Free Menstrual Products in Federally-regulated Workplaces Proposed

On May 4, 2019, in the Canada Gazette, the Labour Program of the Department of Employment and Social Development (the “Labour Program”) announced a proposal to require all federally regulated employers to provide free menstrual products in the workplace for employees “due to the shame and stigma that often surrounds menstruation.” In addition, the Labour Program is looking to prevent the use of unhealthy alternatives to menstrual products, for example the use of toilet paper, paper towels or the use of expired products. If passed, this measure would apply to private-sector employers in the federal jurisdiction (e.g. banks, railways, airlines, marine ports, telecommunications, broadcasters etc.), Crown Corporations, and the federal public service.

It is noteworthy that the Labour Program has acknowledged that the physical restrictions of some workplaces within the federal jurisdiction, such as trains and aircraft, may require employers to find suitable locations, apart from washrooms, where menstrual products could be made available. Furthermore, the Labour Program has recognized that employers with employees who travel to different locations as part of their work, such as truck drivers, may have a more difficult time providing menstrual products in the workplace, as the workplace is not always in one single location.

Currently, under Part II of the Canada Labour Code, employers are required to provide the basic toiletry necessities such as toilet paper, soap, warm water and a means to dry hands – but not specifically required to provide employees with menstrual products. Interestingly, south of the border in the United States, similar legislation has recently been proposed in the House of Representative, but has yet to undergo the legislative process before, if ever, it becomes law.

Any further legislative action from the Canadian government is not anticipated before the spring of 2020. In the interim, this should provide stakeholders and the public with a further opportunity to comment on the proposed regulations, and address any issues in need of greater study.

The author wishes to thank Amélye Paquette and Emily Deraîche-Grossberg, summer students in Ottawa, for their contribution to this piece.

Les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent-ils servir à diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations?

Le 4 juillet 2019, la Cour d’appel, dans l’affaire Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du Gouvernement du Québec c. Procureure générale du Québec[1], a confirmé le caractère raisonnable de la décision de la Commission des relations du travail (la CRT), maintenant devenue le Tribunal administratif du travail, et a ainsi reconnu que, dans certains cas, les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent être utilisés afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations.

Contexte

Dans cette affaire, dans le cadre des négociations de renouvellement de la convention collective, se prévalant de leur droit à la liberté d’expression, plusieurs salariés avaient inclus un message de nature syndicale dans la signature de leurs courriels professionnels, et ce, à la suggestion de l’association les représentant. Or, l’employeur, invoquant notamment son droit de propriété de ses outils informatiques, avait demandé aux salariés de retirer ce message, à défaut de quoi des mesures plus sévères pourraient être imposées.

Dans ce contexte, l’association avait déposé une plainte à la CRT, prétendant que l’interdiction imposée par l’employeur constituait une ingérence dans ses activités syndicales.

Conclusions de la Cour d’appel

La Cour d’appel confirme le caractère raisonnable de la décision de la CRT, laquelle avait notamment ordonné à l’employeur de permettre à ses salariés d’inclure le message syndical visé dans la signature de leurs courriels professionnels.

À ce titre, la CRT avait essentiellement conclu que ce faisant, les salariés n’avaient fait qu’exercer leur droit à la liberté d’expression en matière de relations du travail et que, dans le contexte de l’affaire, l’employeur avait porté atteinte à ce droit garanti par les chartes des droits et libertés sans justifications raisonnables. De fait, la CRT était entre autres d’avis que le message contenait des « informations exactes » et était rédigé « en termes tout à fait corrects »[2]. Le droit à la liberté d’expression avait été exercé « raisonnablement, sans causer de préjudice, et de manière ni offensante ni disgracieuse »[3]. En l’absence de preuve d’un quelconque effet nuisible, le droit de propriété de l’employeur ne pouvait donc justifier, à lui seul, de restreindre l’exercice du droit à la liberté d’expression des salariés.

Toutefois, la Cour d’appel tempère la portée de la décision de la CRT en prenant bien soin de préciser que cette décision n’établit pas un principe voulant qu’en toutes circonstances, les courriels professionnels d’un salarié peuvent être utilisés afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre d’un conflit de travail. Chaque cas demeure plutôt un cas d’espèce.

