrates that the risks associated with share option plans increase in cases of termination of employment.
In its final session before the general election, Parliament passed a bill which serves as a first step in harmonising the different legal regimes covering blue-collar and white-collar employees. However, not everyone is happy with this half-hearted harmonisation project – most notably, employer organisations – as they believe that the extended notice period for blue-collar workers will cost employers dearly.
As of May 1 2018 smoking in restaurants and bars will be prohibited. The restrictions on smoking in the workplace will also be tightened as of this date. However, the new provisions still afford some leeway to employers in that they can organise smoking breakrooms. As a consequence, the workplace may be more smoker friendly than pubs – who would have imagined that.
New legislation recently came into effect that aims to ease the process of reintegration into the workplace for employees who have been on extended sick leave and who would benefit from a reduced workload in order to aid rehabilitation and reconnect with the workplace. Although it is a well-meant initiative to curb the increase in long-term sickness, the legal framework reveals some major flaws.
Two recent amendments to the Labour Relations Act benefit the legal status of works councils and are geared towards increasing older employees' job prospects. In particular, the term of office for members of a works council has been extended from four to five years. Works council members' entitlement to educational leave has also been extended. Further, the special treatment of employees who start employment at age 50 or older has been abolished.
The Supreme Court recently ruled on the thin line between the freedoms to provide services afforded under EU law and member states' legislation to contain social dumping, which can be extended to employers of other member states when they perform their services abroad. The decision clarifies that foreign minimum wage legislation will be avoided where its application poses an undue burden on employers and where it can be guaranteed that the purpose of minimum wage legislation is not undermined.
The use of outsourcing has historically been uncertain in Brazil, particularly in relation to the outsourcing of a company's core business. However, once in force, the labour reform will create a scenario of greater legal certainty for outsourcing because it expressly authorises the outsourcing of any activities, including a company's core business.
According to a precedent established by the Superior Labour Court, the acquiring company is not liable for the labour debts of other companies within a corporate group that encompasses the acquired company, provided that the entities – at the time of the transaction – were creditworthy or economically viable, except in the case of bad faith or fraud. However, a recent reform to the Labour Code will enter into force in November 2017 and may change the existing understanding in this regard.
The need to modernise the procedural rules applicable to the labour procedure has long been a concern in Brazil. As such, it was well known that labour relations were being modernised and that the law did not satisfactorily account for this progress. In light of this, the newly enacted Law 13,467/2017 will introduce, among several changes not seen in prior legislative amendments, equal treatment of litigating parties and greater legal certainty for both litigating parties and Brazilian society as a whole.
The recently approved labour reform has amended several articles of the Labour Code and Laws 6,019/1974 (temporary employment), 8,036/90 (severance fund) and 8,212/1991 (social contributions). The legislation still protects the constitutional rights of workers. However, it seeks to modernise labour relations by creating rules and defining concepts which allow workers, companies and unions to have more freedom to negotiate their rights.
Struggling against one of the most severe financial and political crises, the government has adopted an agenda that aims to spur an uptick in the economy and reduce the unemployment rate, which hovers around 13%. In this regard, the government has proposed labour and social security reforms. However, some employee unions are urging a general strike across the entire country to obstruct these reforms.
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.
In 2016 the Alberta government commissioned an evaluation of the entire workers' compensation system. In July 2017 the Alberta Workers' Compensation Board review panel issued a report which found that employers and workers overwhelmingly wanted the system to continue. However, significant problems exist and, based on these findings, the panel issued a list of recommendations. While the extent to which the government adopts these recommendations remains to be seen, further debate is likely.
Employers in Quebec that wish to dismiss employees for incompetence may now need to accomplish an additional step before doing so, following the Quebec Superior Court's recent confirmation of an arbitration decision in which an additional criterion was added to those previously established by the Court of Appeal. According to the superior court, employers must also verify whether another more suitable role is available for an employee before proceeding with termination.
Changes to the employment insurance programme relating to parental, maternity and caregiving benefits came into effect on December 3 2017. The employment insurance programme provides temporary income support to partially replace lost employment income for individuals who are off work for various reasons. The government also recently announced legislation to strengthen existing laws on the prevention of harassment and violence in federally regulated workplaces.
The Supreme Court recently dismissed an application from the Telecommunications Workers' Union for leave to appeal the decision that unions have no independent legal right, separate and apart from their collective agreement rights, to be involved in every unionised employee's accommodation request. The decision is a victory for employers, employee privacy and the accommodation process.
The risks to employers in sexual harassment cases can be big. Potential liability can arise from any decision and employers may find themselves having to make tough decisions on tight timelines. The key to ensuring an appropriate response is to be prepared. Preparation will permit an employer to take a proactive approach, as opposed to a reactive stance, when sexual harassment is discovered. This is a lesson that can be drawn from a recent Alberta Court of Queen's Bench case.