Employment & Benefits updates

Australia

Contributed by Lander & Rogers
Consultation: is a dismissal harsh, unjust or unreasonable without it?
  • Australia
  • 06 November 2019

Does an employee have to be consulted, in accordance with an applicable industrial instrument, about their impending termination? According to a recent decision by the Fair Work Commission, the answer is not necessarily. The decision highlights that there are certain circumstances where an employer may be safe from an unfair dismissal claim if it proceeds to termination without consulting the employee. However, these situations are highly exceptional and should be approached with caution.

It's official: all permanent employees are entitled to 10 working days' paid sick leave... for now
  • Australia
  • 23 October 2019

The Fair Work Ombudsman recently released advice that all permanent employees are entitled to 10 days of paid personal/carer's leave for each year of their employment. This is a major departure from calculating personal/carer's leave entitlements in hours, which is the approach currently taken by most employers and employees. However, the ombudsman's advice is based on a recent court decision which may not stand.

Freedom of expression versus work obligations
  • Australia
  • 16 October 2019

The Federal Court recently upheld an employee's dismissal, which had occurred after he criticised his law firm's clients in an opinion piece in two newspapers. While the court's decision is not a green light for employers to terminate employees who express political views, it is a reminder for employers and employees that a failure to follow a lawful and reasonable direction may justify termination of employment (depending on the circumstances of the case).

Get your hands off my… data! Employer's request for biometric data deemed unlawful
  • Australia
  • 07 August 2019

The Full Bench of the Fair Work Commission recently found that the direction given to an employee regarding the solicitation and collection of his biometric data was unlawful because it was inconsistent with the Privacy Act. The decision is a reminder to employers that directions to employees must be lawful and reasonable. If not, dismissal of an employee for failing to follow such direction will likely be unfair.

Court rules that industrial action must be taken by parties to employment relationship
  • Australia
  • 31 July 2019

A recent Full Court of the Federal Court decision is significant in shedding light on what constitutes 'industrial action' as defined in Section 19(1) of the Fair Work Act. Specifically, the decision establishes that industrial action can be taken only by parties to an employment relationship. It also highlights that, under the Fair Work Act, industrial action does not capture instances where a subcontractor's employees down tools on site with the support of their direct employer.


Austria

Contributed by Graf & Pitkowitz Rechtsanwalte GmbH
Teachers and brothels
  • Austria
  • 02 October 2019

The Supreme Court recently confirmed an appellate court's decision and ruled that a school teacher who had moonlighted as a brothel manager had been eligible for termination because this sort of behaviour could be considered a breach of trust and damaging to the school's reputation. The case was eventually decided in view of the perceived criminality of sex workers and their employers among the general public. However, this perception arguably depends on who is asked.

New 'daddy month' strengthens paternal bonding early on
  • Austria
  • 31 July 2019

Parliament recently passed a new law that grants fathers a legal entitlement to one month off work following the birth of their child. Dubbed the 'daddy month' by the media, this entitlement seeks to fill a gap that puts fathers at a disadvantage when it comes to childcare immediately following the birth of their child.

Supreme Court on hairstyles and discrimination
  • Austria
  • 08 May 2019

An employee recently sued for damages and compensation for gender discrimination when his job application was rejected because he had long hair. Originally unsuccessful, when the employee learned that the defendant's employee handbook contained rules on employees' outer appearance, he sued again and succeeded, as the Supreme Court found that the employee handbook was prima facie evidence of gender discrimination.

ECJ rules on Austria's Good Friday dilemma
  • Austria
  • 27 February 2019

The European Court of Justice advocate general recently confirmed that the Austrian regulation which sets out that Good Friday is a paid public holiday only for members of four specific churches is discriminatory. Further, the advocate general concluded that each affected employee could claim holiday pay for past periods, unless such claims were already time barred, in which case claims could be brought against the Austrian state.

Strikes and right to strike
  • Austria
  • 12 December 2018

It is widely understood that the Austrian concept of 'social partnership' (ie, the system for cooperation between the two sides of industry) has largely contributed to peaceful industrial relations. The social partnership recently agreed on a new collective bargaining agreement for the metal industry. However, negotiations in several other trades and industries have followed, and in a less constructive atmosphere, further strikes may be forthcoming.


Bermuda

Know your rights when made redundant
Carey Olsen Bermuda
  • Bermuda
  • 06 March 2019

Bermuda's reinsurance market has not been immune to changes in the world's economic market. A rise in mergers and acquisitions has led to an increase in redundancies within the Bermuda workforce. Employees should be aware of their rights when made redundant and should always seek legal advice to ensure that their redundancy is both lawful and fair.


Brazil

Contributed by CGM Advogados
Superior Labour Court rules out simultaneous use of hazard allowance and risk premium
  • Brazil
  • 11 December 2019

The Labour Code provides for two payments which eligible employees can receive in addition to their base salary: the hazard allowance and the risk premium. Since 2015, the Superior Labour Court panels have issued conflicting decisions on whether employees can receive the hazard allowance and the risk premium simultaneously. Now, the Superior Labour Court has determined that the additional payments cannot be received simultaneously, even if employees are exposed to different adverse conditions.

Outsourcing: a new paradigm
  • Brazil
  • 16 October 2019

In a recent decision, the Supreme Court addressed an important question relating to the day-to-day activities of companies operating in Brazil: is the outsourcing of services allowed without restriction or should it be limited to non-core business activities, as set out by Precedent 331 of the Superior Labour Court? This decision is relevant because it will affect the standards adopted by the Brazilian labour courts in relation to outsourcing.


Canada

Contributed by Fasken
Unionising the gig economy: contractor or employee?
  • Canada
  • 04 December 2019

One of the main disputes regarding the rise and proliferation of the gig economy is whether its workers are employees or contractors. Companies treat such workers as independent contractors, but some workers have been pushing back, claiming that they are employees. This has implications for their ability to unionise. The Ontario Labour Relations Board will soon be ruling on this issue when it determines whether Foodora couriers have the right to unionise.

Only buying assets? Look out for surprise employment liabilities!
  • Canada
  • 20 November 2019

A recent Ontario Superior Court ruling highlights how employers can end up with unexpected employment liabilities after an asset purchase deal. It also highlights the importance of careful wording when hiring employees in those situations. In light of this decision, purchasers in an asset deal should be aware of the new employer's fate. In such cases, proper employment offers are key.

Employer flexibility does not modify employment contracts
  • Canada
  • 13 November 2019

Employees sometimes need flexibility to start or leave work at different times than originally agreed with their employer (eg, because of childcare issues). A recent appellate decision confirms that employer flexibility in granting occasional requests does not always modify the underlying employment contract.

Showing nude photos to supervisor justifies termination of long-service employee
  • Canada
  • 06 November 2019

A recent arbitration decision has confirmed that termination can be the appropriate penalty for long-service employees with clean disciplinary records when they engage in sexual harassment, including showing a nude photo to a supervisor. This case highlights how seriously arbitrators look at sexual harassment in the workplace – particularly in the #MeToo era – and reminds employers of the importance of taking detailed notes during an investigation, including with respect to an individual's demeanour.

Bonus entitlement on basis of reasonable expectation
  • Canada
  • 23 October 2019

A recent British Columbia Supreme Court ruling has clarified that even where the terms of a bonus plan expressly state that payment of a bonus is discretionary, an employer's conduct can affect whether the bonus is treated as discretionary on termination of employment. Employers should be aware of, and adhere to, the terms of bonus plans. Further, employers must be mindful of the pattern and history of discretion exercised in awarding bonuses during an employee's employment.