À retenir

En somme, la décision de la Cour d’appel vient ouvrir la porte à l’utilisation, par les salariés, de leurs courriels professionnels afin de diffuser un message de nature syndicale dans le cadre de négociations.

Certes, pour les employeurs québécois, cette décision constitue un premier précédent notable en la matière qu’il importe de considérer. Néanmoins, et comme le précise d’ailleurs la Cour d’appel, chaque cas demeure un cas d’espèce. Les faits propres à chaque situation devront ainsi être rigoureusement analysés afin de déterminer si le droit à la liberté d’expression des salariés peut prévaloir, dans un contexte donné, sur le droit de propriété des biens de l’employeur.

*Les auteurs désirent remercier Cédrick Bérard, stagiaire en droit, pour son aide dans la préparation de ce billet.

***

[1] 2019 QCCA 1171.

[2] Association professionnelle des ingénieurs du gouvernement du Québec et Gouvernement du Québec (Direction des relations professionnelles, Conseil du Trésor), 2015 QCCRT 0460, par. 66.

[3] Id., préc., note 1, par. 17.

New fast track visa to cement the UK as a science superpower

The Home Office has announced a new fast-track immigration offer for individuals with skills in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The scheme will provide a three-year visa, during which the individual can come and go from the UK at will. Following the three year period, those on the scheme can apply for indefinite leave to remain. If successful, this will provide a permanent right to reside in the UK and access to healthcare and benefits on the same basis as British citizens.

There will be no minimum salary requirement, and the individuals do not need to secure a job before arriving in the UK. This initiative will be particularly important for businesses which rely on pharmaceutical, science, or engineering roles and aims to facilitate access for those with skills in these areas to come and work, study and live in the UK.

In the wake of Brexit and the increased barriers to a global workforce, this new immigration route may provide a helpful alternative for employers to ensure their workforces remain highly skilled. However, though the visa is expected to be implemented later this year, no set date has been given, and clearly the usefulness or not of the new visa will be dependent on what exactly the visa requirements, process and costs will look like in actuality, none of which is yet known.

 

Thank you to Nicole Fenton, Legal Process & Technology Paralegal for her contribution to this post.

UK Pensions – is the current annual allowance limit unfair and unworkable?

UK Pensions – is the current annual allowance limit unfair and unworkable? 

The Revenue has been forced, finally, to face up to the fact that the annual allowance changes in relation to pensions contributions which attract tax relief, and which were brought into force in April 2016, are unfair and unworkable. The Treasury announced on 7 August 2019 that there will be a consultation on proposals to vary contribution rates for NHS staff to minimise the impact of the annual allowance on them.

Currently, the annual allowance (broadly the rate contributions can be paid to a defined contribution scheme or the amount benefits can be built up in a defined benefits scheme) is capped at £40,000 per annum. Exceeding the annual allowance results in an annual allowance tax charge. But the situation is more complex for high earners. Since April 2016, a tapered allowance has been in force in respect of income over £150,000 per year. The maximum reduction which can apply under the taper is £30,000, so that an individual with earnings of over £210,000 will have their annual allowance capped at £10,000. 

This taper was introduced despite warnings that it would impact on public service workers. There has been much publicity recently about senior doctors and consultants cutting down on overtime to avoid pension tax disadvantages, which could result in increases to hospital waiting times. 

But this problem cannot be looked at in isolation – any changes to the system must apply across the board to private and public sector workers. The introduction of the taper, in combination with the lowering of the lifetime allowance to stand currently at £1,030,000, has stopped many high earners from contributing to pensions schemes. 

The whole system of relief needs an urgent re-think. It makes no economic sense to prevent retirement savings in an ageing society. It is to be hoped that the review for NHS workers triggers a wider response.

 

 

Good Work Plan: Government issues further response and consultation to support families and pregnant women

As part of its Good Work Plan, the UK Government has recently published a response and a consultation paper on proposals which will protect and support families and pregnant women. The first Government paper considers extending redundancy protection for women and new parents.  The second consultation looks at various proposals to support families, including a review of the various parental leaves and pay entitlements, neo-natal leave and pay and providing transparency of employer’s work-life balance policies.

