Last week a number of amendments to the bulgarian labour law came into effect that aim to provide relief mostly for medium, small and micro enterprises, as well as for agricultural producers. This article outlines some of the more important provisions promulgated in State Gazette No. 54 of 17.07.2015.
One-day employment contracts
The amendments to the LC from July 2015 for the first time introduced one-day contracts - Art. 114a LC, such that the scope of this provision is limited and conclusion of one-day contracts Is only permissible for activities in the field of horticulture and only if they do not require special training of employees and workers. Such a contract can be concluded only between a worker and a registered agricultural producer. Any person will be able to conclude this kind of contracts, and their total length must not exceed 90 days within one calendar year. An important feature in view of the social insurance consequences is that under such contracts, workers will be insured solely for disabilities arising from sickness, old age and death, or occupational accidents and diseases. Furthermore, the time spent in employment under such type of contract is not recognised as length of service.
Employment records of employees and workers
Art. 128b was added to the Labour Code, according to which the employer is obliged to keep employment records of the employee, storing all documents relating to the formation, existence, modification and termination of their employment.
Changes to working time
The most discussed change is the newly introduced option for employers to determine flexible working times. Thus, according to the new paragraph 3 of Art. 139 LC, if one day the employee/worker works less than the normal daily working time, they may afterwards work longer than the mandatory presence in specified hours of another day, in order to make up for the hours lost. Until now, such flexibility was achieved by introducing the so-called summarised calculation of working time - Art. 142 (2) LC. It should be borne in mind that since the way of reporting of working time is governed by the Regulations of internal labour policy of the undertaking, applying the new rules will require the said regulations to provide for flexible working time limits.
Changes to paid annual leave
Prior to the amendments to Art. 173 LC, employers used to pre-determine a schedule for the use of paid annual leave for the following calendar year. This created a number of inconveniences for both the employer and their employees because of the inability to plan the distribution of the annual leave among the employees months ahead, and also because of unforeseen production needs that might arise. The new legislative changes removed the requirement to create such schedules. The leave will be granted solely by written order of the employer.
It has also been added that for employees and workers who profess any religion other than Eastern Orthodox Christianity, the employer must authorise their chosen use of paid annual leave or unpaid leave under Art. 160 (1) LC for the days of the respective religious holidays, but not more than the number of days as per Art. 154 LC.
Art. 176 (2) LC has been amended, according to which the employer is now obliged to ensure the use of deferred leave from the previous year not later than the first six months of the current year from the end of the calendar year for which they are entitled. Where the employer has not authorised the use of leave in that period, the employee or worker is entitled to determine the time of use thereof themselves by notifying the employer in writing at least 14 days in advance. Until now there was no such limit of 6 months.
The limitation period of 2 years for unused leave remains unchanged.
Proposals for additional amendments
Along with the above amendments to the Labour Code, a number of other changes have been reviewed and discussed that have not yet been adopted. Some of them are:
Extending the period within which the NRA has to be notified from three to seven days for each newly concluded employment contract. To date, this period was three days under Art. 62 (3) LC from the date of signing the employment contract, but necessarily before the date on which the same enters into force.
With regard to small and micro enterprises, a requirement is yet to be eliminated, namely for the employer to lay down rules ensuring healthy and safe working conditions, which are regulated by the Health and Safety at Work Act. Currently each undertaking must conclude a contract with the Occupational Medicine Service to assess the risks involved and to ensure healthy and safe working conditions, regardless of the specific conditions of the working environment and whether it can be classified as high or low risk.
An amendment to Art. 181 (1) LC has been discussed, according to which the employer would be obliged to issue regulations for the internal working policy, determining the rights and obligations of employees and workers, as well as of the employer under their employment relationship and regulating the organisation of work in the undertaking in accordance with the particularities of its activities. It has been suggested that this requirement be waived for SMEs.
Another change affecting SMEs is the proposal to drop the requirement for prior written notification to the Labour Inspectorate for extended working time, governed by Art. 8 (2) of the Ordinance on working hours, breaks and holidays.
The employer will be entitled to termination with notice of the employment contract of a person who has acquired the right to pension and who has reached retirement age.
It has been proposed to eliminate protection for mothers of children under three years of age in cases of disciplinary dismissal of the employee or worker.