Chapters of the article
The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs prepared the amendment in order to transpose the European Directive on transparent and predictable working conditions and the Directive on work-life balance for parents and carers. However, some of the amendments go beyond the scope of these compulsory legal regulations and will ultimately be the most extensive intervention in the Labour Code in recent years.
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A step towards more flexibility in teleworking
The amendment responds to the modern phenomenon of teleworking (or home office work). Of course, this is not excluded by the current form of the Labour Code, but many areas remain unclear.
First of all, theissue of costs has been newly regulated. The employer is obliged to reimburse the employee for costs incurred in the performance of his work. However, the costs may not be included in the wage, salary or remuneration of the agreement. Part of them will be paid in the form of a lump sum, namely a share of the cost of gas, electricity, solid fuels, water supply, etc. A lump sum of CZK 2.80 per each hour of work is set, although it may be set higher for some employees in the private sector.
Payment of the lump sum does not prevent other costs that employees will have to prove. Typically, we can imagine, for example, the reimbursement of the internet for office work on the computer. There are also other obligations of the employer related to work using the internet, which consist in the obligation to provide the technical and software equipment necessary for the employee’s work. On the other hand, the employee will also have an obligation to protect the data and information he/she processes when working from home (or remotely).
The legislator also seeks to prevent the isolation of employees working remotely. The employer will therefore have to ensure that the employee has contact with other employees.
The greater spread of home offices is likely to be helped by enshrining the employee’s request to work remotely. The employer should either grant the request or give reasons in writing for refusing it. In the case of pregnant employees, parents with children under 15 and other carers, the employer will be obliged to allow teleworking unless there are serious operational reasons preventing it.
This is therefore another friendly step towards reconciling employees’ work and private lives.
The amendment will remove some of the previous ambiguities concerning the different way of working from home. If the employee agrees with the employer to do work for the employer at times he or she schedules, then certain provisions of the Labour Code relating to working hours, personal obstacles to work and remuneration (e.g. additional pay for working on public holidays and overtime pay) will not apply to such an employment relationship.
Tip: The Labour Code is considered a kind of “bible” of labour law. It regulates both the basic principles and very specific provisions describing the creation of the employment relationship and the circumstances of its duration. In our article, we have selected five parts of the Labour Code that are worth knowing.
Employees must be informed
Another area of change focuses on the creation of the employment relationship itself, where the employer already has an extensive information obligation. The amendment further expands and specifies this.
The employer must now inform the employee of:
- the duration and conditions of the probationary period,
- the procedure for terminating the employment relationship and notice periods, including the procedure for invalid termination of the employment relationship,
- the professional development provided to the employee,
- the expected weekly working time,
- the extent of overtime work and the extent of the minimum daily and weekly uninterrupted rest periods and the length of meal and rest breaks.
This information must be provided by the employer within seven days of the start of the employment relationship. This significantly increases the legal certainty of the employee, who can still consider whether or not the conditions offered suit him or her during the probationary period.
The information obligation also covers the information that must be provided to employees posted to another Member State or to a third country, such as the expected duration of the posting, the financial or material benefits resulting from the work, the conditions of return, etc.
Revision of agreements on work outside the employment relationship: what is changing?
In the area of agreements on work outside the employment relationship, the situation is also being clarified and the scope of the employer’s obligation increased. The employer will be subject to greater requirements, inter alia, in that it must determine the employees’ working time schedule in advance. This should lead to greater predictability of work for employees. In practice, however, this is likely to result in administrative burdens and reduced flexibility in a variety of less formal relationships.
Where an employer has offered an employee to work under an agreement for at least six months in the previous year, the question arises whether to allow such an employee to work under an employment relationship. The amendment addresses this by giving such an employee the right to ask the employer for employment under an employment relationship. While this does not give rise to a direct legal entitlement, the employer is obliged to respond to such a request with a written and reasoned reply.
In addition, agreement employees are now legally entitled to holidays, meal and rest breaks, uninterrupted daily rest and uninterrupted weekly rest. Employers are also obliged to comply with legal regulations on night work, on-call time and record working hours. The reference period for assessing compliance with the maximum permissible half of the fixed weekly working time is set at a maximum of 26 weeks. The collective agreement may define this period for a longer period, up to a maximum of 52 consecutive weeks.
It will thus no longer be so advantageous for employers to fill weekend and night jobs with ‘contract workers’, or in many respects their working conditions will be comparable to those of employees in regular employment.
Employees working under one of the agreements will also be subject to all the provisions on obstacles to work.
There will also be greater convergence between the two groups of employees when the employment relationship is terminated. This will continue to be considerably easier for employers in the case of agreements, but they will now have to give reasons for termination of such a legal relationship at the written request of an employee employed under an agreement. This must occur in a situation where the employee believes that the employer has terminated his/her employment because he/she has asserted the rights enshrined in the amendment in a lawful manner.
Service at the workplace: less paperwork
Less formality and bureaucracy in employment relations should allow for more flexible service arrangements. A simpler procedure will be sufficient for concluding an employment contract, an amendment or a termination agreement, for which the Civil Code will apply in the alternative. The primary method of serving documents on an employee should be by means of an electronic communications network or service or by means of a data mailbox. In the case of service of documents via an electronic network or service, it will be necessary to acknowledge receipt of the document by a data message. If receipt of the document is not acknowledged within 10 days of delivery, the document will be deemed to have been received on the last day of that period. The stricter requirement of service under the Labour Code will continue to apply to certain essential legal acts, such as resignation or dismissal from a managerial post and renunciation of such a post, as well as to pay slips and records of breaches of the temporary incapacity for work scheme.
The electronic address for service via an electronic communications network or service, which the employee may provide to the employer, must be the employee’s own address. It is therefore not an address in the employer’s domain.
A normal e-mail address (provided by the employer) may also be used for service on the employer and no guaranteed electronic signature is required. The employer should also acknowledge receipt of the document, but at the same time it is proposed to introduce a fiction of service if the employer does not acknowledge receipt of the document within 10 days of its delivery. It will continue to be possible to deliver to the employer’s data box without the employer’s express consent. Here too, the fiction of service will apply.
Benefits for employees and administrative burden for employers
The amendment to the Labour Code increases the rights of employees quite significantly. It brings the regime of so-called “agreement workers” closer to that of employees in a traditional employment relationship and gives them more rights. However, it further deepens the administrative concept of the Czech employment relationship.
However, it also seeks to take friendly steps towards reconciling employees’ work and private lives. It responds to the phenomenon of the post-covid era, which is characterised by working from home, and clarifies some existing ambiguities in this respect. It adapts to current communication in the way documents are delivered at work. It is clear that it will place a greater burden on employers, at least initially, due to the new set of conditions, the greater extent of their information obligations and also their lesser flexibility in employment relations. However, these are generally positive steps for employees.
The draft amendment cannot yet be understood in any dogmatic way. Changes may occur during the legislative process. However, the legislator should bear in mind the requirements of European legislation, from which it is not possible to deviate significantly.