This content is from: Local Insights

Amendment to the Slovak Labour Code

Daniel FutejZuzana Steklacova
The Slovak National Council passed the draft amendment to the Labour Code on October 25 2012, strengthening the position of employees and trade unions while slightly disadvantaging employers. The amendment came into force on January 1 2013.

Starting this year, if trade unions want to represent all employees they no longer have to prove to employers that at least 30% of the employees are unionised. The employer's duty to consult on termination of employment with the trade unions has been reinstated, and failure to do so will render a termination of employment invalid.

It is no longer possible to agree terms for employees under collective agreements that are less favourable than what is permitted by the Labour Code. In the past there were certain cases which precisely set out where it was possible to do that: for instance extending the probationary period, designating the employees for whom a compensation level was set if they did not remain in the job during the notice period, excluding the employer's duty to offer a suitable alternative position in the case of termination and designating maximum overtime hours.

Concurrency of notice period and severance pay has been reinstated when employment is terminated by agreement or by notice from the employer – at the termination of employment the employee gets a notice period as well as severance pay. Beginning in January 2013, only those employees who had worked for the same employer for at least two years have been entitled to severance pay if terminated by notice. The severance pay is now calculated based on the number of years worked for the employer, in an amount of one to four months of the average wages. If for the same reasons employment is terminated by agreement, the employee is entitled to severance increased by one average monthly wage without being subject to the minimum employment duration requirement.

It is possible to employ persons under fixed-term contracts for a maximum of two years (it was a maximum of three years before). This type of employment contract is eligible for extension only twice over two years (it could previously be extended three times).

The flex account concept, introduced by the last significant amendment to the Labour Code and applicable when there were obstacles to work on the part of the employer, was repealed as of January 2013. The point of the flex account was to give an employee time off after they had earned it once the obstacle to work was removed. When there are serious operational problems (such as a dip in sales), there is now the option of using the existing concept of working time banking in lieu of the flex account.

The essentials of how working time banking functions remains the same – overtime and undertime accounts are kept of actual time worked, and work intended to reduce the number of hours in the undertime account is not to be considered as overtime. The difference is that, before, working time banking could be instituted not only on the basis of an agreement with employee representatives but also pursuant to a collective agreement. Companies without a union presence, however, are not able to institute working time banking. One change concerning working time banking is that the employer has to agree with employee representatives on a so-called reconciliation period during which the difference between the designated weekly working hours and the actual hours worked will be reconciled – at the moment that period is a maximum of 30 months.

Unless the nature of the work requires it, the amended Labour Code expressly bans employers from monitoring employees in the workplace, in common areas, from recording telephone conversations (even work-related conversations), or even checking work e-mail accounts without prior notice. The employer must consult on all monitoring measures with employee representatives and must notify all employees of those measures.

The atypical worker scheme (employees working on an agreement basis who are not in an employment relationship, as opposed to typical employees who work under an employment contract) has once again moved closer to the arrangements of the standard employees. Beginning in January 2013, these workers have been subject to the same conditions as standard employees in terms of breaks and mandatory rest periods, work on observed holidays, night work and minimum wage. Employers also have to excuse the absence of these persons from work in the case of doctors' visits, caring for sick family members, caring for children, and so on.

The amended Labour Code also narrows the definition of dependent employment in order to prevent the purported employment of self-employed individuals in lieu of actual employees. In addition, the amendment contains an express ban on using non-employment-related contracts, such as civil contracts or commercial contracts, for work having the characteristics of dependent employment.

Dr Daniel Futej and Dr Zuzana Steklacova

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