Which countries are protecting workers' rights during the COVID-19 crisis?

  • young employee
Published 2020-06-30 09:00

Whether you are already working abroad or are looking forward to moving after the COVID-19 crisis, your rights as an employee will be a major concern. Today, some countries are doing their best to avoid mass layoffs and to guarantee the protection of workers' rights. Let's have a look at how they are dealing with the current situation.

According to a study by the Brookings Institute, 12 countries, mostly European ones, have implemented a series of measures to prevent mass layoffs. Some of them are actually providing allowances and subsidies to employees who have been temporarily laid off. In the United States, on the other hand, 13% of employees have already been laid off and are receiving unemployment insurance.

Where are workers rights being protected the most?


As Austria is one of the least affected countries by the COVID-19 crisis, remote work is not compulsory. However, many companies have come to an agreement with their employees regarding remote working until further notice, in order to save jobs. Also, employers are not allowed to prevent their employees from going to their workplace, but even if they do, employees must still be paid. To prevent mass layoffs, the Austrian government has also introduced short-time work. Regarding employees in the health sector, including hospitals, institutions and laboratories, they are allowed to take rest days and to benefit from a limit on working hours according to a decree dated March 4, 2020.


In Belgium, an allowance is paid to employees, either by employers or by the employment office, in the case of temporary dismissal due to force majeure, such as the COVID-19 crisis. Besides, unjustified dismissal isn't a common thing since every employee has the right to ask for concrete reasons for their dismissal. For example, companies that cannot reopen immediately and whose employees cannot work from home can opt for temporary employment. It's also worth noting that trade unionists, pregnant women and dads who are on parental leave, as well as prevention counsellors, cannot be dismissed. In some cases, it is possible provided that they receive compensation.


If you work in Denmark, you are probably registered with an A-Kasser, which is a trade union. If so, this is the case, there's not much to worry about, even if you have just been laid off. You will be eligible for a three-months allowance provided you have paid the monthly contribution for a whole year. If not, there's still no reason to panic! You are eligible to the Kontanthjælp or social assistance, provided you are over 30, are a resident in Denmark and have no other financial means like a part-time job or savings. Denmark has also implemented a series of measures to support workers who have been temporarily laid off during the health crisis. These include a financial assistance of up to 75% of their monthly income to entrepreneurs and businesses with up to 10 employees, who have lost at least 30% of their income due to the crisis.


In Finland, a new law came into force on May 1, 2020, allowing companies to reduce their contributions to the national pension fund by 2.6%. This law will remain into effect until December 31, 2020. However, this rate will rise gradually from 2021 to 2025. To guarantee job security during the crisis, other temporary measures have implemented, such as the extension of the period during which an employee is eligible for an unemployment allowance. This law will also be in effect until December 31, 2020. But that's not all! To ensure that all employees continue to get their monthly salary, the government has developed a business support plan. Companies that have already received financial help can also apply for this scheme under certain conditions.


The commendable way in which Germany responded to the global health crisis is being reflected in its labour market. As in most European countries, remote work is recommended following a collective agreement. However, employers must still pay their employees even if it chooses not to reopen due to a high rate of absenteeism, even if employees are unable to work from home. Regarding cross-border workers, they cannot be laid off due to their inability to go to work. In Germany, employees can only be reprimanded or dismissed for misconduct. However, frontier workers are entitled to a short time work allowance if their employer decided to cut down working hours. It's also worth noting that a new law that came into effect on March 1, 2020, simplifies the recruitment of health, technology and crafts specialists from third countries. This is evidence that Germany's labour market remains open and dynamic amidst the global health crisis.

Where are workers rights being violated?

Today, more than 60% of the global workforce, that is some 2.5 billion employees, are informal workers whose rights are being violated in some form, according to the Workers Right Index by the International Trade Unions Confederation (ITUC). Countries like India and Brazil have amended their laws for the benefit of the private sector companies, and this is being detrimental to employees. India, for example, has suspended its laws on working hours of work, minimum wages and trade union rights.

In our article "Zoom on the expat exodus in the Middle East", we write about the mass layoff of foreign workers and salary cuts, especially in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar.

1 Comment
2 days ago

i have comment on this articale( Where are workers rights being protected the most?) According to a study by the Brookings Institute, 12 countries, mostly European ones, have implemented a series of measures to prevent mass layoffs. this is not right and not accurate because there is other countries have not lay off there employees specially their citizen and above that they stay home no work and full salary to them like STATE OF KUWAIT and other Arabian gulf countries .