Another chance for large amendment to the Labour Code

A large draft amendment to the Labour Code from August last year has for a long time seemed forgotten. This October, however, a turning point came when the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs disclosed another large draft amendment. At the same time, representatives of the government coalition, trade unions, and employers have also declared their interest in making the draft’s path through parliament as short as possible. That is why, in mid-October, they signed a gentlemen’s agreement declaring their joint support. The extensive amendment to the Labour Code will therefore get another chance, even if in an amended form.

Conceptual adjustments to the treatment of vacations remain the amendment’s notional flagship.  According to the amendment, an employee’s weekly working hours should form the basis for assessing vacation in hours, which will be especially fairer for employees working in shifts with varying lengths.

Linked to the change in the overall vacation concept is also the proposed modification of vacation reductions. Whereas today, employers may reduce an employee’s vacation by one to three days for an unexcused missed shift, pursuant to the draft, it should only be possible to cut employee vacations by the number of working hours actually missed.

A job-sharing concept has also made it into the new amendment. Two or more employees should be able to share one job and take turns within working hours that they themselves schedule to perform the job. The job sharing must be agreed in writing between each employee and the employer and the shorter working hours of individual employees sharing one job may not in aggregate exceed statutory weekly working hours.

The large amendment should also respond to the practical problems associated with the delivery of written documents to employees. For example, as regards mail delivery, it will no longer be necessary to hunt down employees at home or elsewhere to properly deliver written documents, as it should suffice that the employer attempts to deliver the document at the workplace.

The amendment also cancels the employer’s duty to issue a confirmation of employment for an employee where an agreement to perform work has been terminated (excepting agreements subject to the participation in the sickness insurance scheme or garnishment of a portion of wages). The draft also increases the amount of one-off compensation paid to an employee’s surviving dependants to at least twenty times the national economy’s average wage.

In contrast, the tripartite has not been able to agree on the setting of a mechanism for increasing the minimum wage on an automatic basis. This controversial point has therefore been excluded from the large amendment. The minimum wage will therefore continue to be determined by government decree and changed occasionally when necessary.

The effort to adopt an extensive amendment to the Labour Code began in the last parliamentary term, but the deputies’ chamber in its previous composition did not have time to pass it. And the bill’s position in the current term is not easy either. After a year of discussions since the publication of its second version, the amendment’s wording, very much a compromise, was included in a bill primarily regulating the transposition of the EU Directive on the Posting of Workers. The amendment should enter into effect on 1 July 2020, or 1 January 2021 where certain selected provisions, such as those relating to vacation, are concerned. Will the amendment be discussed and approved in due time? We just have to wait and see…

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