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European Edition
20th November 2023
UK employees can sue employers for work-related stress, judge suggests
People in the UK who suffer work-related stress can now sue their employers for disability discrimination, according to a judge's ruling. The ruling could lead to a surge in disability discrimination claims related to stress at work. An NHS worker, Debra Phillips, successfully sued her employer, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, for disability discrimination. The judge found that Phillips had clear medical records showing she suffered from stress. The ruling highlights the duty of employers to make reasonable adjustments for employees experiencing disabilities, including mental health problems. The ruling also emphasizes that a formal diagnosis of a mental illness is not required for a tribunal to consider an employee as disabled. Phillips's case will proceed to a full tribunal. The ruling has significant implications for employers and the tribunal system.
Accenture tech boss says AI will free up 40% of company’s staff
The rise of AI has prompted Accenture to rethink worker tasks, according to Jan Willem Van Den Bremen, Accenture's European technology lead. Generative AI is expected to "free up" about 40% of workers at the management consulting company, allowing them to focus on other tasks, he said. Van Den Bremen observed, for example, that computer programmers could shift to validating programs developed by AI instead of writing them. Earlier this year, the company announced job cuts of 19,000, but in June, it revealed plans to double its AI staff to 80,000 and invest $3bn in its Data & AI practice. Accenture is already using AI to identify market skills and move employees to new roles. The company aims to help clients maximise generative AI, which creates visual works or text based on prompts.
Brexit has boosted wage growth in the UK, economists say
A crackdown on uncontrolled immigration from the EU has boosted wages for UK based workers, economists have said. Figures last week showed that wages, excluding bonuses, were growing at a near-record pace of 7.7%. Mabrouk Chetouane, the head of global market strategy at French investment bank Natixis, explained that labour supply has been cut massively due to Brexit. “It creates an imbalance that continues to fuel wage growth and this situation is here to stay.” Jack Kennedy, a senior economist at hiring website Indeed, said he believed Brexit was “certainly likely to be a contributory factor” towards faster than expected wage growth for lower-skilled jobs. “A lot of the lower paid sectors are seeing pretty strong rates of wage growth of between 7% and 10% in our data.”
Trade and financial sectors drive job creation in Luxembourg
Domestic employment in Luxembourg has nearly doubled from 264,000 in 2020 to 502,600 in 2022, with the trade and financial sectors driving job creation, according to the annual "Luxembourg in Figures" report released by the national statistics agency. The report also revealed that over 40% of the country's workforce, or 214,000 workers, commute across the border. However, the unemployment rate has also doubled from 2.4% to 4.8% during this period. The European Commission has warned that Luxembourg is expected to fall into recession this year, with the unemployment rate forecasted to reach 5.5% in 2023. The report also highlights the growth in Luxembourg's population, which has increased from 439,000 in 2001 to 660,000 in 2023, with foreigners making up nearly half of the population. The report covers various topics, including life expectancy and recorded accidents.
Eli Lilly to build €2bn production plant in Germany
Eli Lilly plans to build a €2bn production plant in western Germany, its first major production complex in the country. The move comes as drugmakers aim to manufacture critical healthcare products closer to the markets they serve. The new site is expected to create over 1,000 jobs, including sub-contractors and suppliers. The plant will produce diabetes drugs, including the off-label weight loss drug Mounjaro. The investment is fully-funded by Eli Lilly, which has seen surging demand for its diabetes drugs. The town of Alzey, where the plant will be built, is within an hour's drive of major pharmaceutical and chemical companies. The German government sees the investment as a positive for the country's manufacturing sector. Eli Lilly's market value has risen over 65% this year.
Citigroup to announce major lay-offs and job assignments in restructuring
Citigroup is set to announce a major round of lay-offs and job assignments as part of a sweeping restructuring plan. The restructuring is expected to result in significant changes within the company. The details of the lay-offs and job assignments will be revealed on Monday. "We are committed to streamlining our operations and improving efficiency," said a spokesperson for Citigroup. The restructuring plan is aimed at positioning the company for future growth and profitability.