Good Work Plan: Pregnancy and Maternity Discrimination Consultation

As part of the Good Work Plan, the Government has considered changes to assist pregnant women and new mothers in their return to work. Currently, women on maternity leave have special protection in a redundancy situation.  Under the Maternity and Parental Leave etc. Regulations 1999, employers have an obligation to offer employees on maternity leave who are at risk of redundancy, a suitable alternative vacancy, where one is available.  This means that women on maternity leave have priority over other employees who are also at risk of redundancy.  However, evidence given to the Government indicated that, on their return to work, some women were being forced out of work.  The Government therefore considered whether women could receive additional protection from redundancy on return from maternity and other forms of parental leave.  As a result of the consultation paper, the Government has proposed that:

  1. The redundancy protection period will apply from the point that the employee informs the employer that she is pregnant, whether orally and in writing.
  2. The redundancy protection period will be extended for a period of six months once a new mother has returned to work. It is expected that this period will start immediately once maternity leave is finished notwithstanding any additional leave which may immediately flow.
  3. The redundancy protection period will be extended to those taking adoption leave by following the same approach as the extended protection period for those returning from maternity leave.
  4. The redundancy protection period will also apply to those returning to work following a period of shared parental leave. However, there are more complex issues which need to be taken into account when considering return from shared parental leave and therefore in developing this protection the Government will take into account the following:
  • The key objective is to help protect pregnant women and new mothers from discrimination.
  • The practical and legal differences between shared parental leave and maternity leave will mean that it will require a different approach.
  • The period of extended protection should be proportionate to the amount of leave and the threat of discrimination.
  • The mother should be no worse off if she curtails her maternity leave and then takes a period of shared parental leave.
  • The solution should not deter individuals from taking shared parental leave.

A task force of employer and family representative groups will be established to make recommendations and develop an action plan.

The Government has also indicated that it will consult to explore whether the three month time limit for bringing claims relating to discrimination, harassment and victimisation, including on the grounds of pregnancy and maternity should be extended to 6 months.

Good Work Plan: Proposals to Support Families

Another area in which the Government sought to improve support to parents is to look at the ways of balancing work and family life, including a consideration of how parental leave and pay is used and a new right to neo-natal leave and pay. A consultation paper was issued on 19 July 2019 and the consultation closes on the 11 October 2019 (in relation to neo-natal leave and pay and transparency) and on 29 November 2019 (parental leave and pay).

Parental leave and pay

The Government has set out in detail the different parental leaves and pay which exist for working families currently: paternity leave and pay; shared parental leave and pay; maternity leave and pay; and parental leave for parents of older children. It also examines some parental leave schemes which apply in other jurisdictions.

The consultation makes the point that the bigger the reforms that are made the more the reforms needed to meet the multiple policy objectives which include flexibility for families; increasing fathers involvement in childcare; supporting women’s labour market participation; and further reducing the employment and gender pay gaps. The consultation therefore asks a large number of questions in relation to each separate area of leave and pay and asks for suggestions as to how these models can be amended.

New entitlements for parents of babies who require neo-natal care

Currently, there is no specific right to any leave or pay for neo-natal care: Parents must rely on their statutory leave entitlements to enable them to be off work, meaning that a proportion of statutory leave may be spent with the baby in hospital.  As a result, these parents are unable to spend time caring for their child outside the medical environment for a proportion of their maternity leave or paternity leave.

The consultation is therefore seeking views on some of the following issues:

  • Whether the entitlement to neo-natal leave and pay should be restricted to individuals who have had the main responsibility for caring for the child following birth?
  • Whether the parents of babies who need to spend time in neo-natal care should have access to additional pay and leave and whether this should be capped.
  • Whether the neo-natal leave should be a day one right or whether there should be a qualifying period?
  • Should the parents be required to give a reasonable period of notice and if so what would be the period of notice?
  • Should the parent be required to give evidence of entitlement to neo-natal leave and pay?
  • Should parents on neo-natal leave have the same protections as employees on parental leave for example regarding return to work?

