Penev LLP: COVID-19 and Employment – Practical Aspects

The world of work is profoundly affected by the global COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, employers face unprecedented challenges and concerns that must address within the law while keeping their businesses afloat.

In the light of the declared state of emergency on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and the recently promulgated (and subsequently amended) Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Act (“MASEA”), PENEV LLP considers it useful to briefly outline some of the legal possibilities available to employers to respond adequately to the current complicated situation.

1. Teleworking

Employers are entitled to unilaterally introduce teleworking where the specific nature of the work so allows, i.e. they have the right to assign, by virtue of a written order and without the need for employees’ consent, the work to be performed remotely.

Further, employers must carefully consider the legal requirements for the content of the written order which must specify a number of conditions for the teleworking, such as the process of assigning and reporting work, supplying materials, payment for consumables, etc.

2. Part-time Work

Another possibility for the employers would be to introduce part-time work in the company or a unit thereof, for the whole period of the state of emergency or part of it, for full-time employees.

The above can be done unilaterally by an order specifying the length of working time, the employees who will be affected by the reduced working time and its duration.

3. Suspension of work/Use of Paid Leave

Employers are also entitled to suspend, using a written order, the work of the whole company, part of it or specific employees for the whole period of the state of emergency or part of it until the state of emergency is lifted.

In this case, as well as when the work has already been suspended by an order of a public authority, employers are entitled to grant half of the paid annual leave to the employees without their consent including the employees who have not acquired 8 (eight) months of service (which is the general requirement for the use of paid leave under the Labor Code).

Furthermore, it is worth mentioning that MASEA does not allow the employer to provide unpaid leave without the consent of the employee.

4. Wage Subsidy

The qualifying employers may also apply for the announced economic measure for supporting employers in difficulties due to the coronavirus which consists of payment by the National Social Security Institute (NSSI) of 60% of the insurance income for January 2020 plus the contributions due from the employer. Such transfer of funds to the employers shall continue for the duration of MASEA but for a period not exceeding 3 (three) months.

In addition, in the event that the employer fails to pay the remaining 40% of the salary to the employees for whom funds were received, he will be obliged to reimburse the funds to the NSSI.

5. Termination of Employment

As a last resort, employers can exercise their right to terminate the employment relationship of the employees concerned by this economic crisis using any of the appropriate economic grounds envisaged for the purpose in the Labor Code in which case the employer must comply with the usual legal requirements including overcoming pre-dismissal protection and payment of termination benefits.

The above material is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon or construed as a legal opinion or advice regarding any specific issue.