The latest amendments to the Bulgarian Labour Code introduce shorter reporting periods for the summarized calculation of the working hours and decrease the length of required service for the use of paid annual leave
We end the dynamic 2020 with a large number of amendments to the Bulgarian Labour Code, some of which are quite significant. The amendments were published in the State Gazette on 18 December 2020. We have summarized some of them below:
Working hours and leaves
The initially required length of service for employees to use their paid annual leave is now reduced from eight to four months.
The maximum reporting periods for the calculation of the working hours on a longer basis have also been amended. Until now, employers could apply a period of their choice from one week to six months. As of 1 January 2021, the period can vary between one month and four months. An exception is provided for in case of a collective bargaining agreement in the enterprise but that would only cover some industries and sectors.
A collective bargaining agreement may also provide for up to 300 hours of overtime work annually per employee. For companies where collective bargaining does not apply, the maximum hours of overtime work remain unchanged – 150 hours annually.
Employers are now obliged to provide free food for their employees during the night shifts, as well as refreshing drinks. Before the changes took place, the obligation was for the employers to provide warm food, which is now no longer a requirement.
Employees can now enter into employment contracts for additional work with the same employer for some days of the month. The contract must be for work functions, different from the main employment obligations of the employee, and shall be performed before or after the established working hours under the main employment contract.
Powers of the employer
A significant change has been introduced regarding the established deadlines for imposing disciplinary sanctions. From now on, the two-month term for completion of the disciplinary proceedings and imposition of a disciplinary sanction will not run during the time period while the opinion of the medical expertise and the permission of the labour inspection are expected.
A legal definition of the term “systemic breaches of labour discipline” has also been introduced and now reinforces the case law. Systemic breaches occur when there are three or more cases of non-compliance with the labour discipline committed over a period of one year, with no disciplinary sanction imposed for at least one of them and the terms established in the Labour Code have not expired for the imposition of a penalty.
Although it may seem minor, a change in the use of temporary employment enterprises will resolve a significant problem in the use of temporary employment. Beneficiary companies can now request that employees who are seconded to them are sent to business trips outside their place of permanent employment. This applies both to general business trips in Bulgaria or abroad and to posting of employees in the framework of provision of services. The secondment will be made at the request of the beneficiary company and cannot be refused by the company providing temporary work.
Compensation and sanctions
A change in favour of long-term loyal employees has been introduced in the requirements for payment of compensation upon termination of the employment contract after the employee acquires the right to a pension (Article 222, paragraph 3 of the Labour Code). Compensation in the amount of six months’ salary will be paid to all employees who have gained 10 years of service during the last 20 years of employment with the employer or another enterprise of the employer’s corporate group. Accordingly, the requirement for uninterrupted continuity of the work experience with the last employer is dropped.
Some of the texts of the Labour Code related to the imposition of sanctions for breaches of the labour legislation have also been amended. For example, the maximum amount of the financial sanction in cases of repeated breaches of the rules for healthy and safe at work has been reduced, and for systematic non-payment of remunerations and compensations under the Labour Code a sanction from BGN 20,000 to BGN 30,000 may be imposed.
When will the changes take effect?
All changes are now in force and apply. Only the changes regarding the calculation of the working hours on longer reference periods will be applied as of 1 January 2021.
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