Legal revolution leads to confusion

first_imgLegal revolution leads to confusionOn 1 Jun 2001 in Personnel Today Employmentproblems abound across the whole of Europe, and Western European countries arealso wrestling with legislative change. Bo Jones reportsThereis little doubt that the downturn in the US economy is causing ripple effectson the other side of the Atlantic. Like their American counterparts, companiesacross Europe are announcing profit warnings and laying off staff.Butwhile people are moving out through one door, others are still coming inthrough the other. All across the region there is still a severe shortage ofspecialists in many disciplines – IT professionals, marketers and finance arestill in short supply. And firms are having to fight harder and harder toattract the talent they need.KasperEldam, editor of the Danish management consultancy EHR, has a sound piece ofadvice for European HR executives struggling to be the employer of choice.”It is extremely important to differentiate between candidates you want torecruit, and to adopt a suitable strategy,” he says. “Thereis a huge difference in recruiting different sorts of workers – generalmanagers, IT workers and so on – so it is critical that you are prepared tomeet the different demands, questions and ambitions of these types ofemployees, and that you do not employ the same recruitment procedure for all ofthem,” he adds.InDenmark, in particular, he sees “company morals and ethics as beingimportant for some candidates in terms of environment, firm policy, work and soon”. Asa result, the organisations in Denmark that are looking to attract new hiresare increasingly using “green balance sheets, social balance sheets andethical balance sheets”, he says.Butwhile the market in Western Europe may still be candidate-driven, the situationin Central and Eastern Europe has, to some extent, taken a dramatic turnfollowing the recent rouble crisis.”Untilthe crisis,” recalls Eric Ligtenbelt, managing director Ukraine, Balticsand Central Europe of executive search and selection consultancy CommonwealthResources, “it was very much a candidate-driven market, but that haschanged considerably. Now there are enough qualified people in theregion.” Butdespite the abundance of talent in CEE, companies are still very cautious aboutrecruiting new hires to fuel their business ambitions. In the Ukraine, forexample, explains Ligtenbelt, “a Soviet-type employment system stillexists, meaning that a company is seen as having to provide employment”. Hecontinues, “Once you’ve hired an individual, it is extremely difficult toget rid of them even if they are underperforming. Three formal written warningshave to be given within a set period of time. These warnings are often heavilydisputed by the employee and during that time you can miss the period in whichthey can be dismissed. Then, the whole process has to start again from thebeginning.”However,he admits, there is a new generation of employees – the 25- to 35-year-olds –who are looking to make a career for themselves. Although they are aware ofemployment laws and the ease with which they can stay with one firm, they tendto be much more flexible and willing to move from company to company if theyfind better prospects elsewhere.Hungary,too, has a stringent labour code. According to the Federation of EuropeanEmployers, the Hungarian government “specifies various conditions ofemployment, including termination procedures, severance pay, maternity leave,training, union consultation rights in the context of some management decisions,annual and sick leave entitlement, and labour conflict resolutionprocedures”.Thelabour laws of Western Europe are less strict in most countries. But despitetheir comparative leniency, they can be just as complex and open for discussion.InFrance, for example, employers are grappling with the introduction of the35-hour week, which was brought in by legislation last year. Introduced withthe aim of combating unemployment in the country (currently among the highestin the European Union), the 35-hour working week is expected to create 500,000jobs by 2003. Butdespite its good intentions it has thrown up a whole host of other staffingissues for firms, among them the definition of legal working time, overtime andcompensation, the issue of part-timers and distinction of different levels ofemployees.TheNetherlands also saw discussion about working hours last year with a new itemof employee-oriented working time flexibility legislation being introduced thatgives employees the right to request an extension or a shortening of theirworking hours.Thegovernment in Belgium is also encouraging social partners to discuss workingtime reduction and has agreed to reduce the maximum working week from thecurrent 39 hours to 38 hours by 2003. Spain has opened the debate over a35-hour week, although no formal decision has yet been made.InGermany, new laws mean that employees have the right to request a reduction inworking hours to become part-time employees and an employer cannot refuse themwithout a valid reason.Inthe UK, employment laws are currently more focused on discrimination thanworking time. In particular, age discrimination, with the government advocatinga code of practice on age diversity in employment.Andin Denmark, the political agenda is more geared towards the right totransparency in salary and the legal protection of part-time workers. As EHR’sEldam laments, “The legal problems always seem to evolve when employeesare sacked because of cutbacks and rationalisation, because the reasons have tobe impartial.” This is particularly true in the case of mergers andacquisitions, an ever more common event in today’s global world of business. “Theconditions of benefits, salary negotiations, insurance and the like must be inplace in formal contracts before the merger or takeover happens. In that wayconflicts over which company policy or rules are to be followed in the futurecan be eliminated,” he advises.But,he adds, “M&As often result in dismissals and in Denmark, these can bedifficult to justify in a legally acceptable way.”Toptips for hiring in Europe–Don’t oversell the job and the company culture to the candidate, it willbackfire on you.–Don’t expect the candidate to be loyal to your company – you cannot guaranteethem a job for life (and they probably wouldn’t want it anyway) so they shouldnot be expected to promise to stay with you forever.–Don’t ask if a potential female employee is pregnant or planning to becomepregnant. This still happens across the region and is a real”turn-off” for candidates.Furtherinformation… (EHR) (Federation of EuropeanEmployers) (EuropeanFoundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions) (Gary Johnson’s Brave NewWork World) Consulting) Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. 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