Transparency: flexible working and family related leave and policies

The final chapter in the consultation looks at provisions which would require large employers (i.e. those with 250 or more employees) to publish any family related leave and pay and flexible working policies on their websites. The Government believes that more needs to be done to improve the clarity, certainty and understanding of employer’s policies if the UK is to maintain the momentum on closing the gender pay gap.  In addition, it asks the question whether any job advertisements should be required to state that the position is open to flexible working to avoid an individual being required to raise the issue.

These consultation papers and responses were put in place before the new prime minister took charge. It will therefore be interesting to see whether the new Government will take these proposals forward.

UK Pensions: Regulator ramps up “green” investment guidance for revised SIPs

New guidance from the Pensions Regulator reflects recent legislative changes requiring trustees of occupational pension schemes to set out their policies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues which may influence their investment decisions.

The new law

From 1 October 2019, changes apply governing the way pension schemes prepare and revise their investment disclosure documents, including their Statement of Investment Principles (SIP). There are also new requirements for an Implementation Statement to be prepared and published.

Further changes were implemented in 2019 following the transposition into UK law of the Shareholders’ Rights Directive II which encourages a longer-term focus on trustees’ investment strategies, urges consideration of ESG factors and requires transparency on how trustees invest and engage as shareholders.

What has changed?

The requirements for DC schemes are:

  • by 1 October 2019, publish the scheme’s SIP on a publicly available free to access website; and
  • by 1 October 2020, publish an Implementation Statement (confirming the extent to which the SIP has been followed) on a free, public website.

The requirements for DB schemes which are required to publish a SIP are:

  • by 1 October 2020, publish the scheme’s SIP on a free, public website;
  • By 1 October 2021, publish an Implementation Statement on:
  • the extent to which the trustees’ policy on the exercise of voting rights and stewardship (engagement and voting report) has been followed during the year; and
  • the voting behaviour by trustees (including the most significant votes cast during the year) and any use of proxy voters.

The Regulator’s guidance

The revised guidance (to be read alongside the DC Code of Practice) details how the Regulator expects trustees to fulfil their duties regarding stewardship and on the scope of financially material considerations.

The Regulator is keen to emphasise that trustees should aim to produce for members an informative report. The Guidance provides practical tips on how to formulate trustee policy on materially financial considerations. It highlights, for example, how a relatively minor negative financial factor for the default fund may have an impact on a very high proportion of the scheme membership and may therefore be of material trustee concern.

It also explains factors which may be considered non-financial and gives as an example members’ potential ethical concerns about some individual investments held by the scheme.

Stewardship in the context of a pension scheme includes activities such as monitoring assets and service providers. Trustees are encouraged to become familiar with their managers’ stewardship policies. 

Contents of the Implementation Statement

This is intended to illustrate to members how trustees have followed and acted upon the aims set out in their SIP, and should detail any divergence of decisions from those aims. The Regulator says an Implementation Statement should cover:

  • the relevance of investment beliefs underpinning voting and engagement policies;
  • details of any sub-committees dedicated to the process;
  • lessons learned in engaging with specific assets on specific issues; and
  • the relative effectiveness of those actions in achieving the SIP aims.

Actions for trustees

Trustees may wish to consider using the Regulator’s Guidance to help formulate policies on financially material and non-financial matters. They may also find it helpful to seek advice on how to formulate their policy on any rights attaching to investments. It is important to assess whether trustees are up to date in their investment skills training in accordance with the Regulator’s expectations and address any gaps in their knowledge. They may also wish to confirm with advisers when the overall investment performance was last reviewed, as well as ensuring  that the scheme website is geared up to include the publication of the SIP and Implementation Statement by the required dates.

 

Alcohol at work: can the employer apply a zero tolerance policy?

A decision of the Supreme Administrative Court (“Conseil d’Etat”) of 8th July 2019 has overruled the decision of a work inspector (“inspecteur du travail”) who had rejected a zero tolerance policy regarding the consumption of alcohol during working hours for certain classes of employees in a company.

The case concerned a company specializing in the manufacture of automotive equipment which decided to revise its internal employee regulations to include a clause totally prohibiting the consumption of alcohol for certain categories of employee such as machine operators, lift platform users, electricians and mechanics.

By law the internal regulations must be reviewed and approved by the work inspector before implementation and during the review the work inspector decided that the employer could not totally prohibit the consumption of alcohol by these categories of employee.

