Employment law highlights in 2016 and what's on the horizon for 2017

Be Global: Employment law newsletter

  • Sarah Hellewell

In this month's edition of Be Global, we bring you a summary of the most significant international employment law developments from the past 12 months, together with a look ahead at the key trends and changes expected to emerge in 2017.

Highlights from the globe in 2016 include:

  • The momentous outcome of the UK Referendum on 23 June in which the people of the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union. Much of UK employment law is derived from European Union legislation and, in consequence, there has been much discussion about the implications of Brexit for employers and workers alike. For now and for the foreseeable future the position remains as is. However, through our Brexit pages, we are keeping employers informed of matters which could influence the post-Brexit shape of UK employment law.
  • The implementation of new rules on posted workers in a number of European Union jurisdictions including, for example, Austria, Poland, the Netherlands and France. The Posted Workers Directive provides that workers who are posted by their employer to perform temporary work in another EU member state must enjoy the protection of the same minimum employment rights and working conditions available to other workers employed in the host country. A new Enforcement Directive, strengthening the practical application of the original directive, had to be transposed into the laws of member states by June 2016 and it is on the back of this that the rights of posted workers have recently been strengthened across Europe.
  • Developments in the protection of trade secrets on both sides of the Atlantic. In Europe, the European Council finally approved the Trade Secrets Directive which aims to harmonise the protection of trade secrets across Europe. Member states will be required to have implementing legislation in place by summer 2018. Meanwhile, in the US, the Defend Trade Secrets Act, which became law in May 2016, provides a federal claim for misappropriation of trade secrets with some powerful remedies.
  • Continuing regulation in a number of jurisdictions in relation to atypical workers, with 2016 seeing for example, rules on fixed-term workers implemented in Singapore, Sweden and Poland and regulation on labor leasing recently implemented in Russia. The increasing use of non-standard employment relationships continues apace, and regulation in this area is a theme which is set to continue into 2017 with, for example, labor leasing legislation already planned in Germany for April and increased enforcement of contingent worker regulations announced in the Philippines.

Click here to access our full review of 2016.

Topics which employers are recommended to watch out for in 2017 include:

  • Data protection obligations - the protection of personal data continues to be a topic of interest across the globe and nowhere more so than in Europe where 2016 saw the implementation of the new European Union General Data Protection Regulation. The rules under this Regulation, which will significantly impact on employment data, will come into effect in May 2018 and employers need to commence their preparations in earnest in 2017.
  • Gender pay - although the gender pay gap has been under discussion for a while, a number of jurisdictions are now taking concrete action to address the issue. As part of this approach, employers are increasingly being asked to report on their pay data. Legislation implementing mandatory gender pay reporting is incoming in the UK; the EEOC in the US plans to start collecting pay data from US employers and other similar proposals have been tabled for other countries including the Netherlands. This is a trend that is likely to continue. Employers need to prepare for compliance with the incoming regimes but, in addition, many international businesses are likely to choose to address any gender disparity in their pay data at a global level.
  • Changes to immigration rules - a significant aspect of the UK's Brexit decision will be the impact that this has on the ability of UK employers to recruit EU nationals, and on the ability of EU employers to recruit UK nationals. The shape of UK and EU immigration rules remains up for discussion, but is a matter that employers with international workforces should monitor closely. Changes to immigration rules are also afoot elsewhere across the globe with, for example, a new work authorization policy coming into effect in China and various measures being implemented across the Middle East to promote the employment of local labor.
  • The new right in France which will enable employees to disconnect from workplace IT outside working hours. This new right comes into effect in January 2017 and it is notable that, contrary to what has been reported in the media, the new rules do not impose obligations on employers to effectively cut employees off from work systems outside working hours. Instead, they are simply required to ensure that employees are aware of their right to disconnect outside working time.
  • The implementation of Brazil's new e-Social Program which requires employers in Brazil to use a new online labor and social security database to hold information about their labor relationships and their employees' social security and tax information. Previously planned for late 2016 and early 2017, implementation has now been delayed to 2018 but compliance action will be required during 2017 to meet the new deadlines.

Click here to access the full look ahead to 2017.