Employment & Benefits updates

Australia

Contributed by Lander & Rogers
Got the gig? Worker classification in gig economy heats up
  • Australia
  • July 18 2018

The line between employee and contractor continues to be blurred in the gig economy. To avoid litigation, companies must determine how to classify workers. The Fair Work Ombudsman has launched legal proceedings against a food delivery business, Foodora, on the basis that it treats its workers as independent contractors rather than employees. While the gig economy awaits the outcome of the case, what should employers be doing in the meantime?

Visual contracts and pitfalls of employment agreements
  • Australia
  • June 27 2018

Visual contracts, in which an employment agreement is conveyed partially or wholly by pictures, are now a thing – but what are their benefits and risks? In addition to concerns over certainty and variation, there are a number of key issues that businesses should consider before getting out the watercolours to update their employment agreements.

More than 2 million Australians set for 3.5% wage increase – 2017-2018 Annual Wage Review
  • Australia
  • June 20 2018

The Fair Work Commission's Expert Panel recently issued its 2017-2018 Annual Wage Review decision. Among other things, the panel decided that it was appropriate to adjust modern award minimum wages. From the first full pay period on or after 1 July 2018, minimum weekly wages will increase by 3.5%, with commensurate increases in hourly rates on the basis of a 38-hour week.

Navigating the murky waters of employee bonuses and incentive payments
  • Australia
  • June 13 2018

Navigating the payment of bonuses or incentive payments can be a tricky legal issue. One question that clients regularly ask is how discretionary is an employer's discretion when it comes to awarding a bonus or setting an employee's annual remuneration? As with most legal issues, there is no quick answer, but there are some tips from case law which can provide guidance.

How to manage the challenges of an ageing workforce
  • Australia
  • June 06 2018

The effects of Australia's ageing workforce are expected to be so pronounced that the government has budgeted for retraining. Between the tax cuts and promises to return to surplus, one of the centrepieces of the 2018 Budget was increased funding to assist Australia's so-called 'greying' population. To manage the changes to Australia's demographics, employers should start to prepare for an ageing workforce and develop strategies to manage and retain older workers.


Austria

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwälte GmbH
Parliament passes new Working Time Act
  • Austria
  • July 18 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
  • May 09 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
  • February 07 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
  • December 06 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.

Up in smoke: new law favours non-smokers in pub over workplace
  • Austria
  • October 04 2017

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.


Brazil

Contributed by Mattos Filho, Veiga Filho, Marrey Jr e Quiroga Advogados
Arbitration now permitted for employment disputes
  • Brazil
  • July 18 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
  • May 23 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
  • February 07 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.

Outsourcing and impact of labour reform
  • Brazil
  • November 08 2017

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.

Buyers' liability for labour debts
  • Brazil
  • October 25 2017

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.


British Virgin Islands

Legislation to change work permit fee calculation enacted
  • British Virgin Islands
  • August 09 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
New Brunswick to include workplace violence and harassment in health and safety legislation
  • Canada
  • July 18 2018

The New Brunswick government has introduced draft legislation amending the General Regulation 91-191, made under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, to include provisions regarding workplace violence and harassment. The amendments will require employers to establish a written code of practice, conduct a workplace violence risk assessment and develop measures and procedures for incident reporting, investigations and summoning immediate assistance.

Two occupational health and safety appeal decisions to be aware of
  • Canada
  • July 11 2018

Occupational health and safety professionals, HR professionals, in-house counsel and operations managers responsible for implementing health and safety management systems should be aware of two recent appeal decisions relating to serious occupational health and safety charges. The cases indicate that in both extreme and unusual cases, health and safety regulators are becoming more aggressive in their enforcement of the legislation when workers are critically or fatally injured.

Labour market impact assessments: benefits plan versus transition plan
  • Canada
  • July 04 2018

Employment and Social Development Canada's Global Talent Stream is a two-year pilot project providing Canadian employers expedited access to unique, specialised and highly skilled temporary foreign workers. Under the project, employers must develop a benefits plan rather than a transition plan, which is required in a regular labour market impact assessment. But what is the difference between these two types of plan?

Bill 174: Ontario's take on cannabis legalisation
  • Canada
  • June 27 2018

The Cannabis, Smoke-Free Ontario and Road Safety Statute Law Amendment Act has received royal assent and serves as the provincial framework in anticipation of the enactment of federal legislation relating to the cultivation, sale, distribution and consumption of cannabis. The act brings significant changes for employers, including with regard to the prohibition on the use of products in several locations, the right to a smoke-free workplace and the prohibition against smoking while driving.

Bill 148: new risks for misclassifying independent contractors as employees
  • Canada
  • June 20 2018

The Ontario government is increasing the risks and penalties for employers that misclassify workers as independent contractors as part of the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act. The burden is now on employers to prove that workers are not employees under the Employment Standards Act. This change of presumption will make it even more difficult for employers to defend claims filed by individuals challenging their status as an independent contractor in favour of being classified as an employee.