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Country snapshot

Key considerations

Which issues would you most highlight to someone new to your country?

Since 2010, Greece has been under a long-term fiscal adjustment programme as laid down by the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission and the European Central Bank (collectively, the ‘Troika’). Major reforms in labour law have been introduced as conditions of the bailout loans and to regulate the labour market in view of the financial crisis. A key reform relates to collective agreements, which have been restricted in duration and scope and assigned a subsidiary role. Company-level agreements are favoured, in which the balance of power is weighted towards the employer.

What do you consider unique to those doing business in your country?

In addition to labour legislation, a multitude of regulatory provisions must be followed. The lack of codification and the regulatory diversity make compliance complicated. As the major supervisory administrative body, the Labour Inspectorate (SEPE) has an important informative function and provides easily accessible assistance to workers and employers.

Is there any general advice you would give in the employment area?

A compliant employer must pay close attention to all of the formalities applicable to the commencement, operation, alternation and termination of an employment relationship, given that in all such stages, there are various notification obligations involving the labour authorities (primarily the SEPE), which create a ‘bureaucratic compliance burden’ on employers. Under the recent reforms, electronic compliance through a uniform information system (ERGANI) is being established and progressively applied.

Emerging issues/hot topics/proposals for reform

Are there any noteworthy proposals for reform in your jurisdiction?

Major reforms in labour law have and are being enacted since Greece was placed under the European Stability Mechanism, including:

  • compulsory minimum wages;
  • drastic reforms in the collective disputes procedure;
  • the introduction of a new conciliation procedure and the revision of the mediation and dispute resolution procedures under the SEPE;
  • reduced termination notice periods and amounts of severance due;
  • the introduction of flexible working;
  • reforms to flexible forms of work, including temporary agency work; and
  • collective redundancies, which no longer require state authority approval.

What are the emerging trends in employment law in your jurisdiction?

Traditional labour relations are being deregulated as a result of the globalised financial model and the digital revolution. Additional trends include:

  • reduction in union activity;
  • undefined working hours;
  • transforming bilateral labour relations into tripartite or multilateral labour with outsourcing, employees without employers and crowdworkers;
  • discussing ways to reform labour law to protect workers in the digital age;
  • outsourcing;
  • networking;
  • teleworking;
  • increasing numbers of mini jobs; and
  • simplifying compliance using a uniform information system.

The employment relationship

Country specific laws

What laws and regulations govern the employment relationship?

Recent reforms enacted to comply with the requirements of the bailout loans include Laws 3833/2010, 3845/2010, 3863/2010, 3899/2010, 3886/2011, 4024/2011, 4046/2012 (and the Council of Ministers Act (6/2012)), 4052/2012, 4093/2012, 4144/2013, 4254/2014 and 4472/2017. Other principal laws (as amended) include legislation on the following:

  • Termination – Laws 2112/1920 and 3198/1955; and Law 1387/83 on group dismissals.
  • Annual paid leave – Law 539/1945.
  • Non-discrimination – including Law 4443/2016, which incorporates EU Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC into national law; and Law 3896/2010 on the equal treatment of men and women (which replaced Law 3488/2006), which incorporates EU Directive 2006/54/EC into national law.
  • Health and safety at work – Law 1568/1985 and a number of more recent laws and presidential decrees, including Law 3850/2010, which codifies laws on health and safety and health at work.
  • Flexible forms of employment (part time and rotation) – Article 38 of Law 1892/1990, as replaced by Article 2 of Law 3846/2010, as amended by Article 17(3) of Law 3899/2010.
  • Flexible work-time arrangements – Article 41 of Law 1892/1990, as replaced by Article 42 of Law 3986/2011.
  • Working time (including overwork, overtime, prohibition of work on Sundays).

Who do these cover, including categories of worker?

Depending on their content, labour laws cover all white-collar and blue-collar workers in the private sector. Another emerging category, which has been legally formulated in Greece by jurisprudence (Article 2 of Law 2269/1920 on the ratification of the Treaty of Washington), is managing executives.

Special categories of employee are also regulated, such as minors and workers with disabilities.

Misclassification

Are there specific rules regarding employee/contractor classification?

