Longer maternity leave, shorter periods for permanent work in civil code changes

PHILIPSBURG–Increasing the maternity leave from the current 12 weeks to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommended period of 14 weeks and shortening the period within which workers can become permanent are amongst the proposed changes to National Ordinance amending the Civil Code and other country regulations.

The amendments relate to the replacement of the seventh title A of Book 7A with a new Title 10 of Book 7 regulating the requirements for employment.

Labour Minister Emil Lee presented the proposed changes, amongst other things, during a meeting of the Central Committee of Parliament on Friday.

Other proposed civil code changes include expanding the areas for which paid leave can be granted to workers. This is regulated in Article 629, and currently covers areas such as childbirth, death, funeral and other circumstances.

For Article 668A, which seeks to regulate the “revolving door” employment practise, it is being proposed that a shorter duration be instituted for the period within which an employee can become permanent. Currently workers can become permanent after 36 months (three years). The proposal is to reduce this to 24 months (two years). Also proposed is for workers to be granted two contracts as opposed to the current three before they can become permanent. “Any attempt to circumvent this article is considered abuse and illegal,” Lee told Members of Parliament (MPs). He cautioned, however, that regulation alone is not sufficient to police this proposed measure and noted that increased enforcement and compliance is also needed.

Article 614A, which regulates when a fixed term contract can be used, was proposed to be removed from the civil code, because, according to Lee, multiple fixed term contracts were still possible; it was still difficult to ensure persons were not getting numerous contracts; the conditions in proposal were hard to interpret and difficult to enforce and certain fixed term contracts were not possible, such as three-year contracts, often used for lawyers and government employees etc.

Under Article 626, which regulates payslips, the proposed change is for employees to be given the option of providing payslips to their employees electronically in addition to having the option of providing a hard copy.

Article 658A, which covers the reintegration of disabled workers, currently states that employers are obligated to find suitable work for disabled workers, but there is currently no limitation on this mandate. A proposal is being made to add that the employer must “do everything” in their power as far as is available.

Article 665, which seeks to regulate termination, does not address severance pay if employees decide to terminate their work agreement during the transfer of enterprise. The proposed change is for employers to be required to pay severance to workers in cases where an employee decides to dissolve their employee agreement due to substantial changes in the organisation in which they work. Even if the employee decided to leave on his or her own accord under this circumstance, severance will be due. If, however, the worker decides to leave after a transfer if there is no substantial chance in their agreement then no severance pay is due.

Lee said the civil code needed to be revised because there were many issues plaguing the community – in particular the abuse of short term contracts which he said creates instability and insecurity amongst affected workers. Directly related to this is the fact that workers without permanent jobs are unable to secure loans to “move forward in their lives” making accomplishments such as purchasing a home difficult.

Lee said also that the changes are necessary when it comes to transfer of enterprises to prevent situations such as “the Pelican type debacle” from occurring again. Issues such as equal treatment, gender equality, labour agreements and addressing pregnancy leave were other factors motivating the need to bring proposed changes to the civil code.

Changes to the code to address the abuse of short term labour contracts were first proposed by the National Alliance (NA) fraction in Parliament in 2011. The Department of Labour revised NA’s proposal in consultation with the party and under the guidance of former labour minister (now MP) Cornelius de Weever. Lee said the proposed changes are a result of years of work. “It is important to recognise that there is continuity in government and the work presenting today is work that has been produced by the ministry over the course of many years and some years that I was not present,” Lee noted.

A total of about 89 articles are proposed to be amended with primarily technical changes covering issues such as numbering, modernisation of languages and new terminology to bring the civil code up to date. A total of 30 of the articles have content-related changes. Seven articles were revised; two receiving substantive changes and one had been removed.

Lee said upon taking office he took the proposed changes and presented them to the Tripartite Committee to determine whether there was a consensus. While consensus was reached on most of the articles, there was no consensus on many of them. Discussions over the past months were to reach consensus on more areas. A unanimous consensus was reached amongst labour, businesses and government recently on a proposed revision and proposed vision for the code. Lee said the consensus document is a “departure point for further discussion and further actions.”

The Minister said while addressing the abuse of the short term contracts, “it became clear that the changes to civil code were not sufficient that the Tripartite Committee believes is critical.

As for labour reform, Lee said this is necessary because, amongst other things, there is no security for workers wanting to change jobs and improve themselves. He said because of how the cessantia is set up, it is difficult for any employees to consider changing jobs.

One of the points under discussion as part of the labour reform is reforming the AOV to increase the pensionable age to 65 and give persons the possibility of purchasing missing years to receive their full benefits.

Other points under discussion are a mandatory pension scheme in which a person’s pension would not be lost if that individual changes employer; changing the cessantia into an employment benefit system; being more flexible and offering job security in the labour market; having a more straightforward dismissal procedure; less contracts; more permanent employment and having an integrated framework for youth empowerment, employment with training opportunities and apprentice programmes, amongst other things.

Several MPs voiced their opinion on the issue and after break for MPs to get a chance to peruse the documents they received; requests were made for additional time to peruse the documents. This was granted and the meeting was adjourned.

Source: Daily Herald
Longer maternity leave, shorter periods for permanent work in civil code changes