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    Business governance and the working environment

    Area of expertise

    Our advocates have broad experience of questions involving management prerogative, governance and the working environment.

    An employer has both rights and duties in relation to management and governance.

    The prerequisite for a smoothly functioning workplace is that the employer organises the business and the work in an appropriate manner, and that the employees adapt themselves to the employer’s management and governance. This constitutes an important part of an employer’s management prerogative which entitles the employer to organise, manage and allocate tasks of work.

    At the same time, an employer needs to exercise his management prerogative objectively while ensuring that the employees work within a proper and appropriately organised working environment. The Working Environment Act lays down several mandatory rules that not only restrict management prerogative, but also ensure that the employer safeguards the employee’s right to a proper physical and psychosocial working environment.

    Central elements are the rules that govern systematic health, safety and environmental operations (HSE), the rules governing internal controls and mandatory co-operative arrangements involving safety representatives, the working environment committee and the company health service. Several collective agreements include requirements for the employees to be involved in decision-making processes, including duties of information, consultation and co-determination with regard to the employee representatives.

    In addition, there is the protection against discrimination enshrined in Chapter 13 of the Working Environment Act and in the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act. This legislation provides protection in that it prohibits direct and indirect discrimination, based on gender, ethnicity, political beliefs, trade union affiliation, disability, sexual preference etc.

    Most of the provisions of the Working Environment Act relating to HSE and the working environment are subject to the supervision and control of the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority. This body can also adopt resolutions designed to ensure that the requirements of the Working Environment Act are met and implemented; it can also impose coercive fines and penalties and order that the firm’s operations be halted. Breaches of the Anti-Discrimination Act can be reported to the Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombudsman and the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal.

    An employer must therefore see to it that there is the necessary correlation between the company’s management and governance and the goals set, and that they are in accordance with the legal and contractual requirements applicable within the area in question.

    We represent employers in both the private and public sectors as well as trade unions and employers’ associations. We have procedural experience gained in all courts, including the Supreme Court and Industrial Tribunals. Moreover, we have in-depth experience of dealing with cases involving orders issued by the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority, also within the court system.

    The assistance we can offer employers includes:

    • Establishing labour law management tools and contractual regulations in the form of employment contracts, job descriptions, personnel handbooks and company regulations.
    • Preparation of collective management tools and contractual regulations in the form of collective agreements, including direct and in-house contracts, as well as evaluating such contracts against the over-arching contractual hierarchy and other legal frameworks.
    • Governance and management support, for example in connection with changes to employees’ work tasks, organisational placement, workplace and working hours.
    • Advice relating to meeting working environment requirements such as HSE requirements, including the follow-up of non-compliance, and other assistance in cases involving the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority.
    • Support in disputes.

    We also assist employees, both individually and groupwise, when for example represented by spokespersons. We frequently advise employees whose rights have been infringed by their employers, whether the rights are laid down in mandatory legislation, collective agreements or in contracts of employment. We would single out in particular the following:

    • Advice and follow-up of breaches of the Working Environment Act, including breaches of working hours’ rules, breaches of Anti-Discrimination stipulations, adaptation requirements and other requirements concerning the physical and psychosocial working environment.
    • Advice on issues connected with changes in the working relationship and the employer’s use of management prerogative, including questions of whether management prerogative has been exceeded and whether, in a case of redundancy with offer of suitable alternative employment, a formalistic error has been committed.
    • Disputes, for example in connection with pay claims and overtime compensation; disputes relating to the use of management prerogative and redundancy offers, as well as breaches of the anti-discrimination protection legislation.

    Svein Steinfeld Jervell
    Partner

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    Tonje Liavaag
    Partner

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    See the whole team