Employment & Benefits updates

Australia

Contributed by Lander & Rogers
Genuine redundancy or unfair dismissal – you do the meth
  • Australia
  • 14 November 2018

The Fair Work Commission has found that an HR manager who was made redundant after accusing his managing director of having a meth addiction was not unfairly dismissed. Employers should be aware that, when considering whether a redundancy is genuine, the onus will rest with them to prove that the job is no longer required to be performed by anyone.

Should employers use an external team when investigating sexual harassment?
  • Australia
  • 03 October 2018

Recent claims against politician Barnaby Joyce show that sometimes an internal investigation into workplace sexual harassment is not the best idea. When sexual harassment or misconduct claims are made against an individual in an organisation, the natural reflex may be to deal with complaints internally (especially if the person is senior or high profile). However, the benefits of engaging an independent investigator can outweigh the seeming advantage of being able to fully control the matter internally.

Understand your company's values to ensure that its culture thrives
  • Australia
  • 12 September 2018

Employees will not come forward and report troubling behaviour if they fear retaliation. There are a number of steps that employers can take to create an atmosphere of trust and candour, which will help to reassure employees that they can, and should, voice any concerns.

First racial discrimination prosecution from Fair Work Ombudsman
  • Australia
  • 01 August 2018

The Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO) has persuaded the Federal Circuit Court that the underpayment of two migrant employees by a Tasmanian hotel was deliberate, exploitative and discriminatory in its first racial discrimination prosecution under Part 3-1 of the Fair Work Act. The decision demonstrates the FWO's appetite to use all of the tools at its disposal to pursue employers which take advantage of employees.

What HR needs to know about modern slavery legislation
  • Australia
  • 25 July 2018

The Modern Slavery Bill 2018 (NSW) has received assent, making the Modern Slavery Act 2018 (NSW) the first of its kind in Australia. The act addresses the findings and recommendations in the report on the inquiry into human trafficking in New South Wales, which left little to the government's imagination about the prevalence of modern slavery in New South Wales and throughout Australia.


Austria

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwälte GmbH
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.

Employed or self-employed? Request an advance ruling!
  • Austria
  • 09 May 2018

Determining whether an individual is an employee or self-employed can be risky for both the contractor and engager. Often, no one knows exactly how to qualify an individual until the national insurer claims arrears in social security payments in the wake of an audit. The parties involved hardly ever have legal certainty in advance. The Social Security Determination Act aims to change that.

Accurate and complimentary – difficult standard for recommendation letters
  • Austria
  • 07 February 2018

Under Austrian law, a recommendation letter must be truthful and cannot contain language that would aggravate the professional advancement of the employee. When truthfulness would result in less than lavish praise, employers must resort to a short-form recommendation letter, devoid of any information beyond the type of work performed and the duration of employment. This alternative, although accurate in its lack of praise, can aggravate an employee's career prospects.

Blue-collar and white-collar employees – sweetening the deal
  • Austria
  • 06 December 2017

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.


Brazil

Contributed by Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados
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.


Canada

Contributed by Fasken
Federal government introduces new pay equity and labour standards
  • Canada
  • 14 November 2018

The federal government recently introduced Bill C-86, the Budget Implementation Act 2018. In addition to introducing long-anticipated pay equity legislation, the proposed legislation would make significant changes to the labour standards in Part III of the Canada Labour Code. Some of the proposed changes are unsurprising given the government's past statements. Other changes are unexpected and, if enacted, would have a major impact on both non-union and unionised employers.

Terminating employee benefits at age 65 ruled unconstitutional
  • Canada
  • 07 November 2018

For many years, even since the prohibition of mandatory retirement in Ontario, it has been permissible to deny benefit, pension, superannuation or group insurance plans or funds to employees over the age of 65 due to an exception in the Ontario Human Rights Code. However, a recent decision from the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario found this exception to be unconstitutional.

Bill 148 update: on the chopping block
  • Canada
  • 31 October 2018

The Ontario government recently introduced Bill 47 – the Making Ontario Open for Business Act 2018 in the provincial Legislative Assembly. Once passed, the bill will make substantial changes to the province's employment standards and labour relations legislation, including reversing most of the changes contained in the previous government's Bill 148.

Not all questions are good questions: avoiding discriminatory interview practices
  • Canada
  • 24 October 2018

Much ink has been spilled over a recent decision by the Public Service Commission of Canada on the topic of discriminatory interview practices, in which the commission found that the plaintiff had been discriminated against when she was denied a role due to her pregnancy. The decision serves as a cautionary tale for employers not only with regard to the types of question that may be asked during interviews, but also with regard to comments that may be made before an interview.

Suspension without pay and constructive dismissal: a refresher
  • Canada
  • 17 October 2018

Despite agreeing with a trial judge that a casino employee's suspension without pay was a constructive dismissal, the Ontario Court of Appeal reversed the trial judge's award on the question of damages and examined whether the employer had been obliged to offer alternate employment. The court's decision is a reminder of the principles governing suspension without pay during an investigation into employee misconduct.