Workforces Around the World - Shaping the Future for 2021

December 29, 2020
What does the workforce look like worldwide? Let’s take a look at how labor laws and employee benefits played out in 2020 across the world - and what the future holds for the upcoming year.

We’ve been hearing a lot about the fair workweek initiative, or predictive scheduling laws. This legislation is posed to affect businesses all across the United States employing shift, hourly and on-demand workers.

But what does the workforce look like worldwide? Let’s take a look at how labor laws and employee benefits played out in 2020 across the world - and what the future holds for the upcoming year.

United Kingdom - Labour Laws

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Surprisingly, there are actually no current predictive scheduling laws in place in the United Kingdom.

As of current events, an employer in the UK can change an employee’s shifts with as little as 12 hours in advance. While there is no written legislation for advance notice on scheduling in the UK, there are numerous advocates who understand that these regulations can lead to a more positive working environment.

With the changes caused by pandemic, employers should be preparing themselves for how to properly monitor the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace, as well as how to properly manage flexible working requests. The Government intends to strengthen the flexible work option with plans for a new Employment Bill which would make flexible working the default for all job roles, meaning that employers and HR managers will need to advertise flexible working in their job posts.

Germany - Arbeitszeitgesetz


There are several laws in place aimed at protecting shift workers from excessive or irregular working hours. Arbeitszeitgesetz, Germany’s work-hour regulations, prevent employees from working more than 48 hours a week, on Sundays or on national holidays. The laws also require a minimum rest time of 11 hours between two shifts to prevent overworking and “clopening” shifts.

One example of Germany fair work laws is the cap on the maximum number of hours night shift employees can work (8 hours). Employees working on Sundays and holidays can extend to a maximum of 12 hours only with their explicit permission and agreement.

Did you know?

On the 1st of March, 2020, Germany introduced a new Skilled Immigration Act due to a shortage of skilled workers in the country.

Italy - Jobs Act


The maximum amount of hours an employee in Italy can work is 48 hours. More than that and specific authorization is required for overtime hours - not from your employer but from the Inspectorate, the Department of Labour!

In 2015, the Jobs Act introduced some controversial changes to Italy’s labor laws, making it easier to dismiss workers. However, the workers possibly most benefiting from Italy’s labor laws are - students. Not only are students not required to work overtime, but they also do not need to work on Sundays, and must be given paid days off work to take their exams.

France - Code Du Travail


As of February 2000, France’s legal working week length is - get this - 35 hours! This is still applicable today and for all types of companies. Any work exceeding the legal limit of 35 is considered overtime.

Employees working in France must receive time to rest at least once every 4.5 hours, and, like in Germany, must have a minimum, daily rest period of 11 hours.

Did you know?

The Netherlands is the country with the shortest work week, with only 29 hours. The country is also ranked as the best for work-life balance, with a national employment rate of 76%.

Mexico - Ley Federal de Trabajo


While there are currently no limitations on how often an employer can adjust an employee’s work schedule, the workday in Mexico is actually governed by different regulations in regards to three different shift types:

  1. Day shift: 8 hours long, flexibly fitting between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. Full-time workers in Mexico spend around 48 hours working per week.
  2. Night shift: 7 hours long, between 8:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. Night shift employees work a maximum of 42 work hours per week.
  3. Mixed shift: 7.5 hours long, and can consist of both day and night shift hours (where the night shift is limited to 3.5 hours per shift.)

Saudi Arabia -  Labor Law Royal Decree

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Labor legislators in Saudi Arabia have been making a greater effort to grant more benefits to certain parts of the workforce, like night shift workers and female employees.

Amongst the laws, night shift workers must be provided with health services and emergency transportation if necessary, and get the minimal amount of rest time between two night shifts (in Saudi Arabia, that is 12 hours). They also must get the opportunity to work day shifts every 3 months, with mandatory rotations between day and night shift workers.

And what about reform for female workers? New amendments to Saudi Arabia’s labor laws protect women from discrimination in the workplace and equal access to financial services, employment duration and earnings.

Did you know?

While the coronavirus crisis threatened to amplify the challenges for female workers and stall their entry into the workforce, women working in the health and social work sector found themselves on the front line of the crisis with increased work demands. Around 45% of healthcare sector employees in Saudi Arabia are women.

Australia - Fair Work Act


In 2010, Australia enacted a 38 hour work week in accordance with the Fair Work Act that was passed in 2009.

The Act requires businesses and employers to keep employee records and reports for seven years, for legal and employment purposes. These include payroll reports, work hours and leave entitlements.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, as of November 2020, the monthly hours worked in Australia increased by 43 million hours and the unemployment rate decreased to 6.8%.

Greece - Employment Law Reform


Greece passed some exciting reform to their employment laws this past year. From January 2020, it’s time for the time clock - Greece introduced a digital working hour system and electronic work cards for employees.

The new law requires employers to keep a complete record of working hours and changes in real-time for employees in the company. This reform is intended to minimize time tracking errors and increase employee accountability and compliance through electronic updates.

In the general scheme, the typical work week in Greece is 8 hours a day, with an average of 42 hours per week (which is more than the European average of 40.3 hours per week.)

How are companies keeping accurate employee and time tracking records?

China - Labor Law of the People’s Republic of China


The maximum amount of hours an employee can work in China is 8 hours a day, or 40 hours per work. Under China’s labor laws, employers must ensure that every employee has at least one day of rest each week.

China’s Labor Contract Law requires a written employment contract in order to establish a legal employment relationship. However, the rules are different for part-time employees, who work no more than 24 hours per week and four average hours per day. Part-time employees may be employed under an oral contract instead of a written one, and are also subject to different requirements.

United States - Fair Workweek


The first city to pass fair workweek laws was San Francisco, back in 2014. Since then, similar laws have been passed in San Jose, Emeryville, Seattle, New York City and Philadelphia.  

The most recent triumphs for the fair workweek initiative have been in Oregon and Chicago. In 2017, Oregon was the first state to enact these laws state-wide. There are around 740,000 workers that are now protected by the legislation. The city of Chicago joined the movement in July 2019. More recently, Boston, Illinois and Los Angeles are considering passing fair workweek legislation as well.

Learn more about the dos and don'ts of the Fair Workweek Initiative in the United States

Concluding 2020's (Work)force to Be Reckoned With

2020 was certainly a year of tremendous change for the labor market, partially due to the outbreak of the pandemic as well as to the progress made in adapting employment regulations. Based on this year’s employee labor laws, where would you choose to work? What could your country do to offer better employment opportunities and benefits?

There are high expectations for the upcoming new year; we can’t wait to  see what 2021 will  usher in for flexible workforces everywhere.

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