Economy

The World's Best And Worst Places To Get Fired

The U.S. offers the weakest worker protections, Brazilian employees are entitled to serious severance, the UK's mandatory notice period is the longest. A quick tour of the global pink slip.

Out!
Out!
Maayan Manela

TEL AVIV — Losing a job is never a nice experience, but laws in some countries offer departing employees better protection than in others at the moment of truth. For example, employees in the United States can be dismissed without notice or reason, while France and Italy have strict rules that protect employees from arbitrary layoffs. In fact, the prevalent perception in Europe is that employees have the right to keep a job virtually for life.

Accordingly, international companies often find it difficult to adapt to employment regulations in different countries. The way employees can be recruited, and fired, in the U.S., for example, is very different from what is allowed in China. And whereas Brazilian employees are almost always entitled to severance packages, the mandatory notice period in the UK is the longest.

United States: Easy come, easy go
According to the dominant logic in the U.S., employees can be sacked without warning, reason or notice. The few exceptions to this rule have to do with discrimination, conflict resolution, or when an employee is protected by a contract. In most cases, employers have the right to summon an employee, inform them of layoff and expect them to pack their things and leave immediately. Similarly, employees can quit without notice. The U.S. has no laws regarding pay or benefits for departing employees, so it's up to specific companies to decide if and how much they pay.

Italy: slowly but surely
Italy has one of the world's most comprehensive employment regulations. There are many elaborate laws, and most of them are intended to protect workers. For example, dismissing a woman less than a year after her marriage is forbidden, unless she committed a criminal offense such as violence or theft. Even in cases in which a female employee is suspected of inappropriate behavior, the layoff process is long and complex.

In one case, a court ruled that it was the company that enabled an employee to steal and therefore it couldn't fire him. Eventually, the company paid the offending employee a large sum of money to ensure it could be rid of him. The recruitment process can be equally long and cumbersome.


Photo: J E Theriot

The UK: "gardening leave"
British laws guarantee employees a notice period before they are actually sacked — a week in the first two years of employment, and one additional week for every year of service. For example, an employee working for a company for 10 years would get a nine-week notice. An employer can demand a worker leave immediately, but in that case the notice period would still have to be paid, a practice known as "gardening leave," implying that employees are paid but do not have to do their work.

France: preventing mass layoffs
In France, firing an employee requires the employer to cite substantial and true financial or professional reasons, and at least one week notice. When a company fires 10 workers within a period of 30 days, it is obliged to carry out an "employment safeguard plan" to save as many jobs as possible. Collective layoff of 100 or more employees must be reported to state authorities, and the dismissal can only take effect after 30 days. Severance pay in France stands at a minimum of 20% of the monthly wage for every year of employment, and at least 33% of the salary when a workers has more than 10 years of service.

Israel: prior notice and severance pay

Israeli law requires a hearing before an employee can be dismissed, as well as prior notice and severance pay. Employees in Israel are entitled to notice of between one and 30 days, depending on their length of service. The notice period can be forgone, but the employee would still be entitled to pay for that period. Workers are entitled to severance pay only if they've completed one year of employment, and the extent of the pay is calculated based on the last monthly salary and a single month pay for each year with the company.

Brazil: Show me the money

Laying off workers in Brazil can be an expensive undertaking. Employers aren't required to cite a reason for dismissal, but laws about severance packages are rather strict. The formula includes monthly wages and pay for days off and sick leave, and is based on the period of employment. Employers can be released from mandatory severance if they can prove the reason for the layoff involves an offense, such as theft. But employers generally prefer to avoid layoff for cause and instead offer severance because courts often side with employees.

China: gently but intently
Employment regulations in communist China are meant to guarantee workers' rights. Therefore, dismissals are difficult, and courts can overturn them or order that an employee be returned to their position.

In addition, Chinese culture dictates sensitivity when firing an employee and maintaining his or her dignity. A company would suffer serious damage to its reputation if were perceived as mistreating its workers and carelessly firing them. Similarly, the most successful companies in China are those who understand the local culture and respect it.

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Geopolitics

How Thailand's Lèse-Majesté Law Is Used To Stifle All Protest

Once meant to protect the royal family, the century-old law has become a tool for the military-led government in Bangkok to stamp out all dissent. A new report outlines the abuses.

