In the third quarter of 2023, many European countries continued to update their leave policies as mandated under the 2019 EU directive on work-life balance, which aims to improve employees’ access to family leave and flexible work arrangements. Ireland extended maternity benefits to transgender employees while Spain extended its family leave. Luxembourg also issued two new leaves to comply with the directive.
Argentina Provides One-Time Tax-Free Allowance
In an effort to combat inflation and devaluation of local currency, the Argentinian government paid employees a one-time tax-free allowance of up to ARS 60,000. The allowance amount is based on the employee’s salary and was paid in two installments in August and September.
Ecuador Mandates Occupational Health Promotion Plans
Effective January 1, 2024, Ecuador requires companies to develop and implement occupational health promotion plans. Employers are expected to set up health education programs on topics such as nutrition, substance abuse, prevention of common diseases, etc. Additionally, companies are required to appoint an in-house or external health professional to lead and report on updates of the plans to the Ministry of Health. The guidance applies to employers in the private and public sectors with 25 or more employees.
Uruguay Launches Common Pension System
Uruguay created a new Common Pension System, which changed several aspects of the existing statutory pension system. Effective August 1, 2023, all eligible employees, including low earners, are required to participate in the AFAP (Administradoras de Fondos de Ahorro Previsional). The retirement age increases to 65 years from the previous 61 years. Employees can also opt for early retirement depending on their age and number of years of contributions. Retirees have an option to return to work while receiving retirement benefits.
Asia Pacific (APAC)
Australia Releases Guidance on Unpaid Parental Leave, Updates Its Superannuation Contribution
The Australian government released new extensions for unpaid parental leave (UPL), effective June 22, 2023. Employees can now start their UPL at any time in the 24 months following childbirth, and the number of leave days has increased to 100 (up from 30). Pregnant employees can take a portion of flexible UPL beginning six weeks before the expected date of childbirth. Each parent is entitled to up to 24 months of UPL, and both parents can take unpaid parental leave at the same time.
The Australian government increased the superannuation guarantee contribution rate by 0.5% to 11% of the total employee salary, effective July 1, 2023. The superannuation guarantee rate is set to increase by 0.5% each year till it reaches 12% of the total employee salary on July 1, 2025.
China Expands Maternity Coverage in Guizhou Province
Effective October 1, 2023, maternity medical coverage is expanded to the Guizhou region. The reimbursement rate is 90% and the annual reimbursement amount is capped at CNY 1,200. Claims that exceed the prescribed amount can be paid through an individual account or outpatient reimbursement.
Europe, Middle East, Africa (EMEA)
France Issues New Rules for Sick Leaves, Expands Bereavement Leave
Effective September 13, 2023, the French Supreme Court released new decisions regarding paid sick leave. Under the new legislation:
- Employees can continue to accrue leave during their absence from work due to illness or occupational accident.
- The three-year statute of limitations to claim back pay for accrued paid time off during absence from work due to illness or occupational accident days only applies if the employer has policies that enable this.
France has expanded its government-paid bereavement leave for the death of employees’ children. For the death of children under the age of 25, employees will get 14 business days of leave, up from the previous seven days. For the death of children of age 25 and above, employees will get 12 business days of leave. Additionally, the government extended paid leave for dealing with the diagnosis of a child’s serious health condition or disability, increasing it to five business days from the previous two days. The changes went into effect on July 19, 2023.
Ireland Extends Maternity Leave to Transgender Employees
The Irish government extended maternity leave benefits to eligible transgender employees. In addition, employees can now also take five days of unpaid carer leave in addition to the long-term flexible carer leave that’s already in place. Most of the changes will come into effect by the end of 2023.
Luxembourg Increases Social Security Salary Threshold, Launches Two New Leaves
Effective September 1, 2023, the minimum salary threshold for social security contributions is increased to EUR 2,570.93 up from EUR 2,508.24. The maximum salary is capped at EUR 12,854.64, increased from previous EUR 12,541.18
On August 21 and 22, 2023, the Luxembourg government issued new leave updates as mandated under the EU’s work-life balance initiative. Employees in Luxembourg will now be able to benefit from two new types of leaves.
The first is “force majeure” leave, under which employees will get one day of paid leave over a 12-month period to deal with urgent family needs in the case of illness or accident where the immediate attendance of the employee is vital.
The second leave is Carers’ Leave, where the employee will get five days over a 12-month period to provide personal care or support to a relative, or to a person who lives in the same household as the employee and who needs significant care or support for a serious medical reason that prevents them from being self-sufficient, as certified by a doctor.
Additionally, the legislation extends paternity leave to the second parent in same-sex couples, partners, and self-employed workers. The leave also applies to employees fostering and adopting a child under age 16.
Oman Extends Maternity Leave, Launches Paternity & Caregiver Leaves
The Omani government has issued several updates on leaves effective July 26, 2023. Maternity leave is increased to 98 calendar days from the current 50 days. Employees may take leave 14 days before the birth of the child, and the leave can be taken for any number of pregnancies, a change from one time as prescribed previously. After the employees get back from their maternity leave, they will get one hour per day of paid nursing break for a year that begins on the last day of maternity leave. Female employees can also take one year of unpaid childcare leave after maternity leave. Fathers are now entitled to seven days of paid paternity leave, which can be taken within 98 days of childbirth.
Omani nationals can also benefit from other leave extensions. The country has implemented a new caregiver leave of 15 days to care for close family members. Sick leave is extended to 182 days per year. Employees will now get three days of marriage leave, 10–14 days of bereavement leave, and six days of unpaid emergency leave.
Employers have up to January 30, 2024, to implement the new changes.
Beginning July 2024, foreign workers will be entitled to maternity and paternity leave, paid by Oman’s social security system. Employers will contribute 1% of their employees’ total salaries to fund these benefits. Non-Omani workers will get sick leave beginning July 2025 and work injury and illness benefits beginning July 2026.
Romania Adds Two New Holidays
The Romanian government has launched two new public holidays, which will take effect beginning in 2024. The holidays will take place on January 6 and 7 for feast days of the Epiphany and St. John the Baptist. The new holidays increase the total number of public holidays in Romania to 16 days every year.
Spain Extends Family Leaves, Extends Pension Plan to Temporary Workers
In response to EU’s work-life balance directive, Spain has made updates to its leave policies. Employees can now take four days of paid “force majeure” leave to deal with urgent family matters. Carer leave is increased from two to four days, while marriage leave and bereavement leave are extended to civil partnerships. Sick leave can now be used for accidents, hospitalization, and serious illness of a civil partner. Single parents can extend their childcare leave by two additional weeks in case of multiple births, adoptions, or if the child is born with a disability. Employees can take eight weeks of unpaid parental leave to care for a child under eight years of age. The leave also applies to a minor child fostered for longer than one year and can be taken in increments or continuously. The legislation entered into effect on June 30, 2023.
Effective June 21, 2023, Spain has extended its tax-qualified pension plan to temporary workers. Employees who have taken partial retirement can continue to make pension contributions. Additionally, in the event of a merger or acquisition, employers and employees may jointly file for an extension of the 12-month deadline to consolidate the companies’ different pension plans into a single plan.
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