Norwegian Working Environment Act – revised legislation
Changes to the Norwegian Working Environment Act occurred on 1st April 2023. The new legislation has made the hiring of labour from staffing companies for temporary work illegal, except for healthcare workers, technical and specialised advisors, and the agricultural business.
There is an exception to the new rules, which we have verified with Magnus Legal and the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority:
Chapter III – Special rules on temporary agency work in certain areas.
Section 3 – subsection b.
Hiring from temporary employment agencies is permitted regardless of the terms of sections 14-12 of the Working Environment Act with regard to:
(b) Hiring of employees with special expertise who will perform consulting and consultancy services in clearly delimited projects.
The exception for advisers and consultants with special competence is a part of the legislation, but it is given in the form of a regulation and not directly through the Norwegian Working Environment Act. The impact is however, the same.
The onus to verify that each placement falls within the new law’s scope lies with both the end client and the recruitment business.
The consultant/contractor must have a specialised skill not directly associated with the core business of the end client. The project must be for a specified timescale. The consultant/contractor must receive equal treatment, pay and working conditions as workers employed directly by the end client.
The worker will be an employee of the umbrella company, and the parties must ensure that contracts with the agency and the worker satisfy the requirements of the new legislation.
The new legislation will be effective from 1st July 2023 for existing contracts.
Ireland – Work Life Balance & Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 passed
Recently, both Houses of the Oireachtas (the bicameral parliament of Ireland) passed the Work-Life Balance and Miscellaneous Provisions Bill 2022 (the “Bill“) to the President for him to sign into law. A commencement order will then be required to bring the Bill’s provisions into operation, which we expect shortly.
The main points of the legislation changes are the following:
- Right to Request Remote Working
- Right to Request Flexible Working Arrangements for Caring Purposes
- Unpaid Leave for Medical Care Purposes
- Paid Domestic Violence Leave
- Enhanced Breastfeeding Rights. Also applicable to Transgender men who have given birth.
Many employers will wait for the details in the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Code of Practice (which we expect within three months) before reviewing and updating their HR policies. This Code will guide employers on how best to tackle requests for remote working and detail the obligations of both employers and employees.
In particular, we expect some parameters on an employer’s right to refuse a remote working arrangement. There is a need for further clarity about the extent of employers’ duties around data protection concerns for remote workers and the balance between working and rest time for hybrid workers.
You can find more details in the link:
Germany approves amendments to the Skilled Worker immigration regulations
On 29 March 2023 the German federal government approved a draft law that amends the Skilled Worker immigration schemes, in an effort to address the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. The amendments, which are not expected to go into effect until December 2023 at the earliest, would provide easier access to the German labor market to third-country nationals with relevant skills and/or qualifications and include reforms to the rules for Blue Cards.
EU Blue Card
The proposed regulations will implement the new EU Blue Card Directive 2021/1883 (“the EU Directive”) and introduce the following changes:
- A lower minimum salary threshold for standard occupations of 56.6 percent (down from 66.6 currently) related to the annual contribution assessment ceiling in the general pension insurance scheme. This would correspond (in 2023) to a lower threshold of EUR 49,582 (down from EUR 58,400 currently).
- A lower minimum salary threshold for shortage occupations of 45.3 percent (down from 52 currently). This would correspond (in 2023) to a lower threshold of EUR 39,683 (down from EUR 45,552 currently).
- The salary threshold for shortage occupations will also apply to young professionals in standard occupations for the first three years after they obtain their academic degree.
- The shortage occupation sectors will be expanded.
- Individuals will be eligible to apply for a Blue Card if they have an employment contract that is valid for at least six months (down from 12 months currently).
- IT specialists who do not have a university degree but do have at least three years of relevant professional experience in the preceding seven years will become eligible to apply for a Blue Card.
- Blue Cards will be restricted to employers or specific job roles only for twelve months (down from 24 months currently). After the Blue Card holder notifies the local foreigners’ office about a planned change of employer/job role, the authorities can put the planned change on hold for up to 30 calendar days. They may only reject the proposed change within this 30-day period. Otherwise, the Blue Card holder may start their new job.
