In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has implemented several measures to secure jobs, boost the labour market and maintain stability for the workforce, including increasing the unemployment benefit. This temporary amendment originally applied until 31 October 2020. However, the government is set to propose a budget resolution before Parliament to extend the increased unemployment benefit to 31 December 2020.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has proposed to extend the temporary lay-off period to 52 weeks from 1 November 2020. The extension will help the business community financially during an uncertain time. This implies that, among other things, the period in which temporarily laid-off employees may be entitled to unemployment benefits will be extended from 26 weeks to 52 weeks.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government has implemented several measures to protect businesses, jobs and workers. The government recently adopted changes to the period in which employers have a duty of remuneration when temporarily laying off employees. From 1 September 2020, the duty of remuneration period will be 10 days.
The government has proposed a temporary arrangement under which employers can apply for payroll support to bring their laid-off employees back to work. The grounds for the proposal are that the number of temporarily laid-off employees is still high (as of 2 June 2020, nearly 330,000 full or partially unemployed individuals were registered). The support scheme aims to reduce the number of laid-off individuals and counteract the risk that unemployment in Norway will stabilise at a high level.
In order to deal with the financial consequences of the COVID-19 outbreak, Parliament has adopted temporary amendments to the rules for temporarily laid-off employees who belong to private pension schemes. As such, employers may choose to allow laid-off employees to retain their membership with a pension scheme during the lay-off period. The individual employee must bear the cost of continuing insurance for the membership, while the business must continue to pay the administrative costs.
As the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions are relaxed and society gradually reopens, employers may need to call laid-off employees back to work. This article answers FAQs for employers which find themselves in this situation, including when does the temporary lay-off period end, who should be called back to work first and can employers bring employees back part time?
A recent Supreme Court ruling states that the principle of length of service affects companies' possibility to limit the scope for workforce reductions. This applies to companies bound by a collective bargaining agreement that contains a provision concerning the use of length of service in workforce reductions.
From 1 January 2020 the Equality and Anti-discrimination Act has been amended, imposing further duties on employers regarding equality and discrimination. Companies in the public sector and companies with more than 50 employees in the private sector must now carry out a mapping of pay with regard to gender and the uptake of part-time work every two years.
A recent district court ruling demonstrates that an employer can be liable for a customer's sexual harassment towards an employee. The ruling shows that, as a minimum, employers should perform a risk analysis of and have a zero-tolerance approach to sexual harassment, have guidelines on sexual harassment matters and immediately address sexual harassment situations if they occur.
Norway's labour legislation has undergone a number of amendments in recent months. For example, Parliament recently adopted a proposal to further strengthen the position of whistleblowers and amendments enhancing the rights of seafarers are set to enter into force in August 2019. In addition, in order to lower the threshold for processing sexual harassment disputes, the Anti-discrimination Tribunal has been authorised to enforce the prohibition on sexual harassment in the workplace.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case concerning the validity of an amendment termination. In its decision, the court commented on the difference between the threshold for amendment terminations and that for ordinary complete terminations of employment. Although the matter at hand was regulated by the Ship Employee Act, the Supreme Court's judgment is relevant for amendment terminations under the Working Environment Act.
Parliament is processing a proposal for amendments to employment legislation concerning whistleblowers to further strengthen their position. The amendments are expected to be effective from 1 July 2019 or 1 January 2020. The main proposed amendments include an extension of the scope of persons subject to the whistleblowing provisions and clarification of the terms 'censurable conditions' and 'retaliation'.
In a recent case, a number of Norwegian Airlines pilots and cabin crew claimed that three of the companies in the Norwegian Group constituted their employer. However, the Supreme Court concluded that only one of the companies constituted their employer. This ruling clarifies the factors which are relevant in assessing whether the engagement of personnel is considered an acquisition of services or a hiring of personnel.
The Anti-discrimination Tribunal recently concluded that a municipality's refusal to extend a temporary employee's contract after he refused to meet their requirement to shake hands with women did not constitute discrimination. However, the tribunal concluded that the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration had discriminated against the employee when it cancelled his social aid following his refusal to comply with the municipality's requirement.
The Supreme Court recently deemed that a municipality's termination of its agreement with a general practitioner (GP) after she refused to insert an intrauterine device for a patient for reasons of conscience relating to her religion was invalid. The GP claimed that her termination was invalid because, among other things, it contravened Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights (freedom of thought, conscience and religion).
A non-statutory Norwegian rule provides employees with the right to choose to stay with their former employer following a transfer of undertakings provided that certain conditions are met. In this regard, the Supreme Court recently ruled that employees who are subject to a transfer of undertakings can choose to stay with their former employer if it is likely that they will lose their early retirement pension under the new employer.
The Supreme Court recently ruled in a case in which an employee had challenged the lawfulness of a warning issued by their employer. Prior to this case, Norwegian lawyers had generally been of the view that warnings were part of an employer's right of management and that the courts would not try cases challenging such warnings as they have no actual consequence.
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.