The basis of the decision was that, as strange as it may seem, the French labour code (“Code du travail”) provides that “no alcoholic beverages, other than wine, beer, cider and perry [pear cider], are authorized in the workplace“. This was interpreted as meaning that employees have the right to consume the named alcoholic drinks. Based on this provision and the fact that an employer can only apply restrictions to employees’ rights taking into account the tasks to be performed and in a proportionate way, the work inspector ordered the employer to remove the provision from the proposed internal rules which was in its view too restrictive.

However, a law introduced in 2014 specifically allows the employer to ban wine, beer, cider and perry, when the consumption of these types of alcohol is likely to undermine the employee’s safety and physical health. On that basis, the Conseil d’Etat, decided that, given only certain hazardous positions were subject to the alcohol prohibition, such prohibition was proportionate to the goal sought by the employer, which was to protect the health and safety of certain hazardous jobs.

Accordingly, the employer was entitled to apply a zero tolerance alcohol policy for these positions and the provision in the internal regulations was perfectly legal.

In conclusion, a zero tolerance alcohol policy is allowed but only for those positions within a company where the employer is able to justify that the consumption of alcohol would pose a threat to the safety of employees.

Petit rappel du Tribunal administratif du travail : le licenciement « légitime » vs le congédiement déguisé

Dans la décision, Romeo et Antoine Laoun inc., 2019 QCTAT 2887, rendue par le Tribunal administratif du travail (TAT), la juge administrative, Susan Heap, devait décider du bien-fondé d’une plainte de pratique illégale découlant du licenciement d’une employée enceinte. La juge en profite pour faire un rappel très pertinent des facteurs pris en compte par les décideurs afin de déterminer si un employé a réellement été licencié ou s’il n’a pas plutôt fait l’objet d’un congédiement déguisé

Un simple rappel d’entrée de jeu. Les notions de « licenciement » et de « congédiement » doivent être distinguées l’une de l’autre.

En cas de congédiement, l’employeur a toujours besoin des services de l’employé, mais ne souhaite plus que ceux-ci soient rendus par cet employé en raison de motifs liés à ses compétences ou son comportement;

En cas de licenciement, l’employeur n’a plus besoin des services de l’employé, et ce, pour des motifs qui ne sont pas liés à l’employé (ex. motifs d’ordre économique ou organisationnel).

Le TAT a compétence pour vérifier si le licenciement invoqué par l’employeur repose sur des motifs économiques ou organisationnels réels ou s’il y a plutôt prétexte pour camoufler un congédiement déguisé.

Les faits de l’affaire

Cette affaire concerne une employée devant revenir au travail suite à un congé de maternité. Lors de son départ en congé de maternité, il avait été convenu qu’à son retour, l’employée occuperait un poste dans une nouvelle succursale issue de la fusion d’un kiosque et d’un magasin de l’employeur.

Or, alors que son retour au travail est prévu pour le mois de novembre 2016, après avoir insisté auprès de sa supérieure afin de connaître son futur horaire de travail, la superviseure de l’employée lui apprend qu’il n’y a plus de poste disponible pour elle à la nouvelle succursale et qu’elle est donc licenciée.

L’employée dépose une plainte en vertu de l’article 122 de la Loi sur les normes du travail (la Loi) qui prévoit qu’il est interdit pour un employeur d’exercer une quelconque mesure de représailles à l’encontre d’un employé en raison de l’exercice par ce dernier d’un droit prévu par la Loi. Après avoir déterminé que la présomption de l’article 123.4 de la Loi s’appliquait et que le licenciement était donc présumé avoir été imposé puisque l’employée était enceinte, la juge se penche sur les facteurs qui différencient le véritable licenciement du congédiement déguisé en licenciement.

La décision

Dans son analyse à savoir s’il s’agit d’un véritable licenciement vs un congédiement déguisé en licenciement, le TAT analyse les trois (3) facteurs suivants :

  • Les critères utilisés par l’employeur pour faire le choix des employés gardés doivent être objectifs et raisonnables (par exemple : ancienneté, expérience, compétences, évaluations de rendement, etc.);
  • Au-delà des critères eux-mêmes, l’application de ces derniers doit être uniforme et objective; et
  • Le défaut de l’employeur de faire des démarches significatives dans le but de maintenir le lien d’emploi avec l’employé licencié pourrait être considéré comme un indice de son intention de se départir de l’employé.

