Our 2019 in review, 2020 preview compiles the most significant developments and trends across Europe, Middle East and Africa, Asia Pacific and the Americas in 2019 and looks ahead to the key changes expected to come into effect in 2020.
Whistleblowing has been one of the standout global themes of 2019 and will continue to be so in 2020. The EU Whistleblowing Directive was finalised in November 2019 and Member States must legislate to provide whistleblowers with safe reporting channels and with protection against dismissal or retaliation. In the US, the SEC continues to receive significant numbers of whistleblower tips and to make sizeable financial awards to individuals making valuable disclosures. In the UK, which has had comprehensive laws for over 10 years, an All Party Parliamentary Group is reviewing whistleblower protection and its initial report suggests that significant reform is required. Finally, in Australia comprehensive whistleblowing legislation came into effect on 1 July 2019 to expand the types of disclosures that can be made and provide increased protection for those who blow the whistle.
The regulation of working hours was always set to be an issue for global employers in 2019 with changes to laws in, for example, Brazil and Canada and strict obligations coming into effect in Japan to limit overtime hours and oblige employers to record working time. The issue became even more significant when the ECJ handed down its landmark decision in CCOO v Deutsche Bank in May 2019. This judgment means that EU Member States must ensure employers are required to operate systems to measure the duration of daily working time. In some jurisdictions, such as the Netherlands and Poland, these requirements are already in place and, in anticipation of the CCOO decision, new regulations were implemented in Spain in May 2019. Elsewhere, however, laws will have to be updated in view of the ECJ's decision, making this an important topic to monitor in 2020 and beyond.
Employee mental health continues to be a global theme. The German Coalition Government Agreement has identified protection of employee mental health from digitalisation risks as an area for action and, similarly, in Spain there are proposals to entitle employees to disconnect from work devices outside working hours. In the UK, the Health and Safety Executive has included employee mental health as one of its priority occupational health targets for 2019 and beyond, while in Mexico legislation on mental health at work came into effect in October 2019 to require employers to identify and address workplace risks.
Sexual harassment and the related issue of use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) in employment have been significant topics across the globe in 2019 and will continue to be so during 2020. In the UK, following consultation during 2019, publication and implementation of new UK legislation in relation to both NDAs and workplace harassment is awaited. In the USA, numerous States have also legislated in these areas and, at Federal level, proposals have been made in the "BE HEARD in the Workplace Act" which was introduced to Congress in April 2019. New laws in France came into effect early in the year imposing enhanced obligations on employers to address workplace harassment; new laws already passed in Canada will come into effect in 2020; and, in Australia, the outcome of the Human Rights Commission inquiry into workplace sexual harassment is awaited.
Gender pay reporting is also set to be another important theme in 2020. New requirements will come into force next year in Norway, Canada and Switzerland while proposals are also expected to progress in, for example, Spain and the Netherlands. At EU level, the new Commission President has pledged to table measures to introduce binding pay-transparency measures during the first 100 days of her mandate which means that her proposals can be expected before early March 2020. Now that the requirements in both the UK and France are fully in effect, the focus in those countries will be for businesses to be able explain steps being taken to improve and, ideally, to demonstrate progress year on year.
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