As organizations settle into more flexible working arrangements in the wake of the pandemic, we are seeing a wave of changes in Inclusion, Diversity & Equity (I,D&E)-related legislation. Across the globe, governments are seeking to augment long-established, generic laws on equality to promote inclusion and diversity in the workforce and keep up with measures that many organizations are already implementing.
In this HR Trend Watch, we summarize recent trends and developments in I,D&E, focusing in particular on those relating to women in the workplace and work-life balance.
Supporting women in the workplace
Governments are recognizing the need for laws to protect the rights of and alleviate difficulties unique to working women. A menstrual leave for female employees is under discussion in Spain. In the UK, menopause in the workplace has gained much traction in the light of businesses, governments and regulators having publicly recognized menopause as a health priority. In China, a provincial court issued its first equal opportunity case judgment in favor of a pregnant employee. In Latin America, Colombia has required the implementation of nursing rooms in private companies with less than 1,000 employees, while Argentina has required employers to provide maternity and day care rooms for companies with more than 100 employees.
Meanwhile, Brazil, Singapore and Japan have launched initiatives to strengthen career advancement opportunities for women, and in Europe, the European Commission has proposed a directive for EU member states to enforce a quota on the participation of women in corporate boards, following the initiatives of Germany and the Netherlands.
Work-life balance and family-friendly changes
With the European Union’s deadline on implementing the work-life balance directive now having passed, several member states including Poland, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands are slated to enforce enhanced parental and carer’s leaves. In the Asia Pacific region, several jurisdictions including China, Japan and Malaysia have improved parental leaves for employees, including giving options for employees to request flexible working arrangements to accommodate the needs of their young families.
Read on for the latest regional developments and thought leadership pieces in I,D&E:
|• Australia: Sexual harassment and assault results in large compensation award |
An employer was found to be vicariously liable for the harassment of a female employee by her male co-worker.
|• China: Guangdong province court issues first equal opportunity case judgment in favor of pregnant employee|
Guangdong province’s first equal employment rights case recently concluded. The worker, who had been fired on account of her pregnancy, claimed lost salary for the period of pregnancy and for the unused maternity leave as well as compensation for mental distress.
|• China: New parental and elder care leave requirements implemented throughout China|
In an effort to increase China’s birth rate and encourage people to spend more time taking care of elderly parents, the national and local governments throughout China have recently provided employees with various new leave entitlements.
|• Japan: Changes to action plan regarding women’s participation and advancement and childcare leave |
Starting April 1, 2022, the requirements under the Act on the Promotion of Female Participation and Career Advancement in the Workplace now apply to companies with more than 100 regular employees.
|• Malaysia: Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021 — key amendments to the Employment Act 1955|
A summary of the key amendments introduced by the Employment (Amendment) Bill 2021, which include: enhanced maternity leave entitlement, enhanced sick leave, restriction on termination of pregnant employee and new rules on
|• Singapore: Singapore Women’s Development proposes anti-discrimination laws, guidelines on flexible work|
A summary of the Singapore government’s White Paper on Singapore Women’s Development, the first whole-of-society review of women’s development.
|• Thailand: Thai cabinet approves Civil Partnership Bill|
The Thai cabinet approved in June 2022 the Civil Partnership Bill, which allows same-sex couples to register their partnership. This is a development for gender equality and diversity. Civil unions will be available to consenting same-sex couples who are at least 17 years old, as long as at least one of them is a Thai national. Civil partners will have the same legal rights as married people regarding personal and jointly held property, as well as the right to adopt children.