En ce qui a trait à ce dernier facteur, la juge rappelle que les situations suivantes ont été considérées comme constituant des indices de l’intention de l’employeur de se départir de l’employé :

  • Le fait pour l’employeur de ne pas offrir à l’employé licencié un poste vacant au sein de l’entreprise;
  • Le défaut par l’employeur d’offrir une modification aux conditions de travail de l’employé avant de le licencier (par exemple lui offrir un poste à temps partiel disponible); et
  • L’embauche postérieure d’employés sans d’abord offrir leur poste à l’employé prétendument licencié.

Quant à l’application de ce qui précède aux faits de l’espèce, la juge note d’abord que dans les mois précédant le retour au travail prévu de l’employée, l’employeur a procédé à l’embauche et au transfert de plusieurs employés dans la succursale en question.

De plus, selon la juge, la preuve révèle qu’il y avait des heures disponibles dans une autre succursale de l’employeur et que l’employée aurait accepté d’y travailler.

Selon la juge, l’employeur n’a donc fait aucune démarche afin de maintenir le lien d’emploi de l’employée.

En considérant ce qui précède, la juge en arrive à la conclusion que l’employée a fait l’objet d’un congédiement déguisé en licenciement. La présomption à l’effet que l’employée a été congédiée en raison de l’exercice d’un droit prévu par la Loi n’est donc pas repoussée et la plainte est accueillie.

Quoi retenir?

En conclusion, cette décision démontre l’importance pour tous les employeurs qui font face à une restructuration menant à l’abolition de postes d’établir des critères raisonnables et objectifs pour déterminer qui sont les employés qui seront licenciés et de s’assurer que ces critères soient appliqués de manière uniforme et objective. Le fait de ne pas porter l’attention nécessaire aux trois (3) facteurs énoncés plus haut peut occasionner de lourdes conséquences pour les employeurs.

Cependant, quant à l’application du 3e facteur, une nuance importance nous semble devoir être apportée, compte tenu de l’affaire Groupe technologies Desjardins inc. c. Tribunal administratif du travail, Division des relations du travail, 2018 QCCS 4557. En effet, dans cette décision rendue en 2018, la Cour supérieure a clairement établi qu’il n’existe aucune obligation pour les employeurs québécois d’entreprendre des démarches afin de réaffecter un employé dont le poste est aboli ailleurs dans l’entreprise. Au contraire, la Cour supérieure a justement reproché au TAT d’avoir rendu une décision déraisonnable eu égard au droit du travail au Québec en considérant que le fait de ne pas avoir entrepris une telle démarche avant de procéder à la fin d’emploi de l’employée visée transformait le licenciement en congédiement déguisé.

Le droit à la déconnexion est-il mort dans l’œuf?

Le droit à la déconnexion fait couler beaucoup d’encre au Québec. Et pour cause : au-delà du (très médiatisé et défunt) Projet de loi n°1097 : Loi sur le droit à la déconnexion, nombre d’auteurs tirent la sonnette d’alarme quant aux risques liés à l’actuelle surconnexion des employés. Chose certaine : face à la montée en puissance des nouvelles technologies de l’information en milieu de travail, l’agilité s’impose comme une qualité essentielle à tout gestionnaire. Dans un contexte de tsunami technologique, faisons le point sur les implications d’un potentiel droit à la déconnexion.

Par-delà les frontières

Avant toute chose, prenons note que nos voisins européens ont déjà entamé les hostilités. La France demeure d’ailleurs pionnière en la matière : les modalités du droit à la déconnexion doivent y être négociées par l’employeur avec ses employés. L’objectif ultime? Protéger leur temps de repos et améliorer l’équilibre entre vie familiale et vie professionnelle. De son côté, l’Allemagne adopte une démarche plus libérale : aucun texte législatif n’a encore été adopté. Cela dit, ses entreprises demeurent particulièrement proactives. L’exemple le plus frappant demeure celui de Volkswagen : entre 18 h 15 et 7 h, les employés non-cadres n’ont pas accès à leurs courriels sur leur téléphone intelligent.

