The amendment to the Labour Code, which will bring about many fundamental changes to Czech employment law, was approved by the Chamber of Deputies today. We informed you about the most important changes this February, however, the amendment has undergone several further changes during the legislative process. The amendment, with the exception of some provisions, will come into effect in the month following its publication in the Collection of Laws (it is therefore possible that it will come into effect as early as 1 October 2023) and it is therefore high time to clarify what requirements and changes the amendment brings into practice.
1. Remote work
In response to the increasing use of home-office, provisions on remote work have been significantly modified. Remote work will only be possible to perform under a written agreement. The exception will include a situation where remote work is ordered in writing, which will be possible on the basis of a measure of a public authority for a strictly necessary period of time, if the nature of the work to be performed allows it and on condition that the place of performance of remote work is suitable for the performance of work. If remote work is ordered by the employer, the employee will have to, upon the employer’s request, specify his/her (eligible) place of performance of remote work or to inform the employer that no such place is available to him/her.
The standard notice period for a remote work agreement is 15 days, but it will be possible to agree on a different period provided that it is the same for both parties. The proposal also allows the parties to agree that the obligation under the agreement cannot be terminated by either party.
The amendment also regulates the reimbursement for costs incurred by the employee in connection with the performance of remote work. The employer will reimburse for these costs either at the amount duly proved by the employee or at a flat-rate amount if the parties have so agreed or if an internal regulation so provides. However, the employer and the employee may also agree in writing in advance that the employee will not be entitled to reimbursement for costs in connection with the performance of remote work. This is a change from the initial proposals, which envisaged reimbursement for costs only in a flat-rate amount.
2. Electronic delivery of important documents
According to the current legislation, employment documents are divided into important documents (so-called documents under Section 334 of the Labour Code) and other documents. In order to electronically sign and deliver important documents remotely, it is necessary to meet relatively strict conditions. The amendment narrows the list of important documents, making it possible to now deliver some of them without meeting the existing strict requirements. The stricter conditions for delivery will continue to apply only to:
- delivery of notice of termination, immediate termination, termination during probationary period and other documents relating to the termination of employment or legal relations established by a work performance agreement (WPA) or a work activity agreement (WAA) (except for the agreement on termination of employment and of WPA/WAA);
- delivery of a recall from the position of senior employee or resignation from that position;
- wage and salary statements.
Delivery of documents by the employer to the employee will also be easier in other respects. In place of the mandatory confirmation by the employee of the delivery of the above documents via an electronic communications network or service, such documents will be considered to have been delivered after expiry of 15 days "from delivery". However, electronic delivery to the employee will only be possible provided that the employee grants his/her consent to this in a separate written declaration, specifying, inter alia, an electronic address for this purpose that is not in the employer's possession (i.e., it cannot be a business e-mail address that the employer has set up for the employee).
This should make the conclusion of employment contracts or even agreements on the termination of employment relationships much easier for the parties.
If the employment contract, work activity agreement, work performance agreement or amendments to them or agreements to terminate them are concluded via an electronic communications network or service, the employer will be obliged to send a copy of them to the employee's electronic address which is not in the employer's possession and which the employee has communicated in writing to the employer for these purposes. The employee will have the right to withdraw from these documents in writing from the moment of their conclusion, but no later than 7 days from the date of their delivery.
The amended Labour Code will also facilitate delivery of documents by the employee to the employer via an electronic communications network or service or to an electronic address. It will now no longer be necessary for a document delivered in this way to bear a qualified electronic signature of the employee, which was a requirement that basically excluded this form of acting in practice.
3. Agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship
Agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship have been substantially changed by the amendment. In general, all these changes are aimed at bringing agreement-based work closer to the employment relationship and increasing the rights of employees working under agreements.
The most important novelty in the area of agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship (i.e., WAAs and WAAs) is the right of employees to paid leave. The amount of leave will be determined on the basis of a notional working time of 20 hours per week. The provision on leave for so-called agreement-based workers will take effect on 1st January 2024.
