A new set of changes in the Bulgarian Labor code entered into force as of 01 August 2022. The changes aim at the implementation of two European directives, broadening the employees’ rights, and bringing a new set of obligations on the employers. This article offers a brief overview thereof, along with an explanation on some practical issues:
Bulgarian Employers’ Informative Obligations
The employers' new informative obligation to familiarize employees with the full set of terms and procedures that the Labor code foresees for employment termination – held by either party.
Previously, the employer was only obliged to notify the employee about termination grounds, when and if the employer is actually terminating an existing employment contract on a particular ground.
The newly implemented provision obliges the employer to provide all employees information on any statutory ground that may possibly lead to termination of their employment.
"Art. 127. (1) The employer is obliged to provide the employee with normal conditions for performing the work under the employment relationship, upon which they have agreed, by providing the employee /…/: 6. information on the terms and procedures for termination of the employment contract according to the provisions of this Code;”
This raises some practical questions, i.e.:
What’s the actual scope of the information required, according to the new provision?
This is a practical question that legal and HR departments will face. Termination of employment in Bulgaria isn’t a single provision regulation. The aggregate amount of various terms (grounds) for terminating an employment under the Labor code is nearly 49, comprised in several different types of groups. Each group linked to a completely different procedure and requirements. This is without mentioning the special statutory exclusions for specific grounds.
Hence, how does compliance to this new informative provision look like in practice?
Does the employer actually need to have all of the employees undergo an extensive training in Employment law?
Or is a statement of awareness to a list of provisions enough?
The Bulgarian provision doesn't make it clear . The European Directive requirements include:
the procedure to be observed by the employer and the worker, including the formal requirements and the notice periods, where their employment relationship is terminated or, where the length of the notice periods cannot be indicated when the information is given, the method for determining such notice periods;” (Art 4 of the Directive).Furthermore, The Directive also specifies:
“It should be possible for information on the procedure to be observed by the employer and the worker if their employment relationship is terminated to include the deadline for bringing an action contesting dismissal.”
The above provisions hardly make it any more clear, but at least provide several “must include” points:
- Termination notice period;
- Statutory deadline for contesting termination by employee (2 months);
- Statutory grounds and procedures for termination (not yet specified).
The Directive further requires this information to be provided individually to employees "within one month of the first working day"
Also, there's a possibility foreseen that member states may develop templates and models for the informing documents. Nevertheless, this part, was not entered into national law. Bulgarian employers will have to manage templates and information on their own to avoid non-compliance.
What happens if employers fail to comply?
Non-compliance related risks refer to, first, sanctions imposed by the state authority. And second, failure may negatively affect the validity of prospective dismissals, when challenged at court. Especially when it comes to dismissals due to the employee's own culpable actions.
The provision is new and yet to be precisely interpreted within applicable prospective case law.
Does the information on statutory termination procedures have to be brought to new employees only (onboarding), or does the mandate involve currently existing employees too?
The law doesn't leave room for misinerpretation on this one - informative obligations refer all employees in the company – both new and existing ones. This becomes clear both from the Bulgarian law's provision, and from their corresponding source in the Directive.The above refers also to the rest of the employer’s new informative obligations, adopted with the same set of amendments: to inform the employee on the internal salary rules, and provide information on the trainings on improvement of qualification.
Overview of the other practically more significant amendments:
Employee’s rights for requesting an amendment of employment terms
A procedure is set forth for the employees to officially request turning a fixed-term contract or a part-time contract into an undefined/full-time one. The employer is obliged to provide the employee written motives for rejecting the proposal within a month. Similar procedure foreseen for requesting transitioning to remote working. The eligible employees are those who parent children of up to 8-years old, or are taking care of a family member suffering a serious medical condition. In case of rejection the employer is obliged to provide the employee with written motives for the rejection within 14 days.
New Regulations Regarding Probation Period and Qualification Improvement
Probation period for up to 1 year fixed-term contracts is reduced to 1 month. Time of mandatory trainings for qualification improvement to be held within the regular working time. Training related costs are entirely on the employer’s expense, along with the due salary for the time of training. Mandatory trainings for qualification improvement are only those required from the employer to provide due to a statutory or contractual obligation.
The above amendments, effective as of 01 August 2022 implement into national law the provisions of Directive (EU) 2019/1152 and Directive (EU) 2019/1158 .
Author: atty Malena Sheytanova, an Employment law attorney with a specialized expertise in HR-related corporate legal assistance. For more information about HR-related products and assistance, please visit the Consultissimo team & services.
©atty. Malena Sheytanova, 2022
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