Five Key Employment Law Differences Global Employers Need to Know

Since globalization is the new norm, many US-based employers need to manage not only local employees, but employees working abroad who may be entitled to either greater or lesser protections than employees working in the US.

As a result, HR professionals who are responsible for US employees and employees overseas have the added challenge of knowing the differences between US employment laws and those of other countries. Here are five notable differences that global employers cannot afford to ignore:

1.         Employment Contracts

Most US employees are employed at-will with no written employment contract. However, written employment contracts are generally required outside of the US.

For instance, in China all employment contracts must be in writing with the exception of part-time work. The employment contract also must contain certain specified terms and must be signed within one month after an employee starts to work for an employer. Similarly in Russia, employment contracts must be in writing and contain certain minimum information and terms.

2.         Notice Periods

Since most employment relationships in the US are at-will, employees or employers have the right to terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, without advanced notice. However, in many countries employers are required to provide employees with a minimum notice period to terminate their employment, except for when an employee breaches the employment contract.

For example, in the Czech Republic the required minimum notice period to terminate an employment contract by either the employer or the employee is two months.

3.         Recruitment and Selection

US employers are prohibited from asking job applicants certain questions. For instance, they may not ask candidates about their familial status. But on the flip side, employers in Mexico and Venezuela are free to seek information on a job applicant’s family situation.

4.         Discrimination

In the US, various characteristics are protected on a federal level from discrimination, including:

  • Race;
  • Color;
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy);
  • National origin;
  • Age (40 or older);
  • Disability; and
  • Genetic information.

Even more characteristics are protected on a state or municipal level. This differs from some countries, such as Hong Kong, where it is not unlawful for an employer to discriminate on grounds such as age, physical appearance, height, educational attainment, political opinion, religious beliefs or sexual orientation. However, Hong Kong’s Equal Opportunities Commission is seeking to make discrimination on all of these grounds unlawful.

5.         Sunday Work

Although some states restrict Sunday work, no federal law prohibits employees from working on Sundays in the US.  However, there are several countries that specifically prohibit work on Sundays. For instance, in Switzerland working on Sundays is generally prohibited and requires authorization from the public authorities. Similarly, France makes Sunday a non-working day with limited exceptions, such as activities involving emergency services.

That’s why HR professionals must develop a global strategy when dealing with these variations plus a host of other issues, such as pay and benefits, collective bargaining rights and health and safety protections.

Before an organization rolls out any employment policies or enters into employment contracts (among other things), employers should confirm that they are in compliance not only with each country’s laws, but also with any relevant local laws.

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