In the first quarter of 2022, several countries enacted changes to their pension system and updated provident fund contributions. We also saw countries extend provisions for statutory leaves.
Canada Increases Statutory Sick Leave
The Canadian government has increased the paid statutory sick leave to a maximum of 10 days per calendar year. The addition of sick leave is in response to the adversities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chile Creates New Old-Age Pension Program
The Chilean government rolled out Pensión Garantizada Universal (PGU), a new government-sponsored old-age pension that will be paid to all eligible long-term residents aged 65 or older. Administered by the Social Security Institute (Instituto de Previsión Social), the program will pay eligible individuals a total monthly benefit of 185,000 pesos and funeral expenses up to 15 Units of Account (UFs) to beneficiaries. The benefit amounts will be adjusted on July 1st and, in the future, every February 1st. The government started providing PGU benefits to eligible employees on February 18th, with the entire program expected to launch on August 1. PGU is an attempt to ensure that all retired residents have incomes above the national poverty line while excluding the wealthiest 10% of the population.
Australia Superannuation Changes Approved
Several changes proposed to the superannuation in Australia’s 2021 federal budget have been approved. The changes include the removal of AUD 450 minimum monthly earnings for super guaranteed contributions, increased maximum withdrawal under the First Home Super Saver Scheme, and removal of the Work Test for non-concessional, voluntary, and salary-sacrificed superannuation contributions for 67 to 74-year-old individuals. Changes will be effective July 1, 2022.
Malaysia Reduces Provident Fund Employee Contribution Rate
From January 1, 2022 to June 2022, the employee contribution rate for Employee Provident Fund (EPF) is temporarily reduced to 9% from the previous 11%. This change primarily affects employees below 60 years of age. It is an extension of prior rate reductions that were implemented since December 2020 to provide financial relief to employees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Singapore Expands Family Leave Eligibility
Effective January 1, 2022, Singapore expanded eligibility for family leave. The government will provide reimbursement to employers that provide paid maternity, paternity, or adoptive leave. Employees must have been continuously employed for fewer than three months. Employees laid off due to corporate reorganization or redundancy with unused family leave may receive a corresponding benefit payment. Additionally, the government will provide certain benefits and government-paid leave to parents of a stillborn baby delivered after the 22nd week of pregnancy.
South Korea Allows Part-Times to Join Workplace Pension
Eligible part-time employees with less than one month of the labor contract period and who earn a salary of more than KRW 2,200,000 per month are now allowed to join the workplace National Pension Scheme. Employees and employers will both contribute 4.5% of the monthly salary towards the program. This change went into effect on January 1, 2022.
South Korea Increases Holidays for Private Sector Employees
Private sector employees will now receive the same number of holidays as public sector employees. This policy applies to private sector employers with five or more employees. Another day must be given as a holiday if a public holiday falls on a Sunday. Additionally, employers can provide another working day as a holiday instead of a public holiday, depending on the requirements of the business. Employers must pay a 50% holiday premium to employees who work less than 8 hours on a national holiday and 100% for employees working for more than 8 hours.
Taiwan Extends Paternity Leave
The paid paternity leave in Taiwan is extended to 7 days, up from the previous 5 days.
Pregnant employees can use paternity leave to attend prenatal appointments. The paternity leave can also be used by employees to accompany their pregnant partners. The changes went into effect on January 18, 2022.
Czech Republic Doubles Paternity Leave
The Czech Republic has doubled its paid paternity leave from 7 days to 14 days. Employees must take the leave in a single period within six weeks of the child’s birth. The change went into effect on January 1, 2022.
France Enacts New Leave for Child’s Disability
France has enacted a minimum of two days of employer-paid leave for employees dealing with their child’s disability, cancer in children, or chronic pathology. The leave went into effect on December 18, 2021.
Ireland Rolls Out New Public Holiday
Ireland has rolled out two new public holidays. In 2022, a one-time public holiday was given on March 18th to honor the citizens and victims affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. An additional holiday will be provided on the first Monday of every February to celebrate Imbolc/St. Brigid’s Day beginning in 2023.
Portugal Extends Bereavement Leave
The Portugal government has increased bereavement leave in the event of the death of a child. The leave was increased from 5 days to 20 consecutive days, and includes the death of a stepchild, son-in-law, or daughter-in-law. The law also applies to employees with civil custody.
Bereavement leave of 5 days is provided for the death of grandparents, great-grandparents, grand siblings, grandchild, great-grandchildren, and siblings-in-law. In addition, 5 days of leave is provided for the death of parents, stepparents, spouse, partner, and parents-in-law. Additionally, the government offers psychological support through the national healthcare system to employees dealing with bereavement.
Spain Enacts Changes to Pension System
Spain enacted several changes to the old-age pension system effective January 1, 2022. Employed individuals who have reached the normal retirement age are now exempt from making most social security contributions. In addition, early retirement penalties are directly applied to pension amounts rather than the regulatory earnings base. Penalty rates for early retirement will vary based on the duration of early retirement and the span of a pensioner’s contribution.
Turkey Makes Changes to Private Pension System
Effective January 22, 2022, the Turkish government enacted several changes to the Private Pension System Bireysel Emeklilik Sistemi (BES). The government’s matching contribution rate increased to 30% from 25% of participants’ annual contributions. The maximum government match is TRY 18,014.40 in 2022. Eligible individuals can now withdraw up to 50% of their BES account balance before age 56. Additionally, employees older than 45 are eligible to enroll in the auto-enrollment program OKS, changing the previous eligibility rule, which only allowed enrollment for participants under age 45. BES is comprised of two programs: a voluntary scheme and OKS.
Uganda Offers Provident Fund Early Withdrawal Option
Eligible employees can now withdraw up to 20% of their provident fund account balances before the retirement age of 55 years. Disabled employees can withdraw up to 50% of their account balance. The early withdrawal option applies to employees who have a minimum of 10 years of contributions and are aged 45 years or older.
UK – Northern Ireland Enacts Parental Bereavement Leave
Beginning April 2022, employees in Northern Ireland are entitled to two weeks of parental bereavement leave if they suffer the loss of a child under 18 years of age. The leave can be taken within 56 days after the child’s death and taken in blocks of 7 days or a single period. Employees will be paid at the minimum statutory rate during the leave. In addition, employees will be entitled to protection from detriment or dismissal because of taking the leave. This leave entitlement aligns with leave and pay policies in Great Britain.