Pro-Democracy protest at The Criminal Court in Bangkok, Thailand

Laura Valentina Cortés Sierra

"We need to reform the institution of the monarchy in Thailand. It is the root of the problem." Those words, from Thai student activist Juthatip Sirikan, are a clear expression of the growing youth-led movement that is challenging the legitimacy of the government and demanding deep political changes in the Southeast Asian nation. Yet those very same words could also send Sirikan to jail.

Thailand's Criminal Code 'Lèse-Majesté' Article 112 imposes jail terms for defaming, insulting, or threatening the monarchy, with sentences of three to 15 years. This law has been present in Thai politics since 1908, though applied sparingly, only when direct verbal or written attacks against members of the royal family.


But after the May 2014 military coup d'état, Thailand experienced the first wave of lèse-majesté arrests, prosecutions, and detentions of at least 127 individuals arrested in a much wider interpretation of the law.

The recent report 'Second Wave: The Return of Lèse-Majesté in Thailand', documents how the Thai government has "used and abused Article 112 of the Criminal Code to target pro-democracy activists and protesters in relation to their online political expression and participation in peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations."

Criticism of any 'royal project'

The investigation shows 124 individuals, including at least eight minors, have been charged with lèse-majesté between November 2020 and August 2021. Nineteen of them served jail time. The new wave of charges is cited as a response to the rising pro-democracy protests across Thailand over the past year.

Juthatip Sirikan explains that the law is now being applied in such a broad way that people are not allowed to question government budgets and expenditure if they have any relationship with the royal family, which stifles criticism of the most basic government decision-making since there are an estimated 5,000 ongoing "royal" projects. "Article 112 of lèse-majesté could be the key (factor) in Thailand's political problems" the young activist argues.

In 2020 the Move Forward opposition party questioned royal spending paid by government departments, including nearly 3 billion baht (89,874,174 USD) from the Defense Ministry and Thai police for royal security, and 7 billion baht budgeted for royal development projects, as well as 38 planes and helicopters for the monarchy. Previously, on June 16, 2018, it was revealed that Thailand's Crown Property Bureau transferred its entire portfolio to the new King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

photo of graffiti of 112 crossed out on sidewalk

Protestors In Bangkok Call For Political Prisoner Release

Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images via ZUMA Wire

Freedom of speech at stake

"Article 112 shuts down all freedom of speech in this country", says Sirikan. "Even the political parties fear to touch the subject, so it blocks most things. This country cannot move anywhere if we still have this law."

The student activist herself was charged with lèse-majesté in September 2020, after simply citing a list of public documents that refer to royal family expenditure. Sirikan comes from a family that has faced the consequences of decades of political repression. Her grandfather, Tiang Sirikhan was a journalist and politician who openly protested against Thailand's involvement in World War II. He was accused of being a Communist and abducted in 1952. According to Sirikhan's family, he was killed by the state.

The new report was conducted by The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Thai Lawyer for Human Rights (TLHR), and Internet Law Reform Dialogue (iLaw). It accuses Thai authorities of an increasingly broad interpretation of Article 112, to the point of "absurdity," including charges against people for criticizing the government's COVID-19 vaccine management, wearing crop tops, insulting the previous monarch, or quoting a United Nations statement about Article 112.

Juthatip Sirikan speaks in front of democracy monument.

Shift to social media

While in the past the Article was only used against people who spoke about the royals, it's now being used as an alibi for more general political repression — which has also spurred more open campaigning to abolish it. Sirikan recounts recent cases of police charging people for spreading paint near the picture of the king during a protest, or even just for having a picture of the king as phone wallpaper.

The more than a century-old law is now largely playing out online, where much of today's protest takes place in Thailand. Sirikan says people are willing to go further on social media to expose information such as how the king intervenes in politics and the monarchy's accumulation of wealth, information the mainstream media rarely reports on them.

Not surprisingly, however, social media is heavily monitored and the military is involved in Intelligence operations and cyber attacks against human rights defenders and critics of any kind. In October 2020, Twitter took down 926 accounts, linked to the army and the government, which promoted themselves and attacked political opposition, and this June, Google removed two Maps with pictures, names, and addresses, of more than 400 people who were accused of insulting the Thai monarchy. "They are trying to control the internet as well," Sirikan says. "They are trying to censor every content that they find a threat".

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