October 2022 – On 4 October 2022, the Slovak parliament adopted an amendment to the Labour Code (the "Amendment") that enters into effect on 1 November 2022. The aim of the Amendment is mainly to implement two EU directives (No. 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the EU and No. 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers) and to respond to certain requirements resulting from application practice. In this article, we present an overview of the most important changes.
1 Content of employment contracts
Essential elements of an employment contract
The essential elements of an employment contract have not changed, but the definition of the place of work has been clarified. The contract must contain either (i) the place of work (i.e., municipality, part of a municipality or another place designated by the parties), (ii) the places of work (if there are multiple), or (iii) a provision that the place of work is determined by the employee.
Extended information duty
It is possible to agree on other various conditions in the employment contract, if the employer and the employee wish so. However, compared to the previous legislation, the Amendment defines a wider range of working conditions that must be demonstrably notified to the employee, if these are not part of the employment contract:
(i) the method for determining the place of work or the main place of work (if there are multiple places of work agreed in the employment contract);
(ii) the weekly work schedule, the method and rules for organising the work schedule, the scope of providing a break at work and its duration, the continuous daily and weekly rest times, and the rules for overtime work, including the wage surcharge for overtime;
(iii) the duration of annual leave or the method for its determination;
(iv) the payment of wages and its payment date;
(v) the rules on the termination of employment, the length of the notice period or method for its determination (if it is unknown at the time of providing this information), the deadline for claiming the invalidity of employment termination; and
(vi) the right to receive training (if provided by the employer) and its scope.
Where it is possible, reference to the relevant provisions of the law or collective agreement (in such case also its description and parties) is sufficient.
The employer must inform employees hired prior to 1 November 2022 within one month from receiving a request for such information by an employee. Therefore, employers do not need to rush and proactively prepare information packages for their existing employees.
With regards to employees hired after 1 November 2022, the employer will have to notify them within:
(a) seven days from the establishing of employment about the conditions listed in points (i), (ii) and (iv) above; and
(b) four weeks from the establishing of employment about the other listed conditions.
The information duty must be fulfilled with a written notice delivered to the employees. The notice may now be provided also in electronic form if (i) the employees have access to the information in electronic form, (ii) they can save and print it, and (iii) the employer archives proof of delivery or sending thereof.
If the notified conditions change, the employee must be provided with an updated written notice no later than on the effective day of the change.
If the work is to be performed abroad or the employee is to be posted within the EU, a specific information duty also applies (it relates to the working conditions applicable in the respective country). This obligation must be fulfilled before the work abroad starts.
2 Duration of employment
- Interpretation of the term "duration of employment" has been added by the Amendment. The duration of previous employment continuously followed by employment with the same employer will be included in the total duration of employment with the same employer.
- The Amendment adjusts the duration of the probationary period in cases of fixed-term employment, where it should be proportionate to the expected employment term. The probationary period may not be agreed for a period longer than half of the agreed employment term (e.g., for employment with a term of four months, the probationary period may not be longer than two months).
- The Amendment introduced a new obligation for employers: to respond in writing to an employee's request to change their employment from fixed-term to indefinite-term, or from shorter working time to regular weekly working time. The employer must respond within one month from receiving the employee's request. For an employer with more than 50 employees, the deadline is three months. This does not mean that the employer must answer positively, but the employee´s request must be properly considered. Employees can submit such a request if their employment lasts for more than six months, they are not in a probationary period, and have not submitted such a request within the last 12 months.
3 Protection of employees
- Under the Amendment, the burden of proof in some cases of invalid employment termination has been transferred to the employer. If the employee believes that the termination of their employment occurred because the employee exercised their rights and interests protected by law, the employer will have to clearly demonstrate that the termination occurred for other reasons. However, the manner in which employees will be required to support their assumption that their employment was unlawfully terminated is currently unclear.
- The Amendment adds a provision regarding parallel employment, based on which employers cannot prohibit their employees from working for another employer if this happens outside of the working time schedule, and employees cannot be disadvantaged in any way by the employer in this regard. Nevertheless, restriction of competitive activity applies to employees as before.
- The Amendment also clarifies the controversial issue related to the death of an employee before expiration of the notice period or the agreed date and their right to severance pay. For these purposes, the day of employee's death is considered as the employment termination date.
4 Delivery of documents
In response to the current absence of regulation concerning the delivery of written labour-related documents (e.g., when employment relationship is terminated) by postal services, a minimum collection period of 10 days at the post office has been implemented.
5 Meal deductions
The employer can now make deductions from an employee’s wage for advance payments for meal allowances without a specific agreement on wage deductions (i.e., directly by virtue of law).
6 Paternity leave
- The Amendment introduces the so-called paternity leave in relation to the care of a new-born child, which conceptually replaces the previously existing male parental leave. Paternity leave is granted to a father for 28 weeks from the day of childbirth. In specific cases, the length of paternity leave is extended to 31 weeks (for single men) or 37 weeks (for men caring for two or more children born at once).
- During the paternity leave the father is entitled to paternity pay, which is paid by the Social Security Agency. Fathers can take two weeks of their paternity leave entitlement within the period of first six weeks after the childbirth and receive paternity pay simultaneously with the child's mother (who at the same time receives maternity leave for the same child).
- Fathers in connection with paternity will enjoy the same protection as mothers in connection with maternity (e.g., before termination of employment, when returning to work from paternity leave, when adjusting working conditions, etc.).
7 Trade unions
- The Amendment introduces new trade union rights. The first is the right to contact employees in an appropriate manner (agreed with the employer) for the purposes of offering a union membership to them. In the absence of an agreement, the employer must provide employees with written information about the trade union (i.e., basic data such as name, headquarters and website, telephone number, etc.) within seven days:
(i) from the day of receiving the request from the trade union (if it does not concern a change of data, which may be requested only once a year);
(ii) from the day when the trade union started operation at the employer; or
(iii) from the day of commencement of employment, if the trade union already operates at the employer.
- The second is the right to inform employees about trade union activities in an appropriate way (agreed with the employer). In the absence of an agreement, the employer must allow the trade union to publish information in a place accessible to employees.
- If there is a dispute over the presence of the trade union at the employer, the Amendment introduces a new mechanism for the repayment of the arbitrator's remuneration. The new mechanism obliges the party that started the dispute to pay the remuneration. If the arbitrator rules that the employees are not members of the given trade union, the party that started the dispute has the right to be refunded by the trade union.
8 Agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship
- The extended information duty (point 1 above) also applies to agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship, if the average weekly working time exceeds three hours in a period of four consecutive weeks.
- The Amendment also introduces new rules on the minimum predictability of work, according to which the employer may not require the employee to work outside the announced schedule (which must be notified to the employee no less than 24 hours before the start of work), and the employee does not have to work outside such a schedule. If the employer cancels the performance of work sooner than 24 hours before the start of work, it must provide the employee with compensation in the amount of at least 30% of the compensation the employee would have earned for the given day.
For more information, please contact the authors of the article.