Italy's parliament approves ban on lab-grown food
Italy's lower house of parliament has approved legislation banning the use of laboratory-produced food and animal feed.  The proposal, which had already been approved by the upper house Senate, passed by 159 votes in favour to 53 against. It prohibits the use, sale, import and export of food and feed "from cell cultures or tissue derived from vertebrate animals." Italy’s minister for food sovereignty and agriculture, Francesco Lollobrigida, said the measures were about “defending work, environment, culture and identity — which are rooted in food quality,” and that they were intended to “defend our civilization against a model driven by delocalisation and long supply chains.” Factories breaching the prohibition can be subject to fines of up to €150,000m ($162,700) and could be shut down, and owners could lose their right to obtain public funding for up to three years.
UK bank employees face higher taxes, threatening London's status as a financial centre
UK bankers are facing higher taxes due to the government's policy of freezing income tax thresholds and increasing National Insurance contributions. This has led to a significant jump of 11.2% in the average tax collected per UK bank employee in 2022 compared to the previous year. The survey conducted by UK Finance reveals that the UK is becoming less competitive as a location for banks compared to other financial centres. The tax burden on UK bank employees is now £42,420 per employee, including income taxes and National Insurance contributions. PwC warns that London's status as a global financial center is at risk. The freeze on income tax and national insurance thresholds, known as fiscal drag, allows the government to extract more revenue without policy changes. The report projects a higher total tax rate for London-based banks in 2024 compared to other major financial centres. Andy Wiggins, tax transparency leader at PwC, emphasized the importance of maintaining the competitiveness of the UK banking sector for economic growth and investment.
US auto workers union agrees to two weeks of paid parental leave
The United Auto Workers (UAW) union has reached a tentative agreement with Detroit's three automakers to introduce a new benefit of two weeks of paid parental leave for full-time employees. This is a significant step for the union, as the US does not have nationally mandated paid time off for new parents. While two weeks may seem paltry compared to other countries, it is a significant improvement for American workers. The inclusion of parental leave in the agreement signals a focus on work-life balance and the needs of a new generation of union members. The leave is part of a range of wins for workers, including pay raises and improved retirement benefits. Experts say that while the two-week policy falls short of the months needed for important health benefits, it will provide some relief for working parents. However, many workers still face financial challenges in starting a family, and improvements in retirement arrangements and wages are desired. 
Dutch clothing companies support demands for higher wages in Bangladesh
Dutch clothing companies are supporting demands for higher wages at clothing factories in Bangladesh. The minimum wage in Bangladesh is currently around €70 per month and has not increased in five years. Factory workers are demanding at least €195 per month, which is considered the minimum liveable income in Bangladesh. Several Dutch clothing brands, including Hema, C&A, Zeeman, and WE, have expressed their support for wage increases. Zeeman, in particular, advocates for a minimum wage that is a living wage. Protests for a higher minimum wage have led to the closure of 150 factories. The closure of factories has not yet affected the supply for Dutch brands, but they are closely monitoring the situation.
Ikea ends sale of engineered stone
Ikea Australia chief executive Mirja Viinanen said the firm is to stop selling engineered stone, a material which has been linked to silicosis, an incurable and potentially fatal disease caused by inhaling tiny particles of silica dust. Up to 600,000 Australian workers are potentially being exposed to silica dust each year. “IKEA Australia will begin the process of phasing out engineered stone products from our local range, ahead of government action", Ms Viinanen said. “We strongly support a nationally aligned approach from governments to provide clarity and ensure coordinated action across the country". Bunnings had already withdrawn its range of engineered stone benchtops. Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union national secretary Zach Smith, who has been campaigning for a blanket national ban, said there was now “unstoppable momentum” in support of prohibiting the product. “Bunnings and Ikea have beaten our federal, state and territory governments to the punch”, he said. “We need an immediate announcement from all work health and safety ministers locking in a ban".
Warm parent-child relationships lead to kind and helpful children
Children who have warm, loving relationships with their parents tend to have better mental health and pro-social habits. Conversely, children with emotionally strained or abusive parental relationships are less likely to develop pro-social habits. A study by Cambridge University researchers in the UK examined the relationship between 10,700 people born between 2000 and 2002 and their parents. The study found that early relationships with parents have a significant impact on mental health and pro-sociality. Children who had closer relationships with their parents at age three also had fewer symptoms of poor mental health in later childhood and adolescence. The study also highlights the need for schools to incorporate efforts to foster pro-social behaviors into the curriculum.

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