By Jean Christou
Around half of businesses in Cyprus are more or less clueless or ignore the labour laws, often don’t know how many hours a day or a week people should work, and have no maternity or sexual harassment policies, according a report on Tuesday.
The survey ‘Healthy Employee Relations, Modern Enterprises’ was carried out by the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV) with the European Social Fund, interviewing 801 companies.
It found that though most companies believe they comply strongly with the labour laws, more than half “are unaware of the existence of the Industrial Relations Code” and have no idea about the labour ministry’s mediation service to resolve disputes.
“Only a small minority of companies implement a code of practice and a disciplinary code. Problems are overwhelmingly settled directly with the employee,” said the report. Only one in five companies have unionised workers.
According to the results, 93.4 per cent of the companies surveyed say they had registered their staff for social insurance but despite knowing the basics, the survey found that most companies seemed to be unaware of individual provisions of the law relating how much notice should be given to an employee, or how regulations relating to redundancy operate.
“Based on the responses it is clear that there is a significant gap in the understanding of the Termination of Employment Law,” the report said.
Three out of four businesses know the minimum annual leave to which an employee is entitled to every year but the vast majority of companies do not follow a specific maternity policy. “Somewhat less than half of respondents were aware of the length of maternity leave while even fewer were aware of other provisions of the same law,” the report added.
Employers also didn’t know the maximum number of days or hours an employee should work every week or the minimum time allowed for a break. “Somewhat less than half of respondents correctly answered as to what the maximum number of hours worked per week should be,” said the report.
Businesses were also clueless when it came to gender discrimination. While they were aware they should pay women the same as men for equal work, they had no idea of the parameters under which this was evaluated.
Also the vast majority did not implement a code of practice to address sexual harassment, and had the erroneous view that sexual harassment was limited to obscene gestures or verbal approaches from men to women.
One in four small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in Cyprus saw their turnover fall more than 30 per cent after the March 2013 crisis, and four in ten firms have seen turnover fall by more than 30 per cent since the end of 2010.
This was the biggest challenge currently facing SMEs. “The percentage of companies that are very pessimistic for the near future is more than triple the percentage of businesses that are very optimistic,” the survey found.
Only one in four businesses will seek to recruit staff within the next year while one in three still have difficulties paying wages. Half of all those surveyed reduced wages and benefits of staff after the crisis, and one in three had to impose redundancies.
OEV concluded that there were serious gaps and misconceptions when it came to the labour laws. “We believe that with this research we are only scratching the surface and only able to make general observations,” the organisation said, adding that further research would help towards a more targeted policy in addressing the gaps.
Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou praised the survey saying that under the current economic conditions it was important to identify and correct gaps in knowledge through training and seminars to achieve the best possible outcome for both businesses and their employees.