Employers affected by the latest amendment to the Labor Safety Act must arrange to have a work safety representative elected by 8 January 2017.

While in the past, each employer having at least 50 employees was required to arrange for election of a work safety representative, this number was decreased to 20 employees on 8 July 2016. The election must occur latest by 8 January 2017.

In addition, the employer must provide adequate training to the elected work safety representative.

Employers with less than 20 employees may also be affected by the new applicable rules. It happens if the majority of the employees request the elections. In that case the employer must arrange the election process. But, if the employees do not request the election or cannot elect a work safety representative, then the employer must hold a consultation involving the employees to ensure safe and healthy working conditions. In the absence of an elected work safety representative, the employer must provide to the employees the opportunity to participate in prior discussions regarding the employer's health and safety measures.

An elected work safety representative is entitled to a working time reduction to enable him/her to exercise that position. The reduction equals at least 10 percent of the total working hours. The Act does not specify the maximum amount of the working time reduction. Clearly, the quantity of tasks to be performed will impact the working time reduction required; but, in practice, it might be quite challenging to quantify that reduction as a percentage of working time above 10 per cent.

Care must be exercised if an employer intends to terminate the employment relationship of the elected work safety representative . Such representative is subject to labor law protection during the exercise of that position and for six months thereafter.

If a work safety representative is not elected, the Labor Inspectorate may impose a maximum fine of HUF 10,000,000 on the employer. The fine may be increased by up to 20 percent if the Labor Inspectorate determines that the employer also violates other labor safety regulations.

Under the new rule, the Labor Inspectorate may impose an administrative fine of up to HUF 500,000 on individuals too. This allows imposition of fines on a range of persons, including the elected work safety representative. A work safety representative might be fined if he/she violates the rules governing a work safety representative's activities. An employee representing the employer might be fined if he/she fails to give the work safety representatives the opportunity to attend work safety training.

It is therefore worth carefully analyzing these new rules and developing a practical plan enabling compliance with them.