2020 was quite a year and one all of us will not forget. For employment and labor law developments, 2020 was unlike any other. We saw rapid change and common themes emerge across the globe. One of the major themes was the introduction of government subsidies to support employers and maintain employment across many countries. We also saw an acceleration of remote and flexible working, and which posed both opportunities and challenges for employers and employees alike. There was also an increase in regulations that govern remote working.
We expect these themes to continue in 2021. With the rollout of vaccination programs in many countries under way, there could be some legal developments in terms of employers who may want their workforces to be vaccinated before a return to the workplace. We are already advising clients on this area and a number of tricky issues arise. We also expect to see other issues such as misclassification of independent contractors, equality and diversity, and gender pay equity maintaining prominence in many countries.
Dentons’ Global Employment Lawyer quarterly review provides a brief summary of the key employment and labor law changes on a quarterly basis around the world that will have an impact on employers. The following excerpt provides an update on developments of the Czech Republic, Poland, Russia and Turkey.
A significant change to the Czech Labor Code took effect on 30 July 2020, with selected parts entering into force on 1 January 2021.
The amendment contains the following important changes:
- Calculating paid leave and carry over – From the beginning of 2021, the method of calculating paid leave (vacation) will change completely. It will be calculated based on worked hours, not days. This should eliminate the unfairness of the current method, for example in relation to employees with shorter or unevenly distributed working hours. In addition, employees shall be entitled to request a carry-over part of their paid leave exceeding the statutory minimum of four weeks to the next calendar year.
- Service of documents between employer and employee – The amendment simplifies the delivery of documents between the employee and employer. Although a personal handover to the employee at the workplace remains the primary method of delivery, the amendment allows the employer to immediately proceed with alternative forms of delivery, including by post, if delivery at the workplace is not possible.
- Automatic transfer of employment – The amendment also introduces a new regulation on the transfer of rights and obligations from employment relationships (also known as the automatic transfer o employees which derives from the Acquired Rights Directive), which follows the case law of the European Court of Justice. In principle, an employee transfer should only take place if, subject to certain specific conditions set out in the Czech Labor Code being met, activities of one employer are being transferred to other employer. Most cases of outsourcing, insourcing or change of supplier would not trigger an automatic transfer of employees from one employer to another.
- Job sharing – Finally, an important new provision of the amendment is the explicit regulation of job sharing, effective from the beginning of 2021. These new rules will allow the employer to set up one work position with a weekly working time of 40 hours and assign to it two or more part-time employees who will alternate performing the role and schedule work on their own. This is to introduce further flexibility in employment relationships.
Independent contractors and registration of certain contracts for services – In Poland, a company or entity could conclude a contract for services with a contractor (who is not its employee) on the following basis:
- A contract mandating the provision of certain services; or
- A contract for the performance of a specific task; or
- A contract for the provisions of services of any kind (this would apply where the contractor operates as a business and provides business to business activity – for example, a service provider or supplier that has its own employees).
Social security contributions do not need to be made by the contractor under contracts entered into for the performance of a specific task (i.e. under (b) above), provided that the engaging entity is not the employer of the contractor. This type of contract should only be reserved for circumstances where the contractor undertakes a task that result in the creation of a new product or service. However, due to this social security exemption, this type of contract has been widely used by companies in Poland. This type of contract has attracted considerable scrutiny from the Social Security Institution (ZUS). As a result, a new law was introduced requiring companies that engage such contractors to register these types of contracts with ZUS with effect from 1 January 2021. Companies will be required to register any such contract within 7 days of the contract being concluded. This new requirement will provide ZUS with an opportunity to inspect such contracts and assess whether they have been incorrectly classified and thereby result in social security contributions being due. Companies are therefore advised to audit their contracts and assess the risks of misclassification and social security exposure.
Unified electronic visas – Unified e-visas will allow a single visit to Russia for up to 16 days as a tourist or on a guest or business visit. Attending some events such as scientific, cultural, and sporting events will be allowed as well. Duration of the visit must not exceeding 16 days after entering the country. Unified e-visas will be available to citizens of all of the European Union nations, the Vatican, Monaco, some Balkan states, China (including Taiwan), Japan, Mexico, and the Persian Gulf countries (other than Iraq). Not on the list are the United Kingdom and the United States.
However, due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, the Russian authorities introduced a moratorium on entry for foreigners (with some exceptions). Therefore, it will only become possible to get a unified e-visa after the moratorium is lifted.
Ban for employers to terminate employment contracts – Within the scope of measures taken due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a ban of termination of employment was introduced in April 2020. In this regard, employers are prohibited from terminating employment contracts for any reason except in the following circumstances:
- If an employee engages in conduct that would be in breach of ethical rules and principles, and acts in bad faith;
- Expiry of the term under a fixed term employment contract;
- Closing down of the workplace and ceasing of activities for any reason; and
- Ending of on-going construction works or ending of certain works that have been procured under legislation.
The termination ban was extended until 17 January 2021, which is expected to be extended gradually until 30 June 2021. During the termination ban period, employers are entitled to place employees partially or wholly on unpaid leave. The employees who are placed on unpaid leave are provided with wage support by the state, subject to certain conditions.
Extension of application for short-term working allowance – Employers whose businesses have been adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic were granted the right to implement a “short-term working” regime and file an application for the short-term working allowance to the Turkish Employment Institution until 30 June 2020.
As a result of the employer’s application, the government pays:
- A monthly short-term working allowance directly to the employees; and
- Social security contributions for general health insurance to the Social Security Institution.
A Presidential Decision was published on the extension of the application deadline for the short-term working allowance to 31 December 2020. In this regard, employers who did not apply for short-term working allowance before 30 June 2020 but who are willing to implement a short-term working regime had until 31 December 2020 to apply to the Turkish Employment Institution.
By Tomas Bilek, Partner, and Andrea Hamorska, Counsel (Czech Republic), Aleksandra Minkowicz-Flanek, Partner (Poland), Marina Ryzhkova, Partner, and Kazbek Sasiyev, Associate (Russia), Gozde Manav Kilicbeyli, Counsel (Turkey), Dentons