Nitiqat quotas are expected to increase significantly in September 2017 which will mean that employers will potentially be downgraded if they maintain their current Saudisation levels.
The Council of Cooperative Health Insurance (CCHI) published a ‘Unified Health Insurance Policy’ (Unified Policy) for private sector employers on 10 July 2016, which has todate been implemented in four stages. The implementation of the fourth stage commenced on 10 April and requires employers with less than 25 employees to comply.
A 90 day amnesty period began on 29 March 2017 which allows all expatriate individuals who are currently residing in the kingdom without valid documentation to leave the country without incurring any penalties under the residency and labour laws.
One of the clarifications issued by the Ministry stated that the enhanced maternity benefit can be extended to women who are already under maternity leave at the time of enforcement of this Amendment Act. However, those female employees who had already availed 12 weeks of maternity leave before enforcement of the Amendment Act were not entitled to avail the extended benefit of the 26 weeks’ leave. The said Act is applicable to all mines, plantations, shops and establishments and factories. These mines, plantations, shops and establishments could be either in an organized sector or an unorganized sector. Further, it is also applicable to all female employees who are employed in any capacity directly or through any agency i.e. either contractual or as a consultant.
The Sapin II Law set out the obligation for all employers with at least 50 employees to establish a procedure for receiving alerts issued by whistleblowers. Implementation modalities are now set and will enter into force on January 1, 2018. The procedure for receiving alerts shall specify the manner in which the author sends his report to a hierarchical superior, the employer or the individual entrusted with this responsibility. It must also lay out the measures taken by the company to inform the author without delay that the alert has been received, of the time limit for dealing with the alert and the follow-up. It shall also lay out the procedures for notifying the whistleblower and the persons concerned by the alert of the completion of the verification of the alert’s admissibility and of the facts. It must guarantee the strict confidentiality of the whistleblower, the facts of the alert and the persons concerned. Within two months of the closure of the proceedings, the evidence in the file shall be destroyed. The employer must inform the employees of the existence of this procedure (by posting, notification by e-mail or possibly by publication on the company’s intranet). Finally, the company must appoint a person or group to receive these alerts. They may be external to the company.
On June 13, 2017, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security released the Circular on Implementing the Treaty between China and Switzerland on Social Security (hereinafter referred to as the “Circular”), which came into effect on June 19, 2017. According to the Circular, the Swiss, who are dispatched by Swiss companies to work in the territory of China, or who are staff members working on vessels and aircrafts, or governmental employees, could be exempted from the payment of pension insurance premiums and unemployment insurance premiums in China. The exemption period for the said dispatched employees is up to 6 years unless otherwise extended by the competent authorities or administrative institutions of both countries. To date, the Chinese government has signed bilateral treaties on social security with France, the Netherlands, Germany, Korea, Denmark, Finland, Canada and Switzerland.
A recent decision from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found that the tort of harassment, including workplace harassment, can be the basis for an independent cause of action in a civil proceeding. The Court stated that the following elements must be met:
- Was the conduct of the defendants toward the plaintiff outrageous?
- Did the defendants intend to cause emotional stress or did they have a reckless disregard for causing the plaintiff to suffer from emotional stress?
- Did the plaintiff suffer from severe or extreme emotional distress?
- Was the outrageous conduct of the defendants the actual or proximate cause of the emotional distress?
The Court indicated that a plaintiff is not required to prove that he or she has a visible and provable illness. However, a plaintiff is required to prove that he or she suffered “severe or extreme emotional distress”.
While it remains to be seen how difficult it will be to make out the test for the tort of harassment and/or if employees will start claiming the tort of harassment in civil proceedings, the recognition of this tort opens the door to additional potential damages for employers for failing to protect employees from harassment in accordance with statutory obligations, including the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and the Human Rights Code.
The Order, signed on April 18, 2017, at Snap-On Tools in Wisconsin, directs the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice, Labor, and State to crack down on fraud and abuse in the immigration system, across the board, to create higher wages and rates of employment for U.S. workers.
The Order requires the departments to make proposals on what can be done to achieve the goals of ensuring that:
- American workers are protected,
- H-1B visas are going only to the most highly skilled workers, and
- American workers are not replaced by “cheap labor” from abroad.
Like various reform bills pending in Congress, the focus is on the perceived abuses of outsourcing firms.
Some necessary reforms envisioned in the Order will have to be legislative, but others can be accomplished administratively, including:
- Increases in fees for H-1B visa petitions;
- Changes to the wage scale to institute higher prevailing wage requirements;
- Greater focus on enforcement against gross and egregious law violations; and
- Adjusting the lottery system to give Master’s degree holders priority.
Indeed, some changes in this direction already have been made. The DHS had announced that it will be targeting outsourcing firms with more unannounced site visits to H-1B dependent employers. It also will target outsourcing firms in adjudications by considering whether employees classified as computer programmers really are eligible for H-1B status.
President Trump has stated that he would like eliminate the random lottery system altogether. Instead, H-1B visas would be awarded to the “most skilled or highest paid” applicants. This sort of priority system has been suggested by Senators Dick Durbin and Chuck Grassley in their bipartisan bill, the “H-1B and L-1 Visa Reform Act.” The Durbin-Grassley system would prioritize workers with the highest wages and advanced U.S. STEM degrees. The Administration would see this type of reform as an “elegant way of solving the problem” of outsourcing.
A White House background briefing says there is a “great appetite in [the] departments and agencies to get to work on closing loopholes, shoring up [the H-1B] program, [and] dealing with long-running abuses.” While there is no specific timetable set for the reports and reforms, the expectation is that things will start to happen soon.
The Government has now set up a ‘beta’ version of the website on which employers’ gender pay gap information should be published, allowing employers and employees alike to compare gender pay gap information with competitors. A few employers have already posted their figures. The first deadline for publishing gender pay gap reports is 4 April 2018.
The use of the electronic cigarette (vaping) in premises with workstations, closed and covered and used for collective use, shall be prohibited as from 1 October 2017. It will therefore be prohibited to vaporize in common areas, but not in individual offices, and the ban should not apply in workplaces that are open to the public, such as cafés, restaurants, hotels,… The employer must put in place an apparent signage reminding the prohibition of vaping. Failing this, a penalty may be imposed. The act of smoking electronic cigarettes in the workplace in violation of the prohibition is also sanctioned by a fine.