There is a refutable presumption under the law that any agreement for the provision of independent services or work of a fixed or indefinite duration, especially when payment is agreed per unit or in case of teleworking or working from home, is in reality a dependent employment agreement if the work is provided personally, exclusively or principally to the same employer for nine consecutive months.

The general rule under jurisprudence is that a person providing work under a dependent status (dependent employment) is an employer for all purposes under the law and not an independent contractor, irrespective of the contract concluded between the parties involved in the specific relationship. Key factors for such classification include:

  • the nature, duration and location of the work;
  • whether the work is exclusively for one or a number of clients; and
  • whether the work is performed  in person or may be performed using a third party.

Above all, dependent status relies on the obligation to provide work under the instructions, directions and management of an employer, without an employee bearing the risk of the result thereof.

Contracts

Must an employment contract be in writing?

No. However, under Presidential Decree 156/1994, which harmonised national law with EU Directive 91/533/EEC, even if no employment contract exists in writing, the employer must notify the employee in writing of the minimum terms of his or her employment and have the employee sign a copy acknowledging that he or she was so notified.

A written employment contract is preferable, especially for employees earning above minimum wage, and mandatory for managing executives.

A written employment contract is required by law for part-time or rotation employment or temporary work, or for renewing a fixed-term employment contract; foreign (ie, non-EU) workers require a written employment contract in order to obtain the requisite residence permit to work in Greece.

Are any terms implied into employment contracts?

All terms stipulated under mandatory labour law and the Civil Code are implied into employment contracts (eg, on termination and severance pay, annual paid leave, maximum work time, overtime and work on rest days). Further, non-mandatory law provisions will be implied to the extent that the employment contract does not regulate the relevant issues.   

Are mandatory arbitration/dispute resolution agreements enforceable?

Law 4046/2012 on the procedure of mandatory arbitration as a means to enforcing collective agreements after failure of the collective bargaining procedure was abolished in 2012. The institution of arbitration on collective bargaining was reintroduced in 2014 (Law 4303/2014), whereby either social partner (employers or employees) has unilateral recourse in the following cases:

  • where the other partner has refused the mediation stage; and
  • after the mediation proposal has been submitted.

Arbitration does not apply to wage-related terms.

How can employers make changes to existing employment agreements?

Changes require the consent of the employee, subject to the managerial right of the employer to regulate any issue relating to the organisation and operation of his or her business (Article 652 of the Civil Code). This entitles the employer to determine the kind, place, manner, time and conditions of work, provided such changes are not expressly prohibited by the employment contract and do not constitute an abusive exercise of his or her managerial right. In practice, an employer’s right to unilaterally make changes is often expressly stated in the employment contract.  

There are also specific exemptions by law, such as an employer’s right to change full-time employment to a part-time ‘rotation’ employment under specific terms and for a maximum period of nine months.

Foreign workers

Is a distinction drawn between local and foreign workers?

Under Law 4251/2014 enacting the Code of Immigration and Social Integration and other provisions (as amended by Article 6 Section 5 of Law 4332/2015, which harmonises national law with EU Directive 2011/98/ΕU), third-country (ie, non-EU) nationals must hold a residence permit for work purposes – issued following an employer’s invitation for a specific kind of work under a written employment contract, for a one-year minimum term and for (at least) the compulsory minimum wage – and receive a type D visa (ie, long-term visa) to enter Greece for work purposes. Annual maximum quotas for invited foreign workers are imposed by ministerial decisions, depending on the kind of work and national region.

Subject to annual renewals, a one-year residence permit subject to annual renewals is issued after a foreign worker has submitted all requisite supporting documents and paid a fee. After five years’ lawful residence in Greece, he or she can apply for long-term resident status and, if successful, will be issued with a five-year long-term residence permit, renewable thereafter for five-year periods.

There are also special permits for each category of foreign worker:

  • Highly skilled workers – initial two-year EU Blue Card.
  • Short-term employment for a specific project – no residence permit required, only a type D visa.
  • Seasonal employment – residence permit of up to six months per year.
  • Board members, legal representatives and top managing executives (eg, chief executive officers and general managers) of Greek companies – a two-year residence permit or for the intended period of stay in Greece, subject to three-year renewal.

