The proposed amendments in the Labour Code

The proposed amendments in the Labour Code drafted by the Council of Ministers and submitted to the National Assembly, on March 16th, 2020, come as a response to the numerous questions raised in relation to the absence of workers and employees from work in certain sectors where the activity has been terminated, as well as in working companies in terms of limiting contacts and prevention of infection.

The proposed amendments shall undoubtedly enable to mitigate the economic impacts for employers and employees resulting from the closing of premises, reduce the volume of workload and shall help avoid dismissals in the conditions of the current state of emergency declared with a decision of the National Assembly of 13 March 2020. Furthermore, the said amendments are aimed at introducing some clarity on the immediate measures that have to be undertaken by the employers.
The amendments envisage two hypotheses for termination of the operation of the whole undertaking or parts thereof – by means of an employer’s order or an act of a state authority.

In case of termination of operation by means of an employer’s order, the absence of the workers and employees shall be in the form of paid or unpaid leave, where the employer shall have the right to grant them the unused paid leave until that moment even without their consent. In practice, an additional option is provided for the employer to unilaterally grant the workers and the employees with paid leave along with the ones envisaged so far – namely in case of idling for more than 5 working days, in case of unused annual paid leave for the same year, and in case of use of leave by all workers and employees in the undertaking simultaneously. So far, the Labour Code did not provide for unilateral granting of unpaid leave. However, by virtue of the said amendments this becomes possible in case of termination of operation of the undertaking and in case of exhaustion of the paid leave of the employee.

The amendments also respond to the repeatedly raised questions concerning the provision of means of subsistence for the workers and employees working in premises which have been closed on the grounds of the order of the Minister of Health. Now these workers and employees shall have the right to compensation amounting to 50 % of their remuneration, but not less than 75 % of the minimum salary, whereby the compensation shall be paid by the employer.

Until this moment, working at home and remote work, due to their voluntary nature, required the consent of the workers and employees – pursuant to the amendments, in case of emergency state an order of the employer is enough for introduction of this regime of work. This order shall determine the period during which the workers and employees shall be working from home or remotely, as well as all specifics related thereto concerning reporting of working time, provision of all necessary equipment by the employer, use of working breaks, ensuring health and safety at work, etc.

The new amendments shall eliminate part of the requirements currently in force related to the introduction of part-time work by the employer – at this moment the introduction of such working time is admissible upon an order of the employer which has to be presented to the employees 10 days in advance, after it has been discussed and agreed with the representatives of the workers and employees.

Considering the emergency state and the need for quick reaction and decision-making by the employers, such preliminary coordination of the change in working time and the need to comply with the 10-days time period in advance practically gives a choice to the employers – either to violate the applicable legislation or to comply with the statutory provisions putting the health of their employees at risk and to mitigate the economic losses as much as possible.

The amendments shall undoubtedly ensure the quick reaction of the employers and the most suitable decision regarding the work organisation while providing the necessary conditions for preservation of the health and safety of the employees, as well as for reducing the negative economic impacts of the current state of emergency for both parties to the labour relationship.

Now we are expecting the adoption of the proposed amendments. Nevertheless, until their final adoption and entry into force it is recommended for the employers to keep observing the currently applicable law provisions.