International Trends

IBA GEI Report Highlights HR Issues across Countries

London (UK), May 2019 - In its seventh Annual Global Report, the International Bar Association Global Employment Institute (IBA GEI) highlights general international trends in human resources (HR) law. The information is compiled from the surveyed responses of lawyers in 46 countries, who were asked to consider the most relevant issues relating to employment, industrial relations, discrimination, and immigration law during 2017 and the start of 2018. They were also requested to explain concisely their significance. The Report builds on the historical perspective of previous editions of the publication.

Wide ranging in scope, topics covered in The Seventh IBA GEI Annual Global Report - National regulatory trends in Human Resources law include dismissal and retirement; corruption and whistleblowing; flexible working; absenteeism due to stress and mental health issues; data protection, privacy and human rights; discrimination; diversity; technology and artificial intelligence; unions, collective bargaining, and industrial action; the gender pay gap; and global leadership issues.

Todd Solomon, Partner at McDermott Will & Emery, US, and IBA GEI Council Member, said, "It was a pleasure working on the IBA GEI's Annual Global Report. For human resources professionals around the globe, it delivers a succinct account of the most significant legal issues facing the profession. Each year, the Report evolves and shines a light on new and cutting-edge trends in the law and presents information that can assist HR in spotting and managing legal risks."

On the topical subject of corruption and whistleblowing, changes in 2017-2018 varied across jurisdictions. For example, in a number of countries, including Albania and Sweden, it was reported that new anti-corruption and whistleblowing legislation was adopted, or that prior laws took effect. In Australia, Chile, Norway, and Russia, legislation was proposed to expand whistleblowing and bribery protections and/or sanctions under existing law. Norway reported proposed legislation imposing an obligation for all entities that regularly employ five or more employees to establish whistleblowing policies, while Finland reported a proposed law expanding cross-border investigations and international intelligence.

Further, Nigeria reported success around the recovery of funds for whistleblowers. There was an expansion in the types of companies required to have a whistleblower hotline in Denmark, including savings banks, lawyers, accountants, and gaming operators. Israel reported that no practice of whistleblowing procedures exists and indicated that several major cases were brought to court against Israeli companies that allegedly bribe in other countries.

The Netherlands reported that its Whistleblower Authority agency was experiencing problems, including the resignation of its chairman. Romania stated that multinational companies with offices in Romania had begun implementing their own internal whistleblowing systems in their Romanian offices and conducting related investigations. Similarly, many multinational companies in Venezuela are incorporating global policies on cross-border investigations into their local policies.

Finally, no relevant changes were reported by Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Japan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Switzerland, Turkey, the UAE, Ukraine, and the United States.

In the area of absenteeism due to stress and mental-health issues, many countries noted that there continues to be an issue. New legislation or other initiatives have been proposed in several jurisdictions to address these challenges. For example, Colombia has seen absenteeism continue to grow, but the Colombian Constitutional Court has ordered the reinstatement of employees who were terminated without authorisation from the Ministry of Labour.

In Denmark, a new bill was proposed to make it easier for the Working Environment Authorities to access information on psychological issues in the workplace. The amount of absenteeism due to mental-health issues dropped in Finland following instituted changes and, interestingly, calls have been made for Portugal's national government to adopt legislation giving employees suffering “burnout syndrome” the same legal protections that compensate workers for occupational accidents. To tackle an increase in sick-leave abuse in Italy, especially among civil servants, the government there has implemented stricter rules to verify claims of sickness.

Countries also reported the #MeToo movement as having resulted in a growing social and legal awareness regarding workplace harassment and discrimination, with a few countries advancing efforts to focus on gender-discrimination issues. In Peru, employers must now guarantee the prevention and sanctioning of sexual harassment. The gender pay gap was also a concern for many jurisdictions, with a few adopting or proposing laws aimed at equalising pay between men and women, with a focus on identification of such gaps and reviews of compensation to be reported by gender.

Another headline is the increasing role of technology, seen by many countries as a driver of certain shifts in the labour market including shortages in skilled workers and increases in remote working. Several countries have been grappling with how best to manage the use of technology and cite data privacy and security as a focal point.