Nationals from EU member states are entitled to free movement and employment, and must acquire a registration certificate as an EU national working under a dependent employment contract in Greece.  

Under EU and national legislation (Presidential Decrees 219/2000 and 101/2016, which transpose EU Directives 96/71/EEC and 2014/67/EU into national legislation), foreign (ie, non-EU) nationals posted in Greece for a limited period from their permanent workplace in another EU country do not fall under the residence permit requirements.

Recruitment

Advertising

What are the requirements relating to advertising positions?

No specific regulation exists. When advertising positions, an employer must comply with the rules set forth by Law 4443/2016, which enforces the principle of equal treatment irrespective of race, colour, national or ethnic origin, birth, religion or other belief, disability or chronic illness, age, marital or social status, sexual orientation, identity or gender.

Background checks

What can employers do with regard to background checks and inquiries in relation to the following:

(a) Criminal records?

This issue is addressed in the framework of Law 2472/1997 on the protection of personal data and the protection of an employee’s personal data under Article 57 of the Civil Code. As a criminal record contains sensitive personal data, only the employee concerned has the right to obtain it, with the exception of when the request is necessary for a specific job (eg, money management workers and teachers).

(b) Medical history?

Medical confidentiality applies, alongside the principles of respect for an individual’s rights and the  protection of personal data, as stated above. Τherefore, medical history may be requested only within the context of a person’s job if legally required (eg, in the interests of public safety) or for the person’s safety. All personal data can be used, at any time, only after an employee’s prior informed consent.

(c) Drug screening?

There is no specific legislation on workplace drug testing, though the Personal Data Protection Authority’s code of conduct refers to it. The code of conduct provides that alcohol and drugs testing in the workplace must be:

  • carried out with the prior informed consent of the employees concerned;
  • clearly stated in employment contracts; and
  • form part of an explicit health information, education and rehabilitation policy.

(d) Credit checks?

The financial status of an employee falls under his or her personal data and is thus protected as above.

(e) Immigration status?

The employer is entitled to request a new foreign (ie, non-EU) worker to furnish a copy of his or her passport bearing a type D visa and his or her residence permit for working purposes, or such other special permit (eg, an EU Blue Card, long-term residence permit or permit for management executives).

(f) Social media?

There is no specific legislation on social media. The issue falls within the frame of the protection of personal data.

(g) Other?

Not applicable.

Wages and working time

Pay

Is there a national minimum wage and, if so, what is it?

For workers aged 25 years old or above, white-collar workers’ minimum monthly salary is €586.08 and blue-collar workers’ daily wage is €26.16 subject to gradual increases up to a 30% maximum increase, for nine or more years of employment for white-collar workers and 18 or more years of employment for blue-collar workers.

For workers younger than 25 years old, white-collar workers’ minimum monthly salary is €510.95, subject to a 10% increase for three years or more of employment and blue-collar workers’ daily wage is €22.83, subject to gradual increases up to a 10% maximum increase, for six or more years of employment.

Persons over 15 years old who are registered at the unemployment fund for more than 12 consecutive months receive a minimum white-collar salary of €586.08, subject to gradual increases up to a 15% maximum increase, for nine years or more of employment.

In order to determine applicable increases, ‘years of employment’ means the years completed as of February 14 2012 (the date set by the law).

Are there restrictions on working hours?

For a six-day working week, the maximum number of daily work hours is eight and the maximum number of weekly hours is 48.

For a five-day working week, the maximum number of daily work hours is nine and the maximum number of weekly hours is 45.

Therefore, in a standard 40-hour week, an employer can ask for the eight or five hours up to the legal maximum, respectively, as ’overwork’, which is paid an extra 20% per hour. The average working hours for each seven-day period, including overtime, cannot exceed 48 hours during any four-month period, while normal working hours for night workers cannot exceed an average of eight hours in any 24-hour period.

Specific rules apply to:

  • office workers of a public limited company;
  • workers in stores;
  • hotels;
  • shift work;
  • minors; and
  • kitchen staff.

Workers have no flexibility in transferring daily working time between the days of a week or month. In exceptional circumstances, a flexible daily working time may be agreed on for up to six months within any 12-month period, and for up to a maximum of 256 working hours and 32 weeks annually.