Another interesting trend on inclusion, diversity and equity in the workplace increasingly being observed in Thailand is around special leaves, where additional leaves are provided by some employers, including leave for transgender reassignment surgery and paternity leave, as well as increased welfare coverage for LGBTQ employees.
|• European Union: Board gender quotas a step closer|
On June 6, 2022, the EU reached a political agreement on long-mooted proposals for board gender quotas. If finalized, listed companies would need to ensure that either 40% of their non-executive directors or 33% of all directors are from the underrepresented gender by June 2026.
|• Italy: New laws on transparency and work-life balance|
On August 13, 2022, two new laws implementing EU Directives No. 2019/1152 (“Transparency Directive,” click here for our latest newsletter on this matter) and No. 2019/1158 (“Work-life Balance Directive”) will enter into force.
|• Netherlands: Use your voice — four recommendations for our new ‘MeToo’ government commissioner|
Recommendations for the new government commissioner on dealing with inappropriate behavior in the workplace.
|• Netherlands: Expanded paid parental leave takes effect on August 2, 2022|
On October 12, 2021, the senate approved the Paid Parental Leave bill. On the basis of this bill, parents will receive (partial) payment for nine weeks of parental leave as of August 2, 2022.
|• Poland: Amendments to Poland’s Labour Code|
Amendments to Poland’s Labour Code to implement the European Union’s Work-Life Balance Directive include enhanced parental leave and privileges.
|• South Africa: Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace — a timely slap in the face for bullies at work|
In South Africa, the recently published Code of Good Practice on the Prevention and Elimination of Harassment in the Workplace guides employers and employees in managing harassment at work.
|• United Kingdom: Belief in ethical veganism that extends to breaking the law is not protected|
An employment tribunal has held that a claimant’s belief in ethical veganism that extended to taking positive action to reduce or prevent the suffering of animals, which included criminal conduct such as trespassing on private property to expose and remove suffering animals, was not a protected philosophical belief under the Equality Act 2010.
|• United Kingdom: No plans to make menopause a protected characteristic under the Equality Act|
The Minister for Work and Pensions and Minister for Women has confirmed that the government is not currently planning to introduce menopause as a protected characteristic under the Equality Act or to implement dual discrimination.
|• United Kingdom: Infertility — a workplace issue|
Organizations wishing to foster an inclusive culture and maintain “employer of choice” status, are increasingly considering the workforce impact of such life events which were traditionally regarded as purely personal issues.
|• Argentina: Regulation on the provision of maternity and daycare rooms|
As of March 23, 2023, employers are mandated to provide maternity and daycare spaces for children between 45 days and three years old who are under the care of employees during working hours.
|• Brazil*: New measure and decree to promote the inclusion of women and young people in the workforce |
A new legal measure implements a program to include and maintain women and young people in the labor market, along with a new Decree, which provides for the right to professionalization of underage and young people through professional learning programs.
*Trench Rossi Watanabe and Baker McKenzie have executed a strategic cooperation agreement for consulting on foreign law.
|• Latin America: Inclusion and diversity report |
In this report, we take a closer look at Latin America’s I&D landscape.
|• United States: The proliferation of pay transparency laws: What US employers need to know (Video)|
In this Quick Chat video, we explore key pay transparency developments in New York, California, Colorado, Washington and several other states and how multinational businesses can develop consistent and compliant compensation plans and recruitment policies.
|• United States: Running a privacy law-compliant inclusion & diversity data collection program globally|
Our E&C and Data Privacy groups collaborated to author an article published in IAPP on the global recruitment and employee-directed I&D initiatives of organizations where diversity data collection may have the potential to increase (rather than decrease) risks of discrimination claims.
|• Canada: Understanding the new right to disconnect in Ontario (Video)|
In December 2021, the Ontario government passed Bill 27 – Working for Workers Act, 2021 requiring employers with 25 or more employees to create a “Disconnecting from Work Policy” by June 2, 2022. The Ontario government is following the lead of France, Spain and Portugal – all of which have adopted similar legislation in recent years.
For More Information
For further insight on ID&E in the workplace, please follow the hyperlinked resources below.
- Mind the Gap Series: Part 1 and Part 2, a 2-part report on how organizations and leaders across the globe are advancing I&D
- Inclusion & Diversity 2022 Virtual Series, a series of webinars conducted by Baker McKenzie leaders on cultivating an inclusive and diverse organizational culture
- Inclusion and Diversity legal updates dashboard on Baker McKenzie InsightPlus
- Inclusion, Equity and Diversity in the Workplace hub