The Government of the Slovak Republic approved on 31 March 2020 further draft bills in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. One of these is also an act amending the Labour Code and other particular laws in the field of employment and social security. You can find a brief summary on this amendment below. This legal regulation has not come into force so far – the bill must be submitted to the Slovak parliament yet, and only after its approval by the Slovak parliament the bill can be submitted to the president for signing (and then officially published). Thus, the below summary is only preliminary and subject to changes. [EDIT 6.4.2020: The new law came into force on 4 April 2020. This updated post already reflects the final adopted wording of the new law.]
Home Office – New Rules
In one of our previous legal alerts we advised that, in principle, an employer cannot order a “home office” to an employee if the employee does not agree therewith.
Pursuant to the new legal regulation, during an emergency situation, state of emergency and state of distress [“núdzový stav”] (“State of Crisis”), the employer shall be entitled to order the home office to the employee if the work agreed under the respective employment contract allows to do so i.e. if the agreed work can also be performed from home in the “home office” mode.
Similarly, the employee is entitled to demand to perform work from home (i.e. the employer must permit it):
- if the work agreed under the respective employment contract allows to do so,
- unless there are serious operational reasons (at the employer) not enabling such work.
Reduced Compensation to Employees Not Working
In general, if the employer has no work for the employee (e.g. due to the current situation), this is regarded under Slovak law as “obstacles at work” on part of the employer and the employer must pay to the employee – who is not working (and stays at home) – 100% of the employee’s average earnings. If there are employees’ representatives (trade unions, work council, or employees’ confidant) operating at the employer, the employer can agree with them on 60% compensation. If there are no employees’ representatives at the employer, the employer cannot unilaterally decide on the reduced compensation to the employees.
Pursuant to the new legal regulation, the [EDIT 6.4.2020: compensation to the employee is reduced (by virtue of law)] to 80% of the employee’s average earnings (even without any agreement with the employees’ representatives, and no consent of the employees is required), if the employee cannot perform work (at all, or partially) due to the closure or limitation of the employer’s activities:
- based on a decision of the respective authority (such as the currently ordered closure of retail operations, restaurants and bars, etc.); or
- due to the State of Crisis. In our view, employers that closed or limited their operations due to the low demand for their services or goods caused by the State of Crisis, would fall within this category. However, if the closure or limitation of the employer’s operation is not caused by the State of Crisis , this reduction of the employees’ salaries is not permitted under this special legal regulation that shall apply only to the State of Crisis.
In any case, the employee must receive the compensation at least in the amount corresponding to the statutory minimum salary.
The amendment to the Labour Code does not address the governmental plans announced last weekend in relation to the compensation of “80% of employees’ wage” by the state. We expect that this announced governmental measure will be regulated in other legal regulations or ordinances to be adopted yet. [EDIT 6.4.2020: You can read about this allowance provided to the employers in one of our recent posts published in the COVID-19 section on our web page.]
[EDIT 6.4.2020: In the final wording of the amendment to the Labour Code adopted by the Slovak Parliament, the provisions and rules regarding an option of the employers to order to the employees to work off (later) the time (maximum of 400 hours per calendar year) that the employees spent at home (not working), were omitted. Thus, for an easier reading of this post, we have deleted our original information on such procedure.]
Working Time Schedule
In principle, the employer should announce the working time schedule valid for one week at least one week in advance.
The new legal regulation provides for a greater flexibility in this regard, and allows to announce to the employee the working time schedule valid for (at least) one week only two days in advance (and if the employee agrees, this time period can be even shorter).
The new legal regulation allows to announce to the employee the date of the (ordered) vacation seven days in advance (compared to the usual 14 days), and in special cases this notice period can be even shorter.
Protection of Employees Against Termination Notice
The Slovak Labour Code protects certain group of employees – such as employees on a sick leave or employees on a maternity or parental leave – against the termination of employment.
The new amendment to the Labour Code stipulates that the following employees shall be protected against the termination notice in the same way as the employees on a sick-leave:
- employees being in a quarantine or (ordered) “isolation”;
- employees nursing, in person and the whole day, a sick family member (as stipulated in other special legal regulations; we believe that the reference is meant to be to the Act on Social Insurance);
- employees taking care of, in person and the whole day, of another person (as stipulated in other special legal regulations; we believe that the reference is meant to be to the Act on Social Insurance).
Thus, as long as the employees are absent at work due to the above-mentioned reasons, the employer cannot serve them a termination notice, save for exceptional cases. These exceptional cases include e.g. a serious breach of work discipline, or another (not serious) breach of work discipline.
The draft bill proposes also changes to legal regulations in the field of health&safety at work, social insurance and social security, and social services. These include, e.g.:
- extension of the time period, during which registered unemployed individuals are entitled to receive the unemployment allowance support; this support time period shall be extended by one month in case the support time period would otherwise expire during the State of Crisis, and the Government of the SR can regulate further details regarding the unemployment support (amount, (further) support period, conditions for the receipt of the unemployment allowance, etc.) in a governmental ordinance;
- proving of fulfillment of formal requirements and conditions (such as no tax arrears, no illegal employment, etc.) for obtaining allowances to maintain job positions and/or to maintain employees in connection with the State of Crisis (the “Special Allowances”), shall be less administrative burdensome – the applicant shall issue a sworn affidavit in lieu of the usual formal documents;
- more flexible rules concerning the need to be registered in the Register of Public Sector Partners – the employer applying for the Special Allowance that must be registered in the Register of Public Sector Partners, is until 31.12.2020 deemed to be registered in the Register of Public Sector Partners.
We do not elaborate more on these new crisis measures in this post.
We monitor the current legislative developments and will continue to post updates on the above information (and also on other legislative changes and also interesting legal topics). This post was prepared on 31 March 2020. [EDIT 6.4.2020: This post was updated on 6.4.2020]
 Act No. 311/2002 Coll. The Labour Code, as amended.