Managing executives are exempt from working time restrictions.

Hours and overtime

What are the requirements for meal and rest breaks?

The minimum daily rest is 11 consecutive hours per any 24-hour period; and where the working day is over six hours, a 15-minute rest break is permitted. For each seven-day period, the minimum uninterrupted rest period is 24 hours, which as a rule includes Sunday, plus the aforementioned 11-hours' consecutive rest.

Meal breaks are a minimum of one hour and cannot exceed two hours during winter and three hours during summer. A snack break of up to 30 minutes is also permitted.

How should overtime be calculated?

Overtime is calculated using the daily maximum working time (daily maximum of two additional hours and yearly maximum of 120 additional hours) and is paid by 40% increase per hour. Unlawful overtime is paid by 80% increase.

Overwork (see “Are there restrictions on working hours?”) is not taken into account when calculating overtime.  

The employer is obliged to register in advance any overtime (in addition to any overwork and any changes in the working time) in the information system (ERGANI). Pending issuance of the requisite ministerial decision, the employer should maintain a special book for recording overtime.

What exemptions are there from overtime?

Minors are prohibited from working any overtime.

Working time, overwork and overtime restrictions do not apply to managing executives. Under Greek jurispurdence, the same applies to workers under a simple (ie, non-genuine) on-call agreement.

Is there a minimum paid holiday entitlement?

Every worker who completes 12 months of consecutive employment is entitled to 20 or 24 days’ paid annual leave for a five or six-day working week, respectively. This is increased by one day for each subsequent full year of employment, up to 24 and 26 days, respectively. In case of 10 or more years of employment under the same employer or 12 years under multiple employers, annual leave increases to up to 25 and 30 days, respectively.

Further, from the start of his or her employment until the completion of 12 months’ consecutive employment, every worker is entitled to a percentage of paid annual leave.

What are the rules applicable to final pay and deductions from wages?

Any set-off with counterclaims of the employer is prohibited, except for counterclaims for damages intentionally caused by the worker during work.

Employers must withhold from wages payroll tax (from 22% for annual income up to €20,000 up to 45%), employees’ social security contributions (16%) and special solidarity contributions (from 2.2% up to 10% on the annual income).

Record keeping

What payroll and payment records must be maintained?

At the workplace, staff pay slips must be maintained for at least the previous three months. The special overtime book should also be maintained until the electronic notification to ERGANI is implemented. Every month the employer must file an analytical periodical declaration with all of the necessary wage data to calclulate the social security contributions.

Discrimination, harassment & family leave

What is the position in relation to:

Protected categories

(a) Age?

Any discrimination on the grounds of age is prohibited. However, differences in treatment on grounds of age are allowed if specifically justified and stipulated by the law for the aims of employment policy, labour market and vocational training objectives, and if the means are appropriate and necessary.

(b) Race

Any discrimination on the grounds of race is prohibited.

(c) Disability?

Any discrimination on the grounds of disability is prohibited.

(d) Gender?

Any discrimination on the grounds of gender is prohibited.

(e) Sexual orientation?

Any discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation is prohibited.

(f) Religion?

Any discrimination on the grounds of religion is prohibited.

(g) Medical?

Any discrimination on medical grounds is prohibited.

(h) Other?

Discrimination in general is prohibited under the Constitution and by specific legislation.

National law is harmonised with the applicable EU legislation on combating direct and indirect discrimination as regards employment and occupation, with a view to enacting the principle of equal treatment. Discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation as regards employment and occupation is prohibited by Law 4443/2017. 

Discrimination between men and women is prohibited both within the above context and by specific legislation (Law 3896/2010), with special reference to discrimination against pregnant women. Different treatment due to parental leaves or child adoption is also expressly prohibited as a form of discrimination. The prohibition of discrimination against workers with family obligations is also provided under other specific laws, including Law 1483/1984.

In line with the EU directives, national law:

  • does not cover differences in treatment based on nationality and is without prejudice with regard to provisions and conditions relating to the entry into and residence of third-country nationals and stateless persons in the territory of Greece; and
  • does not apply to payments of any kind made by state schemes or similar, including state social security or social protection schemes.

