Q&A in Brief

Discrimination and #MeToo Q&As

Q: Is it obligatory to hire individuals with disabilities in Ukraine?

A 4% disability quota applies to organisations employing more than 25 people in the previous calendar year.  If the quota is not met companies must pay a levy to the Fund for the Social Protection of Invalids.

Q: We have been informed indirectly that an employee has been harassed (possibly on several occasions) by a senior colleague.  How do we handle it? 
This is a serious matter which should be handled in close consultation with your company’s legal counsel or an experienced external lawyer. By way of general guidance. It is critical to collect as much evidence as possible before confronting the alleged assailant.  Make sure you notify the employee making the complaint that you are actively investigating the issue and be as supportive as possible. If the matter appears to be an isolated incident and open to subjective interpretation, then an informal “friendly” warning may be sufficient. But if it is a serious case of harassment, or one that proves to have been repeated then it will be necessary to gain CEO backing and call the colleague in for a disciplinary meeting in the presence of a Director of the company and your legal representative. Very serious infractions will necessarily have to involve the police, as the employee will involve them if the company does not. Do not suggest the harassed person takes time off, as this can potentially raise a claim against you on the grounds of discrimination or constructive dismissal.

Q: We are seeking to develop a new global policy outside the USA. What practical steps can we take to protect a whistleblower – especially from potential harassment?

Not all countries have laws protecting whisltblowers – irrespective of this fact, an HR department has a genuine responsibility towards the company’s employees to protect them and ensure a safe environment for them.  Inform the individual that they can reach you at any point if they receive hostile behaviour.  Collect evidence through appropriate investigation – if necessary issue a internal memo/reminder on the appropriate code of conduct at work.  Avoid, in any case, suggesting the employee takes time off – this is more likely to contribute to stigmatising behaviour.


Hiring & Firing Q&As 

Q: What are employment contract formalities in Spain?

In Spain, there is a legal requirement for the parties to sign a Contrato de Trabajo – a standardised contract, containing basic information about the employment terms.  The completed document must be submitted to the state authorities within 10 days of someone commencing employment.  Nevertheless, parties are still free to sign an additional contract detailing the employment relationship.

Q: Are digital employment contracts acceptable in Italy? 

Digital employment contracts are widely accepted around the world. However, in order for such contract to be accepted in Italy, signatures must be qualified through a verified online system/service provider.

Q: What is the statutory notice period in Romania?

Termination notices must be provided in writing and all employees are entitled to at least 20 days notice – 45 days for employees in managerial posts.


Reward and Labour Relations Q&As

Q: How do we determine special benefits for teleworkers in Portugal?  What are they entitled to?

The law does not specify the benefits that are to be provided to teleworkers.  It is, however, good practice to ensure that the employee’s working environment complies with health and safety requirements and that appropriate insurance is in place. It is also necessary for employers to meet business telephone/internet costs and pay part of utility bills.

Q: Are there works councils in Austria?

Yes, in company employing more than 5 people a works council may be established.  For companies with 10 to 19 employees 2 reps must be elected.  Reps serve a term of 4 years.  It must be noted that they works councils have a right to codetermination. 

Q: We have realised that we have been overpaying an employee in the Czech Republic for a few months now.  Can we claim the money back?  Can we simply proceed with deductions?

It is not possible to proceed with any deduction from wages without first informing the employee.  It is necessary to discuss the matter with the employee, state your case clearly and construct a repayment plan so that repayments are not overly burdensome for the employee.  The specific issue requires careful handling considering facts on a case to case basis. It is not wise to accuse the employee of being aware of the overpayment as this will reduce readiness to cooperate.


Working Time & Leave Q&As

Q: What statutory overtime restrictions apply in Hong Kong?

There are no laws governing overtime, nor night work restrictions in Hong Kong.  However, there are special legal provisions governing the employment of children and young workers, i.e. children (between the age of 13 and 15) are not allowed to work between 7p.m. and 7a.m.

Q: Is there a paternity or parental leave entitlement in Cyprus?

Cyprus legislation entitles up to two weeks paid paternity leave to be taken within 6 months of birth – however the entitlement only applies to married men.  Unpaid parental leave of up to 18 weeks may be taken, provided that 3 weeks advance notice is given to the employer. 

Q: What is the standard working time in Sri Lanka and is there a cap on overtime?

Laws differ between particular industries. The standard working week, however, ranges between 45 to 48 hours a week, not including a mandatory daily one hour break.  Overtime is capped at 15 hours a week.