The extraordinary circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to numerous changes in labour legislation in Bulgaria. In March 2020 Bulgaria also declared a state of emergency and adopted an Act on the Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency. In May 2020, the Bulgarian government declared an emergency epidemic situation which replaced the state of emergency and enabled the extension of some of the measures that were introduced in the previous months. The emergency epidemic situation has been extended until 30 April 2021, and this means that most of the changes in labour legislation in Bulgaria remain applicable in 2021. Below we describe the most important impacts of the pandemic on the labour legislation in Bulgaria.
Remote work, paid leave, unpaid leave
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 company. 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 in the labour legislation in Bulgaria as work experience. During 2021, up to 60 of those days will be acknowledged as social security periods.
Additional amendments in the area of labour legislation in Bulgaria
At the end of 2020, the National Assembly adopted several additional amendments in the area of labour legislation in Bulgaria which are aimed at primarily guaranteeing the rights and interests 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 labour legislation in Bulgaria 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.
If you would like to know more about the labour legislation in Bulgaria, please visit the homepage of Delchev & Partners Law Firm, the exclusive representative of WTS Global in Bulgaria.