The amendments passed by the German government do not include the provision included in the EU Directive, whereby individuals with at least five years of relevant professional experience would be eligible to obtain a Blue Card and work in any qualified occupation in Germany.
Several rules governing the issuance of Blue Cards will remain unchanged, including the following:
- Blue Card applications will not be subject to labor market checks/tests or quotas.
- Blue Card holders will still be required to hold a position that is “adequate” in relation to their degree (as determined by the German authorities).
- In general, Blue Card holders will still be required to have a domestic employment relationship and make all social security payments in Germany (with only limited exceptions).
Further to the new amendments, individuals who hold a Blue Card issued by another EU Member State will be able to move to Germany more easily and obtain a German Blue Card.
- Long term mobility. After holding a Blue Card issued by another EU Member State for at least twelve months (down from 18 months currently) or six months in a specific situation (i.e., if they previously held at least two Blue Cards issued by two EU Member States), qualifying individuals will be able to apply for a German Blue Card without filing a consular visa application in their country of residence.
- Degree recognition. Individuals who have held a Blue Card issued by another EU Member State for at least 24 months based on an acknowledged degree will have their degree automatically acknowledged, and they will not be subject to Germany’s specific rules regarding degree recognition.
- Adjudication time. Once the German Blue Card application is submitted with all required documents, the German authorities will be required to adjudicate the application within 30 calendar days (down from several months in some cases). Under exceptional circumstances (e.g., in complex cases), this period may be prolonged for another 30 days. In the event no decision is made within the first 30 days from the submission of the application, the applicant will be permitted to start working in Germany.
Currently, residence permits with work authorization based solely on work experience and without being a “specialist”, “Leading Executive” or similar designation are mainly limited to the IT sector. Pursuant to the new amendments:
- Residence permits with work authorization will be available to individuals in all professions (and not just IT).
- Applicants will require at least two years of relevant professional experience in the five years preceding the filing of their application (down from three years within the preceding seven for IT professionals, currently).
- Applicants in professions other than IT will be required to have completed at least two years of vocational education or obtained a university degree, and this must be acknowledged in the issuing country (in both situations).
- German language skills will no longer be required.
- A lower minimum salary threshold (of 45% of the contribution assessment ceiling in the general pension insurance scheme) will apply (down from 60% currently).
Opportunity Card (“Chancenkarte”)
The current visa scheme for job seekers who hold degrees issued outside of Germany (now called the Opportunity Card scheme) will be extended to a broader pool of applicants. It will now include individuals who have not completed vocational education or obtained university degrees acknowledged by the German authorities. These individuals will be able to apply under an alternative, points-based scheme.
Individuals applying under the points-based alternative will be required to:
- Have completed at least two years of vocational education or obtained a university degree (the vocational education or university degree must be acknowledged in the issuing country), and
- Possess language skills of at least A2 (for German) or B2 (for English)
Points can be obtained based on the following criteria:
- Professional qualifications
- Language skills (i.e., German B1 or B2, or English C1)
- Work experience (i.e., at least five years in the preceding seven, or at least two years in the preceding five after acquiring the professional qualification)
Individuals who enter under the Opportunity Card scheme will be allowed to work for up to twenty hours per week (currently, job seekers without German degrees are not permitted to work in Germany). In addition, they will be able to work for trial periods of up to two weeks when offered jobs in relevant positions (up from 10 hours per week currently). These individuals will be allowed to remain under this scheme for up to one year (up from six months currently), without the possibility of extending their stay under this scheme (although it may be possible to remain in Germany by applying under another immigration category).
The new amendments also introduced the following changes:
- Blue Card holders with German A1 language skills will be eligible for a permanent permit after 27 months (down from 33 currently), provided they meet other applicable requirements.
- Individuals in Germany under other Skilled Worker schemes will be eligible to obtain a permanent permit after three years (down from four years currently).
- Spouses of Blue Card holders will be eligible to obtain a permanent permit after three years (down from five years currently) under certain circumstances.
- Students enrolled at German universities will be allowed to work in employed positions for up to 140 full days or 280 half days per calendar year (up from 120 full days or 240 half days currently).
