Managing employees in Europe - Employment at will & GDPR

The aim of this blog is to give a brief outline of possible challenges you could face when you decide to expand your business from the United States into Europe. It shows examples of the different European approaches when hiring or terminating employees, as well as the importance of understanding the GDPR when dealing with employees in the European Union.

Notable differences between hiring in Europe vs in the USA
In the United States “employment at will” is the basis of the employment relationship. In Europe, however, there is no such concept. Employment is primarily structured through formal written contracts that set forth provisions regarding payment and working conditions. Employment contracts also need to be in strict compliance with the European Labor Law which differs per country.

Because employment in Europe is not “at will” minimum standards for notice prior to termination must exist. The termination process is much longer and more complicated than in the United States, which requires a comprehensive understanding of European Labor Law. Each European country has its own unique employment laws that could greatly differ from one another. In some European countries, termination without a legally valid reason may be void or could result in large damage awards for unfair discharge.

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Privacy laws in Europe vs in the USA
In 2018, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) took effect for all companies operating in the EU no matter the location in which they are based. The GDPR was created in order for employees to have more control over their personal data and businesses can benefit from a level playing field. This means that the employees’ privacy is more strictly governed than compared to the USA.

European countries place great importance on the employee’s rights to personal freedom in the workplace. For example, monitoring your employees’ emails and work activity is standard for the USA but that is not the case for Europe. Monitoring employees’ computers and work phones is not illegal in Europe, but there are certain formalities to keep in mind. If an employer is to monitor the digital behavior of their employees, the employer must clearly state that such monitoring activities will take place, and only after the agreement and awareness of the employee can the employer exercise this right. If the employer fails to be transparent on how they will monitor their employees and for what purpose – a violation of the GDPR will occur. More about GDPR fines can be found here

EuroDev can support you with hiring and terminating actions when you want to expand your business in Europe. Our HR Outsourcing services ensure compliance with each country’s employment laws and successful handling of the intricacies of managing European employees.

More information

In case you would like to have more information, do not hesitate to connect with Monique Ramondt-Sanders - VP of Human Resource Outsourcing at EuroDev. Interested in more information concerning our HR Outsourcing services? Please have a look at our HR Outsourcing page

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About EuroDev

EuroDev, established in 1996 with offices in The Netherlands and France, has a single, defined purpose to help mid-sized North American companies expand their business in Europe. We have created a proven, successful business development model and since our founding, have partnered with over 300 companies to help them define and meet their European business goals. Services provided include Sales Outsourcing, HR Outsourcing and Digital Marketing.

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