The Hungarian Government has decided to implement stricter lockdown rules and extended economic protection arrangements for affected businesses. These rules apply from 8 March 2021.

The Hungarian Government has decided to implement stricter lockdown rules, which apply from 8 March 2021.The most important changes, contained in Government Decree No. 104/2021. (III. 5.) (the 'Decree')  are summarised below.

Rules on mask wearing

In public and in public places, everyone must wear a mask, except for minors under the age of six. Further everyone shall keep a social distance of 1.5 metres from others, and shall limit contact to the smallest possible number of people, except for those living in a common household.

Closure of retail stores and service providers

In total 30 categories of retail stores and service providersare allowed to remain open between 8 and 22 March 2021 (an additional provision forwas made for flower shops to open on Women's Day on 8 March 2021). All other retail stores and service providers must be closed. 

The above rules do not apply to publicly funded healthcare providers and wholesalers (under s 2(18) of Act CLXIV of 2005 on commerce). 

Rules on remote work

The Government is asking, but not compelling, employers to apply home office work for employees('Home Office').Although, the Labour Code does not regulate Home Office, from our point of view,this phrase used by the Decree includes all types of remote work. 

This means that, where anemployer is able to ensure ahealthy and safe working environment for workers at their contractual workplace, working at the employer's premises is still possible and lawful. 

Further, employers who wish to introduce or maintain Home Office still have the option to derogate from the statutory provisions onremote work until 23 May 2021, based on an agreement concluded with employees. Until 23 May 2021, the strict occupational health and safety rules of remote work do not apply either, and employees may choose their place of work in accordance with the employer's guidance on healthy and safe working conditions.

The Government has made it mandatory for individualsemployed in the public administration to work from home, using their own devices.

Rules relating to education

Kindergartens and schoolsare closed until 7 April. From an employment law perspective,this means that if supervision of children is not managed by educational establishments and parentscannot work, this is considered as a'family reason' deserving special consideration under s55(1)(k) of the Hungarian Labour Code and the period of the employees' absencewillbe deemed to becertified, but unpaid.

We note, that for the period when schools and kindergartens are closed, employers may choose to conclude an agreement with employees on a holiday schedule. The parties may also agree that this period is totally or partially paid by the employer. 

It is possible the rules in connection with education maybe extended to the period following7 April 2021.

Economic protection for employers affected by lockdown

The Government has also introduced economic protection arrangements related to the stricter lockdown rules described above(in Government Decree No. 105/2021(III.5.)). Of these it is worth highlighting that undertakings whose primary activity is in a sectoraffected bythe current closurescan also apply for the sectorial wage subsidies for March 2021. They are also not obliged to pay social contribution taxon salaries paid to their employees for March. 

The wage subsidy is 50% of the employee's gross salary, and the eligibility criteria is that the employee's salary must be paid for the period affected by the closure and that the employment relationship must be maintained (that is, it cannot be terminated either with notice or bymutual agreement until 30 April 2021.

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.