COVID-19 - Bulgaria in a State of Emergency - Important Labor Issues for Employers - Part I - REMOTE WORK
What is Teleworking?
Telework was introduced in Europe several years ago. Teleworking is defined as any use of information and communication technology that allows the work activity or part of it to be performed outside the usual workplace.
How to work remotely?
According to the Bulgarian legislation, until the entry into force of the new Emergency Act, telework is voluntary, which means that it is not unilaterally introduced by the Employer, but only with the consent of the employee. This can be organized by concluding of a new employment contract or by proposing to an employee under existing employment relationship to switch to teleworking. In this case, it is obligatory to conclude an additional written agreement to the individual employment contract. The proposal to switch to teleworking can also be initiated by the employee.
The voluntary nature of teleworking ensures that the eventual denial of the employee would not lead to negative impact for the employee.
What are the features that should be observed when working remotely?
All matters relating to work, technical and other equipment at the workplace, obligations and maintenance costs, other conditions for the supply, replacement and maintenance of the equipment, as well as clauses regarding the acquisition of individual items of equipment by the employee, the assignment and reporting of work tasks are agreed in the individual employment contract.
The employer provides in advance written information to the employee about the liability and sanctions in case of non-compliance with the established rules and requirements, incl. to protect business data.
Health and safety at work
Workers and employees who work remotely enjoy the same rights related to work organization and health and safety at work, as regulated by the Bulgarian legislation and in the collective bargaining agreement applicable to the enterprise, to the benefit of employees at the premises of the employer. The teleworker is responsible for complying with the company policy for work organization and occupational safety and health, as well as the rules and regulations for health and safety at work prescribed by him.
The employer is responsible for the safety and health at work of the employees and is obliged to inform them about the requirements for the organization of work and about the safe and healthy working conditions in accordance with the normative acts. , applicable collective agreements, internal company rules, enterprise safety and health policies and all requirements and rules for work organization and work with video displays.
What will change with the COVID-19 state of emergency?
According to Order No. РД - 01 - 124 / 13.03.2020 of the Minister of Health for introduction of anti-epidemic measures on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, all employers, depending on the specifics and capabilities of the respective work activity, should introduce a remote form of work of their employees.
However, adherence to the form required for the introduction of telework by means of bilateral signing of documents, required by the Labor Code, poses additional challenges to employers and does not meet the intentions of the Bulgarian institutions to limit social contacts. For this reason, the draft Law on Emergency Management envisages the following changes concerning teleworking:
- In the event of a state of emergency, the Employer shall be entitled to unilaterally assign the employee to work remotely. For this assignment, the consent of the employee will not be necessary.
The envisaged opportunity gives the Employer freedom by unilateral order to change the organization of work and to export it outside his work premises, thus protecting the health of employees and giving them the opportunity to work from home without having to be physically present to sign of legal documents.
- All issues that should be settled in the individual employment contract, in the supplementary agreement to it and in the internal rules for carrying out telework, should be written in the Employer's Order.
This means that the Employer will have the legal opportunity to settle, in accordance with his interests and requirements, all those matters that are important to him and which should be taken into consideration by his employees during the performance of teleworking.
The team of the Bulgarian Consulting Group monitors all changes and updates of the Bulgarian legislation in the conditions of declared state of emergency and informs its clients and partners in a timely manner in order to give them legal certainty that their activity is fully legal and adapted to the emergency situation in Bulgaria.