Why Google can’t fire Germans

Europe’s strict labour laws are slowing down the international leg of the tech layoff tour. 

Faced with a slowing economy, high interest rates, and the realization that they may have overhired just a touch during the pandemic, Big Tech is desperate to slash headcounts. But in Europe, robust labour protections make it challenging to fire people in some countries (like France and Germany) without consultations with employee interest groups, per Bloomberg

  • Over 120,000 people have been fired across the tech sector so far this year. Most have been in the US, where employees can be legally fired for almost any reason.

  • In France and Germany, bargaining with employee groups prior to layoffs can be a long process of disclosures and negotiations, with the possibility of legal action. 

Why it matters: Labour laws typically skew towards benefitting either employees or employers. In the US, where laws are more employer-friendly, companies can fire workers on a whim. “It is inspiring for people in the US to see things are different in other places—it’s a blueprint for what people can fight for,” a Google software engineer told Bloomberg

  • In France, Amazon has reportedly offered as much as one year’s pay to get senior employees to leave and time for shares to vest (and be paid out as bonuses).

  • By contrast, in the UK, where labour laws are weaker, ~500 of 8,000 Google employees have been let go—tracking with the company’s 6% redundancy rate

In Canada: Labour laws aren’t as robust as in Europe, but they’re more employee-friendly than in the US. It’s one reason that the tech layoff wave has been slower to spread up north.—SB