The new Employment 2021 guide covers 52 jurisdictions. The guide provides the latest legal information on the legislative initiatives to cope with the COVID-19 crisis, terms of employment, non-compete and non-solicitation clauses, data privacy law, foreign workers, the role of unions and employee representative bodies, termination of employment, employment disputes and dispute resolution.
Last Updated: September 07, 2021
Global Overview – Employment 2021
The late Professor Roger Blanpain consistently started his courses on employment law at the University of Leuven with the statement “labour relations are relations of power”.
In such relations with two parties, one party is always the stronger and the other is the weaker. In employment relations the employer, giving work, is the stronger party, with the employee, rendering services against remuneration, being the weaker party.
Employment law is designed as the instrument to protect the weaker party against the (arbitrary discretion of the) stronger party. At first, this protection focused essentially on the individual relationship. Early 20th-century focus also started to switch to the collective relationship: union representation of the employees, co-determination, etc.
Employment laws are, almost by definition, national laws: their scope of application is defined by the national borders. Consequently, they may differ distinctly from one country to another, from one culture to another. One legal scholar found that, “at the risk of over-simplifying often complex realities [...] a distinction can be drawn between the European and the Anglo-Saxon models of labour laws”. He established that the European model framing employee protection takes an approach that is driven by “individual rights”, whereas the Anglo-Saxon model rather “seeks to address the problem associated with the lack of individual bargaining equality at a higher, viz collective, level”.
The different approach based on national culture and heritage is also apparent in a combined market such as the EU. Although the EU is competent to impose social principles throughout the EU, it is always up to the individual member states to implement these principles in their national law. This often results in different practical implementations in local laws, such as the TUPE Directive.
In a world that has become much more global, where cross-border relationships, acquisitions, etc, have become standard practice, it is crucial to have sufficient insight into the local employment laws that can have an impact on the global situation.
That is why a comparative view on the local employment laws is essential in international relations. The COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated the fact that knowledge of one’s own local laws is not enough to manage globalised employee-employer relationships. Although this pandemic has affected the whole world since March 2020, legal initiatives in response to it were mainly taken at the local level. This resulted in a variety of measures which proved to be quite distinctive and sometimes contradictory, country-by-country. A clear example was Sweden, which originally focused on collective immunity and did not enact restrictive measures (closures of shops, lockdown, etc), compared to countries such as France and Spain which implemented very strict lockdown rules. A comparative overview of the maintained and new local COVID-19 employment measures in force for 2021 is therefore included in this year’s guide.
In this respect, the issue of mandatory vaccination and possible controls by the employer have surfaced as fundamental issues on the crossroads of health and safety versus more ethical principles and privacy. This debate has only just begun and will undoubtedly be on the agenda in the months to come.
This guide, using an outline template review country-by-country, spread across the globe, describes the nature and scope of the legal framework governing the employment relationship. The outline covers not just the typical topics for employment professionals – such as wages, benefits and health benefits laws – but also regulations more broadly affecting organisations, such as union organisation, immigration, data privacy and retaliation restrictions, and anti-discrimination rules in the workplace.