- The immigration scheme for Balkan countries will become a permanent scheme (i.e., the end date of 31 December 2023 will be eliminated) and its annual quota will increase to 50,000 applicants (up from 25,000 currently).
Impact on employers
Once the law goes into effect, employers are expected to benefit from a broader range of options for sponsoring third-country nationals to obtain German work authorization. Over the coming months, the draft law will undergo relevant legislative procedures in both the Federal Parliament (“Bundestag”) and the Federal Council (“Bundesrat”), and further amendments may be introduced. It is expected that (part or all of) the new law may become effective by the end of 2023.
Minimum salary to increase for work permit applicants in Sweden
On 4 May 2023, the Swedish government announced that effective 1st October 2023, work permit applicants will be required to earn at least 80% of the median annual salary in Sweden.
Currently, individuals who seek to obtain Swedish work permits must earn a salary that equals or exceeds SEK 13,000 per month and is at par with collective bargaining agreements (if applicable) or the average salary in their industry. The minimum salary threshold is currently not tied to the median salary.
Effective 1st October 2023, third-country nationals (i.e., nationals of countries outside the EU and EEA) will be required to earn at least 80% of the median annual salary to be eligible to apply for a Swedish work permit.
While final details have not yet been released, based on the latest data from Statistics Sweden released in 2021, the minimum salary per month for work permit applications processed starting on 1 October 2023 will be at least SEK 26,560.
The Migration Agency generally adds 3% annually to the salary data released by Statistics Sweden to determine the current year’s salary level. As such, the minimum salary threshold for work permit applications processed beginning on 1st October 2023 may increase to SEK 28,200 for 2023.
The salary must also be at par with relevant collective bargaining agreements (if any) or with the market salary in the applicant’s industry.
This change will impact work permit applications filed on or after 1st October 2023 as well as those pending adjudication as of that date. It will not impact individuals who seek to apply for ICT Permits, EU Blue Cards or Swedish residence permits.
How does this impact Employers?
Employers should consider the new requirement to ensure compliance relating to their recruitment and hiring policies.
The Migration Agency is expected to release further details in the near future.
Deadline extended for UK nationals to apply for the right to reside in Denmark
On 1 May 2023, the Danish authorities extended the deadline for eligible individuals to submit applications to reside in Denmark pursuant to the EU–UK Withdrawal Agreement until 31 December 2023.
The EU–UK Withdrawal Agreement came into effect back on 1 February 2020, one day after the UK officially left the EU. The Agreement covers several terms relating to the orderly withdrawal of the UK from the EU (e.g., the rights of UK nationals and their family members residing in the EU Member States).
Pursuant to the Agreement, UK nationals and their family members who were lawfully residing in Denmark as of 31 December 2020 were required to apply by 31 December 2021 for a temporary residence card (valid for five years) or permanent residence card (valid for 10 years) to continue to reside in Denmark without the need to obtain a work permit separately. However, the Danish authorities continued to process applications submitted after 31 December 2021 provided there was a valid reason for the delay. Applications that were submitted after the initial deadline without a valid reason were not approved.
From 1 May 2023, the Danish authorities formally extended the application submission deadline until 31 December 2023 and resumed processing pending applications. Individuals who submitted an application after 31 December 2021, whose application was rejected and who have an appeal pending with the Immigration Appeals Board will be contacted by the Board regarding their application.
Individuals whose applications were filed after the initial deadline and rejected, and who have not appealed the decision, may submit a new application before 31 December 2023, unless the rejection was on the grounds of not meeting the conditions of the Withdrawal Agreement.
Individuals who have not yet submitted their applications may also submit new applications under the Withdrawal Agreement prior to 31 December 2023.
How does this impact Employers?
Companies and impacted employees may benefit from the extended deadline and ensure that they file applications prior to the new deadline.
Cyprus Enacts Law on Transparent & Predictable Working Conditions
Directive (EU) 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union was transposed into Cyprus law on 13th April 2023 under the Transparent and Predictable Working Conditions Law of 2023.
The Working Conditions Law constitutes a significant, harmonising labour legislation, which has abolished the Provision of Information to Employee by the Employer on the Conditions Applicable to Employment Contract or Relationship Law of 2000.
