The extraordinary circumstances that the world faced in 2020 have led to numerous changes in labour legislation worldwide, including in Bulgaria. March 2020 saw Bulgaria declare a state of emergency and adopt an Act on the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency. Most of the changes that addressed the need to rearrange the relationships between employer and employee as a result of the emergence of COVID-19 became effective on the territory of the country from March 2020. In May 2020, the Bulgarian government declared an “emergency epidemic situation” which replaced the state of emergency and which enabled the extension of some of the measures that were intro-duced during the state of emergency. At present, the “emergency epidemic situation” has been extended until 30 April 2021, and this means that most of the measures will continue to be implemented in 2021. Some of those measures that will remain applicable in 2021 are as follows.
Employers whose activities have not been suspended during the emergency epidemic situation are entitled to introduce unilaterally home-office work or telework, without the consent of the employees or part-time work for all or part of the enterprise. Additionally, the employers may grant up to one half of the paid annual leave to an employee without their consent.
If work has been suspended by order of the employer or by virtue of a state body act, the law provides several possibilities. The employer may unilaterally, without the consent of the employees, grant them their paid annual leave. The employer is not entitled to grant unpaid leave without the consent of the employee. However, the employer is obliged to grant the requested paid or unpaid leave to several categories of employees (incl. pregnant employees and employees at an advanced stage of IVF treatment, mothers or adoptive mothers of a child up to 12 years of age or of a disabled child, regardless of their age, etc.)
After 1 January 2021, the unpaid leave for a period of up to 60 days will be acknowledged as work experience. During 2021, up to 60 of those days will be acknowledged as social security periods.
At the end of 2020, the National Assembly adopted several additional amendments in the area of employment law which are aimed at primarily guaranteeing the rights and inter-ests of employees and employers in this rapidly changing environment. The first relevant amendment concerns employees who have been in close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19. The law provides that they shall switch to telework or the home office if the nature of the work allows this to be the case. Secondly, through collective bargaining, trade unions and employers at branch and sectoral level may negotiate a longer period of overtime, but not more than 300 hours in a calendar year. At the same time, the restriction set in the Labour Code for overtime work up to 150 hours per year, when no collective labour agreement has been concluded, is maintained.
Lastly, the legislator clearly regulated that the Bulgarian Labour Code is the applicable law for employment relationships with an international element between an employer and an employee whose place of work is in Bulgaria or abroad, unless otherwise agreed in the employment contract or provided for in the law or in an international contract, which is in force for Bulgaria. The aim is to ensure equality for employees, as well as the opportunity to enjoy the protection of labour legislation, irrespective of their citizenship.
With this newsletter we give an overview of recent or expected changes in the area of Global Mobility in different countries.
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