What is the procedure for use of maternity leave according to Bulgarian legislation and is the employee, resp. the worker, entitled to a leave due to temporary incapacity for work prior to such leave?
The Bulgarian legislation governing maternity leave is very comprehensive. This type of leave is governed by the Labour Code (abbr. LC), the Social Insurance Code (abbr. SIC), the Ordinance for the medical expertise and the Ordinance on working hours, leaves and holidays. This article will outline the most important questions on the subject, so that you can familiarise yourselves with the procedure, the necessary documents that a pregnant employee, resp. worker, must submit to the employer to take maternity leave etc.
In Bulgaria, maternity leave lasts 410 days per child. The first 135 of these 410 days are divided into three periods, namely:
- The pregnant employee must take maternity leave 45 days before the term date (Art. 26 (1), item 1 of the Ordinance on medical expertise). For this purpose she needs a document for temporary incapacity for work from the doctor who carried out the examination. If she did not give birth within those 45 days, the period is extended with a new document for temporary incapacity for work until the day of birth, but not more than 93 days. If she did give birth before the expiry of 45-day pregnancy leave (incl. premature birth, when there was no opportunity to take the leave), the insured is also entitled to the rest of the unused leave, in which case the leave is included in the third document for temporary incapacity for work (lasting 48 days). For example - 45 days before birth -> The child was born five days before the scheduled term -> The mother will use these five days off during the 48 days after the birth, i.e. the third document for temporary incapacity for work will allow the mother to use a leave of 48 + 5 = 53 days.
- The second document for temporary incapacity for work must be issued by the doctor who carried out the birth and lasts for a period of 42 days immediately after childbirth (Art. 26 (1), item 2 of the Ordinance on medical expertise). The mother is entitled to this leave regardless of whether the child was stillborn or given up for adoption.
- The third period of these 135 days lasts 48 days after the mother has been released from the hospital (Art. 26 (1), item 3 of the Ordinance on medical expertise). For this purpose once again a document for temporary incapacity for work must be issued by the GP of the child or the mother.
According to Art. 45 (1), item 2 of the Ordinance on working hours, leaves and holidays the remainder of 275 days (after the expiry of above 135 days) can be used based on a written application by the mother to the company where she works, enclosing the birth certificate of the child. The company must grant the leave from the day specified in the application.
In terms of social security, the following applies:
Female workers and employees who are on maternity leave are entitled to compensation once they have had contributory service covering this risk for a period of at least 12 months. The daily maternity benefit is set at 90 percent of the average daily remuneration or the average daily contributory income whereon insurance contributions have been paid or are due, and in the case of self-insured persons - the insurance contributions paid in respect of general sickness and maternity for a period of 24 calendar months preceding the month in which the temporary incapacity due to pregnancy and childbirth has occurred (Art. 49 (1) SIC).
A mother insured against general sickness and maternity is entitled to a maternity cash benefit for a period of 410 calendar days, of which 45 days before the birth (Art. 50 (1) SIC). The said benefit must be paid by the National Social Security Institute.
Very often in practice, the pregnant employee/worker needs to take leave even before the 45 days before the term date, because of her health condition. In such cases she has the following option: to take leave by reason of temporary incapacity due to general sickness (as well as Art. 6 of the Ordinance on medical expertise). Leave due to temporary incapacity is effected by a doctor through the issuance of a document for temporary incapacity for work from the first day of its occurrence to the day of recovery. These documents are issued by doctors and medical advisory committees. The document for temporary incapacity for work are issued on the day on which the temporary incapacity is established. The insured must provide a document for temporary incapacity for work or notify the employer/social insurance contributor within two working days of its issuance. The document for temporary incapacity for work is issued to the insured solely by the attending physician within 14 days continuously, but not more than 40 days intermittently within one calendar year (Art. 13 (1) of the Ordinance on medical expertise). Upon lapse of that leave, the person is referred to a medical advisory committee, which in turn issues a document for temporary incapacity for work for an extended period, i.e. the pregnant employee/worker must be issued 2 such documents, if her leave will last longer than 14 days.
Persons insured in respect of general sickness and maternity are entitled to cash benefits in lieu of remuneration for the period of leave due to temporary incapacity for work and in case of occupational rehabilitation, provided that they have at least 6 months of contributory service, in the course of which they have been insured in respect of such risk.
- For the first working day of the temporary incapacity the social insurance contributor (resp. the employer) pays to the insured person 70 percent of the average gross remuneration for the month in which there has been a temporary disability, but not less than 70 percent of the average remuneration agreed (Art. 40 (5) SIC).
- The daily cash benefit for temporary disability through general sickness is calculated at the rate of 80 percent of the average daily gross remuneration or the average daily contributory income whereon social insurance contributions have been paid or are due, and in respect of self-insured persons - on which social insurance contributions have been paid for general sickness and maternity, for a period of 18 calendar months preceding the month of occurrence of the disability. The daily cash benefit for temporary incapacity for work by reason of general sickness may not exceed the average daily net remuneration for the period on the basis of which the benefit is calculated (Art. 41 (1) SIC).
Finally, it should be emphasised that when a pregnant employee or worker wishes to take leave earlier than the legally provided 45 days before the term date, it is advisable that there be no gaps between the periods of leave by reason of temporary incapacity for work due to general illness and maternity leave, so that she could receive the highest possible compensation. In this case, the compensation due to be paid post-birth would be calculated based on the daily remuneration of the employee/worker received in the last 24 months before the leave by reason of temporary incapacity for work.