The new entitlement for agreement-based workers will also include time off due to all permissible obstacles to work on the part of the employee (caused, for example, by visiting a doctor or attending a funeral), but they will not be entitled to compensation for remuneration, unless the employer and employee agree otherwise. However, for the purposes of calculating leave, obstacles to work will be counted as time worked.
Employees working under an agreement will also be entitled to extra pay for work on public holidays, night work, work in difficult working environment, and weekend work.
The amendment also provides for the employer's obligation to inform the employee of the working time schedule at least 3 days before the start of the shift or period for which the schedule is drawn up, unless both parties agree on a different working time.
Employees working under an agreement will now have an explicit right to request employment under an employment contract, to which the employer will be obliged to provide them with a reasoned written response.
In addition, employees will be able to ask the employer, in certain circumstances, to give reasons for having served the notice. The employer will then be obliged to inform the employee in writing of the reasons for the termination by notice without undue delay.
4. Information about the content of the employment relationship
Another novelty in the area of the employer's obligations will be the extended notification of the employee of certain facts related to the content of the employment relationship within 7 days from the date of its commencement, or of changes to the content of the employment relationship no later than on the day when such changes take effect. The required information can be included, for example, in an employment contract, an internal regulation (and referred thereto) or the employee can be informed electronically - see below.
The set of information provided to employees when posted to another EU Member State or to a third country will also be significantly extended.
In the case of informing in electronic form, the information must be accessible to the employee and the employee must be able to save or print it. The employer is still obliged to keep proof of the transmission of this information to the employee.
5. Parental leave
The amendment also touches upon the issue of requesting parental leave and thus responds to the existing complications that employers had to deal with in cases where the employee did not announce the commencement of parental leave in advance, which, however, was not his/her obligation until now. However, the employee will now be obliged to submit a written request for parental leave at least 30 days prior to commencement. Such a request must include information on the duration of the parental leave and can be submitted repeatedly.
6. Working conditions of protected employees
Employers will also be obliged to give reasons in writing to the employee for their decision not to grant the employee's request for shorter working time or remote work for protected groups of employees. It will also be possible to request remote work, but employers will not be obliged to comply with such requests - the original versions of the proposals even envisaged the right to work from home for such persons.
Similarly, the employer must give reasons in writing for rejecting the employee's request for a renewal or partial renewal of the scope of the original weekly working time before it was reduced.
The amendment further provides for that shorter working time (below the scope set out in Section 79) or so-called part-time work may only be agreed between the employer and the employee, and only in writing. At first glance, this may seem to be a minor change, but failure to comply with the written form may not be worthwhile for the employer, as compliance with this obligation will now also be monitored by the labour inspection authorities.
7. Overtime work in the healthcare sector
In response to the staffing situation in the healthcare sector and the experience from the COVID-19 pandemic, the legislators also introduced into the amendment to the Labour Code the regulation of additional agreed overtime work beyond the scope specified in Section 93(4) of the Labour Code, namely for listed professions performing work in continuous operation related to the provision of health services by an inpatient care provider or a medical emergency service provider.
This agreed overtime work of healthcare workers may not exceed an average of 8 hours per week and, in the case of medical emergency service workers, an average of 12 hours per week over a period of no more than 26 consecutive weeks (unless the collective agreement provides for a longer period, but no more than 52 weeks).
The employee cannot be compelled to perform the additional agreed overtime work and may not be subjected to any detriment if he/she refuses to do so. The employer is obliged to notify the competent labour inspection authority in writing of the application of the institute of additional agreed overtime work. The employer is also obliged to keep an up-to-date list of all its employees performing additional agreed overtime work.
8. Uninterrupted weekly rest period
In view of the currently very unclear interpretation of the calculation of uninterrupted weekly rest period, a new wording of the provision of Section 92 of the Labour Code is proposed, which regulates uninterrupted weekly rest period. It is primarily a matter of clarifying the wording of the provision so that its interpretation reflects recent European case law.
According to European case law, the uninterrupted weekly rest period is added to the uninterrupted rest period between two shifts. In order to achieve a total minimum of 35 hours of uninterrupted weekly rest period, employers will now be obliged to actually provide an employee over the age of 18 with at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest and an immediately following uninterrupted daily rest of at least 11 hours.