HR Leads Business

Nov 5, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

3 Strategies for Navigating Global Labor Regulations

In September, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed landmark legislation targeted at ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft. The bill’s author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, argues that misclassification of drivers as contract workers instead of employees prevents them from receiving wage and benefit protections. The new law is intended to address that.

As the economy changes, so must the laws that govern work. Gonzalez called In a statement for other states and the federal government to follow California’s lead to protect workers. Her argument has global implications. As more and more companies expand internationally, it’s critical for HR teams to protect their organizations by protecting their greatest asset: people.

But that’s easier said than done. Labor laws can vary as much as the cultures that produce them. And even now, legislation is changing to keep up with the future of work. So how can HR stay abreast of these regulations?

Here are some of the global labor regulations your HR team needs to be aware of — and how you can navigate them.

Understand the Complexities of Compliance

Even within the United States compliance is incredibly complex. Labor laws can vary greatly from state to state. “At one point employment laws in the U.S. were centralized in federal law,” says Terese Connolly, a partner at law firm Culhane Meadows in Chicago. “That’s no longer the case, and it complicates how companies can handle their basic policies.”

Local regulations will differ no matter where you are in the world, but international compliance can follow the blueprint of interstate compliance. “You have to consider how things like benefits, compensation and termination are handled in different local governments,” Connolly says.

Knowing the laws in each region where your company operates is nearly impossible, but having the language to recognize and navigate international compliance issues is absolutely critical. “No HR professional can know the answers to everything,” Connolly says. “But getting certified in global HR, like the GPHR, can give you the language and information you need to spot red flags and to navigate solutions.”

Navigate Data Privacy

Data privacy laws are in flux in many parts of the world, but a number of countries are taking their cue from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. “The GDPR requires companies who are processing personal data to register those processors with local regulators,” says Lilia Stoyanov, CEO of Transformify. This ensures that data processing technology preserves individual rights, Stoyanov points out.

Those include the right to know what information is being collected and stored, the right to know how and where it’s stored, and the right to be “forgotten.” “An employee has the right to have a company purge all of their data from the system,” Stoyanov says. “It’s critical for HR technology solutions to be capable of complete data deletion when it’s requested.”

Data is the primary commodity of the new economy, and global companies will be transferring it across national borders. One simple tool for protecting your organization and your employees is to seek counsel before making data transfers. “You can’t learn all there is to know about data privacy regulations, but you do have to know when and who to ask for help,” Connolly says. “It’s important to seek counsel with someone who is certified in that area.” The International Association of Privacy Professionals is a good place to start, she says.

Keep Classifications in Mind

As Gonzalez’s California bill reminds us, classification is an important consideration for international HR operations. “You may hire someone as an independent contractor because you expect their stay with your company to be temporary,” Stoyanov says. “But there are risks involved with this approach, as rules governing contract employment vary greatly from one region to another, even within the U.S.”

Classification concerns extend to disability and diversity hiring quotas, which are significantly different from one region to another. “Who qualifies as a protected class is often different in each country,” Connolly says.

When handling international legislation, HR policies have to be flexible. “It’s almost impossible to approach international labor with a unified set of policies,” Stoyanov says. She recommends seeking vetted technologies that have been approved across governments and relying on legal counsel to help research the laws specific to where your company operates.