On 15 February 2021, the UK government imposed stricter requirements on individuals travelling or transiting from any of the 33 countries (‘red list countries’) that have had a travel ban to England applied. Separate advice applies to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Under section 109(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), an employer is liable for acts of discrimination, harassment, and victimisation carried out by its employees in the course of employment: “[a]nything done by a person (A) in the course of A’s employment must be treated as also done by the employer.” Section 109 further states that “[i]t does not matter whether that thing is done with the employer’s … knowledge or approval.” However, under section 109(4) EA 2010, an employer has a defence if it can demonstrate that it “took all reasonable steps” to prevent the employee from carrying out the act of discrimination. When considering an employer’s defence that it took all reasonable steps to prevent an employee from discriminating against another employee, a tribunal will examine how effective the steps were likely to be when they were taken and how effective they proved to be in practice. The decision of Allay (UK) Ltd v Mr S Gehlen looks at the scope of this defence.
On 11 January 2021, the UK Home Office published guidance on the “Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCS).” The scheme applies to individuals who left the United Kingdom before 17 March 2020, with permission to live in the UK, whose visas have since expired whilst they were abroad, and are now unable to return to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions. The CVCS allows those individuals to enter the UK to make leave to remain (LTR) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applications.
Certain Canadian provinces have been especially hard hit by COVID-19 outbreaks. Most notably, Ontario and Quebec—two of Canada’s most populated provinces—have experienced the highest number of infection counts among the country’s provinces. While Ontario and Quebec have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, other provinces have had a different experience.
At the beginning of 2021, extensive changes in German employment law came into effect, including some of particular significance to employers. In addition, on January 19, 2021, the German Federal Government implemented restrictions on public life in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic that affect employers.
On Friday February 19, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and two other regions will remain in shutdown for at least two more weeks. Among other things, this means that workers who are nonessential to in-person operations must continue to work from home. This represents the province pausing its recent efforts to reopen most of Ontario’s regions.
On February 8, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced the upcoming end to its state of emergency, as regions will begin reopening according to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction framework. The Government of Ontario also announced amendments to this framework.
Due to increased population mobility and the seasonal winter climate, the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico has worsened, prompting many states to issue hygiene measures to reduce the rate of infection and hospital occupancy rates. According to the federal government’s four-tiered traffic light monitoring system, 13 states are in red traffic light status (the status with the most stringent work and mobility restrictions), which is the highest number of states in this status since early August 2020. In addition, for the first time since late September 2020, no state is in green traffic light status, which is the only status without restrictions.
On January 20, 2021, the Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury (Departamento de Hacienda, commonly known as “Hacienda”) issued Administrative Determination No. 21-01 (AD 21-01), which provides that lump-sum distributions from the retirement plan for Puerto Rico government employees are eligible for direct and indirect rollovers into Puerto Rico–qualified retirement plans maintained by private-sector employers. In practice, however, this determination is unlikely to have much of an impact on the operation of private-sector employer plans.
On January 25, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a proclamation reinstating COVID-19 entry restrictions for travelers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area of Europe. The proclamation also adds South Africa to the list of countries subject to travel restrictions.
Last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Congress and the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury (Hacienda) granted favorable tax treatment to coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) and participant loans from U.S.-qualified plans and Puerto Rico-qualified plans, respectively. Recently, both jurisdictions extended similar tax treatment to certain distributions, hardship withdrawals, and plan loans related to non-COVID-19 disasters.
On November 12, 2020, the Federal Executive filed before the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union the “Initiative of the Federal Executive that reforms, adds and derogates various provisions of the Federal Labor Law, Social Security Law, Law of Employees Housing Fund Institute, Federal Tax Code, Income Tax Law and Value Added Tax Law.” To date, this proposed amendment is still under discussion and review. Notwithstanding the proposed federal legislation, at the local level additional schemes to regulate outsourcing have been developed.
COVID-19 continues to cause significant restrictions in many areas around the world, including workplaces: Employees are working in remote settings, they no longer share tools and supplies, partitions separate workspaces, employees may not gather in common areas, and in-person meetings are reduced to a minimum. With distribution of the first vaccines impending, employers may expect a return to pre-pandemic practices. There is wide variation internationally on the approach to vaccinations. Below are answers to employers’ frequently asked questions about vaccinating global and multinational workforces.