Perspectives québécoises

Après mûres réflexions, l’éventuel droit à la déconnexion présente mille et une facettes au Québec : malgré l’abandon dudit Projet de loi n°1097, une multitude de dispositions législatives pourraient en assurer la protection. Prenons par exemple la Loi sur les normes du travail. Le droit de refus d’un employé (incluant celui de réaliser du temps supplémentaire), ainsi que son droit au repos hebdomadaire et à la pause-repas – bien qu’ils n’incarnent pas un droit à la déconnexion en soi – s’inscrivent dans cette perspective. L’employé a le droit de se débrancher. Parallèlement, la Loi sur la santé et la sécurité du travail oblige l’employeur à prendre des mesures nécessaires pour protéger la sécurité et l’intégrité des employés. Même la Charte des droits et libertés de la personne est passible de suivre le mouvement d’un droit à la déconnexion, comme en atteste son droit au respect de la vie privée, à la jouissance paisible des biens et à l’inviolabilité de la demeure.

Le jeu en vaut-il la chandelle?

Dans ce contexte de vide juridique – qu’il est tentant de combler – le Projet de loi n°1097 devrait-il renaître de ses cendres? Telle est la question. À cet égard, une consécration législative du droit à la déconnexion permettrait certainement aux employés de mieux faire la part des choses. Revers de la médaille : chaque entreprise est un microcosme en elle-même, exigeant naturellement des conditions de travail particulières. Il est pour ainsi dire complexe d’établir une règle générale de déconnexion applicable à tout employeur, quelle que soit sa réalité économique. Par exemple, dans le cadre d’activités à vocation internationale, les échanges avec des fournisseurs et/ou clients étrangers sont rythmés par des fuseaux horaires différents. D’ailleurs, et contrairement à l’effet escompté, bloquer l’accès aux courriels pour un laps de temps risque d’intensifier le stress subi par les employés puisque ce faisant, les courriels s’accumulent.

Finalement, loin de nous l’idée de trancher le débat d’un quelconque « pour ou contre » le droit à la déconnexion. Mais qu’on se le tienne pour dit : il n’a pas fini d’enflammer les discussions.

Managing German labour migration: The new “Skilled Immigration Act”

The German Bundesrat recently approved a long-awaited and controversially debated immigration legislation, implementing several European directives dating back more than ten years. The “Skilled Immigration Act (“Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz”) intends to attract qualified professionals from around the world. Further, the Act aims to improve labour market efficiency, prevent skill shortages and offset regional imbalances in order to sustain competitiveness and economic growth. The Skilled Immigration Act provides clear requirements for “qualified professionals” which, for the first time, includes academics as well as persons with vocational qualifications.

To enter the German labour market, highly qualified third-country professionals must present a valid work contract and a recognized higher professional qualification. Limitations apply for applicants of more than 45 years of age: They must provide evidence of a minimum salary or an adequate pension provision. Under certain conditions, IT specialists can also be given access to the labour market without a formal qualification.

Existing hurdles were reduced: First, the removal of so-called “bottleneck professions” which were particularly affected by the shortage of skilled workers, i.e. no more than three statistically recorded unemployed people available. As long as their qualification is officially recognized, qualified professionals will be eligible to work in Germany in the qualification for which they are qualified, no matter their specific profession. Second, the obligatory priority check which required vacancies to be filled by German or EU citizens, has been abolished in principle. Finally, the recognition of qualifications is speeded-up. However, the new Act does not offer any new opportunities for unqualified or low-skilled workers to gain access to the German labour market.

Furthermore, applicants with a professional education are allowed to come to Germany for up to six months to search for employment provided they have sufficient German language skills. During that time they are not entitled to receive social benefits and are required to prove that their livelihood is secured.

Whereas immigration for vocational training purposes was only allowed if qualification entitled applicants to take up studies in Germany, it is now sufficient if the diploma entitles the individual to study in the country of origin. Lastly, the Act ameliorates opportunities to come to Germany in order to undertake training. Recognition procedures will be able to be carried out within Germany from start to finish provided that the Federal Employment Agency has agreed a placement.

The new legislation will enter into force on 01 March 2020, accompanied by further measures to accelerate and foster efficient administrative and recognition procedures.

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