Changes in Bulgarian employment law were introduced in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations and in the Ordinance for the compensations from the state social security funds. The changes were enacted on 30.09.2022 but entered into force retroactively as of 01.08.2022. This is obviously another attempt of Bulgarian authorities to meet the deadline for transposing Directive 2019/1152 on transparent and predictable working conditions in the European Union which expired in August 2022 and Directive 2019/1158 on work-life balance for parents and carers.
The changes introduce a large number of additional administrative obligations for employers, where the organization of work includes work flexible working time arrangements such as active and inactive on-call work.
Generally, the changes concern the following:
- on-duty and on-call work – some discrepancies in the old regulation concerning the implementation and administration of such working time have been clarified, including the process for drawing up monthly schedules and notifying the employees
- the terms and conditions for using the newly introduced paid leave for fathers (or adoptive fathers) of children up to the age of eight years as well as the requirements to receive the respective compensation from the state social security funds – some new templates have been introduced to be used by employers for this purpose. Moreover, the changes introduce various new obligations (substantial and quite difficult to implement in practice) for employers to monitor and report the use of the new leave
- the obligation of the employers to adopt additional changes to their Internal Labour Rules (in addition to the ones, required under the latest amendments in the LC from August 2022)
Until now the work on duty and on-call were regulated only by Ordinance ? 2 of 22 April 1994 on the procedure for establishing of work on duty and on-call working (Ordinance ? 2). The present changes do not explicitly repeal the existing regulation. Most of its provisions have been copy-pasted in the new regulation, which aims to clarify and improve the statutory provisions and introduces some additional obligations for the employers.
- Work on duty –mandatory changes to be introduced in the Internal Labour Rules of all affected companies, clarification of the procedure for implementing work on duty, which includes consultations, explicit orders and monthly schedules, notification of the employees etc.
The latest changes in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations introduce the obligation of the employer to put in place appropriate procedures concerning the notification of employees about the monthly schedules for summarized working time, work on duty and on-call in the Internal Labour Rules. Moreover, the Internal Labour Rules shall specify the ways of notifying the employees to appear at work during their scheduled on-call time.
In practice, this means, that in order to be compliant with the latest changes, employers shall update their Internal Labour Rules. We note that an obligation to amend the internal rules was included in the amendments to the LC from August 2022. In this respect, all employers, who took care of promptly amending their Internal Labour Rules after August 2022, shall now adopt the respective additional changes and notify them to the employees.
In relation to the work on duty, the latest changes in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations set out a clear definition for work on duty- an organization of work, where the employee is at his/her working place and performs or is ready to perform his/her obligations. In practice, this is not ? new definition, but an explicit clarification in the law itself of the existing understanding about the work on duty.
The amendments to the regulation of the work on duty include the implementation of the obligation of the employer to determine by an explicit order the job positions, for which the obligation for work on duty is established, after consultations with the trade union representatives and / or with the employee's representatives.
After the order has been issued, the employer shall adopt work schedules for the employees, working on duty and to notify the employees in advance thereof. The schedules shall be kept by the employer for a period of at least three years.
The latest changes in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations specify, that on duty time forms part of the working time and the employee shall receive the agreed labour remuneration for such time. Therefore, when calculating the maximum duration of the working time, the daily and weekly breaks, employers shall take into consideration the entire working and on-duty time.
- On-call work – duplication of the regulation, clarifications about the procedure, new requirements for additional agreements with the employees, performing on-call work
The changes in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations duplicates the existing definition about on-call work set out in the old Ordinance ? 2. On-call work is defined as the obligation of the employee to be available on-call outside of the territory of the premises of the employer, but ready to start performing his/her obligations upon request by the employer.
The obligation of the employees to work on-call shall be explicitly agreed between the parties in an individual and/or collective labour contract. In addition, the labour contract shall regulate the time, requited for the employee to appear at work during his/her on-call time.
Similar to the regulation of the work on duty, the latest changes introduce an obligation of employers to adopt schedules for employees, performing on-call work, which shall be kept by the employer for a period of at least three years. The changes in the Ordinance for the working time, breaks and vacations repeal the existing unclear requirement for preparation of an explicit order for on-call work, and of the prior notification of the employees for at least twenty-four hours.
Another new obligation for the employers is to prepare a subsequent order, specifying the date and hour of active work (i.e. active on-call) of the respective employee, as well as the duration of the work actually performed. This order shall be issued within three-days after the work has been rendered.
The introduction of this requirement is most likely due to the fact that, unlike the work on duty, the time of inactive on-call is not included in the regular working time and thus, is compensated by payment of an additional remuneration in accordance with the requirements of Bulgarian labor law (currently BGN 0,10/h), whereby the actually performed work during on-call (i.e. active on-call work) is compensated as overtime with the respective increase (between 50 % and 100 % per hour) of the labour remuneration.
The requirements for the maximum duration of the time of on-call as well as the existing restrictions remain unchanged.
As discussed above, the latest changes introduce the obligation of the employer to notify the employees of the work schedules concerning on- duty and on-call. However, it remains unclear whether the restrictions concerning electronic communication with employees (such as mandatory use of qualified electronic signature by the employer, the use of electronic registered delivery service etc.) apply accordingly in respect of the process concerning notification of employees of work schedules. A conservative approach would make compliance with the specified restrictions and introduction of the necessary technical and software solutions by the employers (and at their expenses, as required by the ordinance) highly recommendable.
- Paid leave for fathers or adoptive fathers of children up to the age of eight years – certain administrative obligations for the employers adopted
The new regulation clarifies the procedure for fathers / adoptive fathers of children up to the age of eight years to use the new paid leave granted to them in summer 2022.
Some new templates of documents for this purpose have also been adopted.
The changes in the Ordinance for the compensations from the state social security funds introduce various administrative obligations for the employer, including the obligation to monitor and report the used leave in a special book. Currently, there is no unified digitalized system for the monitoring and report of the used leave, which would likely pose considerable practical challenges for employers.
However, the present changes do not regulate the conditions of using the newly introduced (by the last changes in the LC from August 2022) leave due to quarantine of children under the age of twelve due to quarantine in the educational establishment, class or group. The present regime is quite complicated and impractical In fact, the whole procedure may take months after the quarantine has finished. Therefore, more and more parents prefer to use a paid or non-paid leave or to work remotely.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.