A “frontier worker” is a resident of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, who is employed or self-employed in the United Kingdom.
After the political and constitutional upheaval of the last four years that has been Brexit, a trade deal—the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement—was finally reached between the United Kingdom (UK) and the European Union (EU) on December 24, 2020, just days before the deadline when the UK was set to crash out of all EU treaties.
For a host of legal and practical reasons, the only feasible alternative for disposing of the accounts of missing participants in a terminating 401(k) or other defined contribution retirement plan qualified only in Puerto Rico (commonly known as a “P.R.-only plan”) is, after making reasonable efforts to locate the missing participants, depositing with the proper state unclaimed property fund(s) the retirement money of those participants who cannot be located.
As of January 18, 2021, the number of positive COVID-19 cases recorded in Mexico since the pandemic began had risen to nearly 1.65 million, up from 1.45 million two weeks earlier. Some areas of Mexico have higher infection rates and hospitalizations than others, in part due to population density and access to medicine and care. As a result, 10 states are now designated in the color red—indicative of the highest risk level of pandemic spread according to Mexico’s traffic light COVID-19 alert system—up from 5 states for the previous alert period.
Effective January 20, 2021, the Ontario government is increasing workplace inspections of retailers and other workplaces as part of a crackdown on compliance to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols are being followed and enforced.
Effective January 1, 2021, immigration procedures related to foreign nationals and expatriates are subject to new governmental fees, published by Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior (Secretaria de Gobernación, SEGOB) and National Immigration Institute (NII) (Instituto Nacional de Migración, INM).
As the 4 April 2021, gender pay gap reporting deadline approaches, the UK government has published an updated set of guidance for employers on the gender pay gap reporting requirements. Although the reporting requirements have not changed, the guidance has been updated to include information for employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular relating to furlough leave and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
With daily COVID-19 case counts approaching 4,000 in Ontario, the Ontario provincial government announced on January 12, 2021, a state of emergency and a return to stricter lockdown measures that will take effect at 12:01 a.m. on January 14, 2021.
On 4 January 2021, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a third national lockdown in England. The regulations allow the lockdown to continue until 31 March 2021, although the restrictions are expected to be reviewed in mid-February to allow for the possible reopening of schools. All of the United Kingdom is now under strict measures to curb the spread of the new fast-spreading COVID-19 variant—with Wales, Northern Ireland and most of Scotland also in lockdown (although these countries are governed by separate rules).
On January 6, 2021, the Québec government announced new COVID-19 restrictions that will take effect from January 9, 2021, through February 8, 2021.
On January 4, 2021, the City of Toronto announced that employers and workplaces operating in Toronto’s public health unit will be subject to new reporting requirements regarding positive COVID-19 cases. In addition, Toronto Public Health announced that it will begin reporting data on workplace outbreaks effective January 7, 2021.
On December 9, 2020, Alberta’s Bill 47, the Ensuring Safety and Cutting Red Tape Act, 2020, received Royal Assent. The legislation replaces Alberta’s current Occupational Health and Safety Act in its entirety, and makes significant amendments to the Alberta Workers’ Compensation Act.
Cases of COVID-19 are continuing to rise in Mexico, with more than 1.45 million positive cases as of January 4, 2021, according to the Ministry of Health, and hospital occupancy rates still climbing. The worsening spread of COVID-19 has prompted the federal government to impose greater restrictions on activities in more states throughout the country according to the nation’s four-tiered “traffic light” pandemic monitoring system.
On December 31, 2020, the Government of Canada announced new restrictions that will apply to all airline passengers entering Canada.
On December 16, 2020, the Mexican National Commission on Minimum Wages (Comisión Nacional de los Salarios Mínimos or CONASAMI) approved, by majority vote, a general increase to the daily minimum wage, including an increase to the minimum daily wage in the Free Zone of the North Border (Zona Libre de la Frontera Norte or ZLFN)—an area that comprises cities along or near the U.S. border. Also, on December 23, 2020, CONASAMI published the corresponding decree in the Official Gazette of the Federation.
Confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in Mexico increased to more than 1.3 million as of December 18, 2020, according to Mexico’s Ministry of Health, prompting the federal government to designate the majority of states at high risk of spread of the virus according to the nation’s four-tiered “traffic light” pandemic monitoring system.