Learning from the challenges of employment for a post-Corona world – a British, French and Israeli perspective.
The Coronavirus pandemic has forced businesses around the world to continue their daily operations remotely. Our panel of experts will discuss key differences in the legal obligations of employers in different jurisdictions and what global corporations will need to consider in a post-COVID era.
Many countries have implemented measures where the government are subsidizing employees’ salaries. What do these measures consist of?
·The “Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme” is an emergency measure to support employers so that they can avoid making redundancies by putting employees on temporary leave instead (‘Furlough”).
·Furlough pay is the lesser of 80% of employees’ wages or £2,500 p/m. This will be reduced next month.
·Since 1 July 2020 furloughed employees are allowed to return to work part time (and they receive the part time equivalent furlough pay).
·The equivalent Furlough concept existed before the corona crisis.
·The scheme is available to businesses that had to close by government order, and certain companies facing serious declines in activity.
·The government contributes 70% of employees’ wages, or up to a limit of €6,927 p/m.
·The equivalent Furlough concept existed before the corona crisis. The scheme is called “Chalat”.
·There are certain criteria that affect an employee’s entitlement to chalat payments, including duration of employment, age and whether the employee has children or not. Compensation ranges from 30-80% of your monthly salary (and is capped at the average Israeli salary, as in the UK). The average compensation to employees on chalat is 50%.
·Since there are 800,000 unemployed in Israel, the governemnt is offering certain businesses grants to help them return employees from chalat.
What issues have arisen as a result of these policies?
- Redundancies: employers have to consider, as a matter of fairness, putting employees on furlough rather than dismissing them. If an employer keeps an employee on furlough, but that person has effectively been made redundant, HMRC may ask for money back. Redundancy payments cannot be made from furlough payments.
- Costs: Whilst employers aren’t bearing the costs of furlough, they would still need to bear certain other costs, such as paid holiday days.
- In Israel some issues arise surrounding protected groups, such as pregnant women and people on army reserve duty. If an employer wants to send an employee from a protected group on chalat they will first require ministry approval.
In light of the mass-adoption of software such as Zoom, do you think there is a future for international business travel post-Corona?
- Whilst zoom is not a perfect substitute, it is an adequate substitute.
- On the one hand, there will be a pent up demand for business travel. Airlines and hotels will need to reduce their costs to recover the losses their businesses have suffered, and the travel market will likely be cheaper and more competitive.
- It may also be that as a result of the pandemic people will need to move to different jurisdictions to pursue new opportunities.
- There are limits to platforms such as zoom and docusign: quality of communication, bumping ideas of one another, human contact and losing the symbolic hand shake post deal completion.
- On the other hand, removing the cost of business travel is an easy way for businesses to save money.
- International conferences will likely suffer as people will question the worth of socially distanced conferences.
Do you think employers and/or employees will want home working to continue after the pandemic subsides?
- A survey in the UK found that 90% of employees want to maintain flexible working.
- In the UK there already exists a statutory right for employees to request flexible working, and an employer can agree to it or refuse it.
- If working from home has been effective during the pandemic employer’s may find it more difficult to argue that it cannot be done. Nevertheless, an employer could maintain that it wasn’t very effective.
- If employer’s do not want to grant flexible working, we may see a rise in claims for sex discrimination, disability discrimination and constructive dismissal.
- In France flexible working is negotiated with employees, and employers usually pay for a proportion of the employee’s rent corresponding with the square meters that are used for them to carry out their job.
- Many employees live in suburbs where rent is much less expensive than central city rent, and therefore this is still a more affordable option for employers than paying for expensive central city premises.
What is the main issue you think could arise as a result of homeworking?
- Effective management and control of employees: employer’s may be concerned employees are less efficient and distracted by demands on their time at home. But equally employees may not switch off from work, and might feel like they’re constantly in the office.
- In France there are strict limits on the number of working hours an employee can work in a week. Employers will need to find ways to monitor the working time of their employees, whilst respecting their employee’s privacy.
Key take-aways from the webinar on the challenges of employment in a post-corona world