The Directive’s primary aim was to respond to labour market challenges initiated by demographic developments, new forms of employment and digitalisation, leading to Member States, including Cyprus, to pass legislation forcing employers to make working conditions more transparent and predictable, while also introducing new minimum rights and new rules on the information to be provided to employees about their working conditions.
Working Conditions Law – the key provisions:
Written Statement of Employment Terms
Employers must provide to employees in writing and keep a relevant record of the delivery of the essential aspects of the employment relationship including:
- the identity of parties and the place of work
- title/category of work or description of work
- start date
- salary and any/all component elements, each of which should be indicated separately
- frequency and method of payment
- duration/conditions of any probation period
- hours of work and overtime/shift arrangements etc.
This information must be provided before the commencement of the contract or within a maximum of seven (7) days from the commencement of employment.
Where applicable, employers must also provide employees with additional information within one (1) month from the commencement of employment, which may include:
- training entitlement
- details of annual leave entitlement
- the existence of collective agreements (if applicable)
- details about the relevant social security institution and protections relating to social security provided by the employer
- termination procedure(s)
- notice period information.
The above information should only be given upon request by employees already employed on the date of the enforcement of the Law. For new employees, the employer is required to adhere to the above timeframes for the provision of the information.
Under Cyprus labour law there has been a long-standing principle that the probation period may be extended for up to a maximum of 2 years (104 weeks). The new Law changes that significantly, as it provides that probationary periods cannot exceed six months.
For fixed-term contracts, the duration of the probation period must be proportionate and in cases where an employee has been absent from work during the probationary period, it can be extended based on the duration of the absence.
Predictability of Work
The Law introduced the concept of employees with unpredictable working arrangements and has set out specific information rights. These include informing employees of:
- the fact that their work schedule is variable
- the number of guaranteed paid hours
- the pay rate for additional hours worked
- the working hours/days that they may be required to work
- the minimum advance notice they are entitled to before starting any work assignment.
These rights give the benefit of a minimum level of predictability where the work schedule is very flexible.
Employees engaged under such contracts have the right to refuse a work assignment if it falls outside of the agreed terms and must not suffer adverse consequences for such refusal. In addition, the Law protects employees against loss of income resulting from late cancellation by the employer.
Following the chances, careful consideration must now also be given to any parallel employment provisions in the employment contract.
The Law provides that an employer cannot prevent an employee from working for another employer, outside their work schedule or treat an employee adversely due to this. The exception is where the restriction imposed is proportionate and based on objective reasons (e.g., health and safety, protection of trade secrets, or the avoidance of conflict of interest).
As the Law does not provide a complete ban on parallel employment, it is advised that employers review and update their employment contract clauses, conflict of interest policies and non-compete agreements.
The Law allows on-demand or similar employment contracts for which working hours are not predetermined, including zero-hour contracts, under which the employer has the flexibility of calling the employee to work as and when needed provided that the employee works on a casual basis as defined in the Law.
It should be noted that the Law does not apply to employment relationships with agreed and actual working hours of an average of three hours per week (or less in a reference period of four consecutive weeks).
An additional right that has been introduced is that an employee who has completed the probation period may request a form of employment with more predictable and secure working conditions.
Also, if an employer is required by law, or collective agreement, to provide training necessary for an employee to carry out their work, such training must be provided at no cost to the employee and shall count as working time. Where possible, this training should take place during working hours.
Employers should be aware that violation of any of the provisions of the Law shall render them liable, in case of conviction, for a fine not exceeding €5,500.
Action required by Employers
In light of the new legislation, it is recommended that Employers:
- Review their employment contract template(s) to ensure compliance
- Review their probationary periods and ensure that there are adequate controls in place to monitor and assess performance during the maximum six-month probationary period
- Review workplace training requirements, where applicable
- Ensure that employees are provided with the necessary information within the correct timeframes
- Review and amend any parallel work clauses, conflict of interest policies & non-compete agreements with employees.
The Working Conditions Law affects all employment relationships made in Cyprus and it is crucial that employers review their policies and contracts to ensure they are in conformity with the new framework.