In line with the EU directives, exceptions are allowed when justified by occupational requirements, provided that the objective is legitimate and the requirement is proportionate.

Any discrimination in violation of the law by an employer constitutes a violation of the labour legislation and penalties as contemplated by Law 2996 (eg, fines or even temporarily closing down a business in case of repeated grave violations) are imposed by the administrative authorities.

The national body designated for the promotion of equal treatment is the Greek Ombudsman, which is charged with monitoring and promoting the implementation of the principle of equal treatment, the rights of children and the rights of vulnerable groups at a national level.

Family and medical leave

What is the position in relation to family and medical leave?

After one year of employment, each working parent has an individual right to up to four months’ unpaid parental leave to care for their child after birth or adoption, until the child reaches six years old.

Special parental leave is available to care for sick children up to 18 years old, including:

  • 10 days’ leave for a child suffering from a disease requiring blood transfusions, or a child with Down’s syndrome or autism; and
  • 30 days’ unpaid leave for hospitalisation following the standard four-month parental leave.

Additional types of parental leave include:

  • six days’ unpaid leave per year due to sickness of a child or dependent family member;
  • four days’ paid leave per year to follow up school progress for each child;
  • an additional six days’ paid leave per year for single (including widowed) parents;
  • marriage leave for both spouses; and
  • paternity leave.

Pregnant women and mothers enjoy special protection against termination (total 18 months after child birth), pregnancy (eight weeks) and post-birth leave (nine weeks), breastfeeding and childcare leave (one hour of reduced daily work for 30 months, which can be taken as consecutive leave) and special six-month unpaid leave after the post-birth leave.

No general medical leave is provided under the law. However, a worker is entitled to abstain from work due to sickness; that is, a worker will not be deemed to have quit his or her job if absent for up to six months, depending on the number of years of employment. A worker retains the right to his or her wages:

  • up to one month’s wages for at least one year of employment; and
  • up to half a month’s wages for under a year of employment.

An employer is not prohibited from terminating the worker during his or her absence due to sickness provided that this is not abusive.

After four years of employment, special medical leave is provided to workers suffering from diseases requiring blood transfusions or dialysis (22 additional days paid leave) or suffering from AIDS (one month additional paid leave).

Harassment

What is the position in relation to harassment?

Harassment is deemed to be a form of discrimination when unwanted conduct relating to any of the aforementioned grounds of prohibited discrimination under Law 4403/2016 occurs with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment; it is therefore prohibited.

Harassment, sexual harassment and any unfavourable treatment which results from tolerating or rejecting unwanted behaviour constitute gender discrimination and are as such prohibited under Law 3896/2010 on equal treatment and non-discrimination during all stages of employment.

Whistleblowing

What is the position in relation to whistleblowing?

No specific legislation applies to the protection of whistleblowers in the private sector. However, in April 2014 a number of legal provisions were adopted in the Greek legal framework concerning whistleblowing in the public sector for financial crimes. Under a paper submitted to Parliament by the deputy minister of justice, transparency and human rights, a new law for whistleblowing is in its final planning stages.

A whistleblower in the private sector would be protected against retaliation by his or her employer, although probably not adequately, by other legal provisions, including:

  • Article 281 of the Civil Code on the abusive exercise of rights forbidding the employer to terminate an employee on retaliation grounds;
  • Article 40 of the Code of Criminal Procedure on private citizens’ obligation to disclose to a prosecutor any illegal activity that comes to their attention;
  • Article 9 of Law 2928/2001 protecting citizens against criminal acts by organised crime groups; and
  • Article 371 of the Penal Code on professional secrecy.

Major companies have codes of conduct, which in some cases establish an internal whistleblowing policy and mechanisms for employees to report illegal acts (eg, help lines). To the extent that employees’ personal data (including sensitive data) is processed in respect to whistleblowing, the employer should notify and request the consent of the Hellenic Data Protection Authority. The Hellenic Corporate Governance Code for Listed Companies, published by the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises in March 2011, foresees, as an example of internal communication obligations, the establishment of a whistleblowing policy for employees to report illegal acts.

Privacy in the workplace

Privacy and monitoring

What are employees’ rights with regard to privacy and monitoring?

Employees fall under the national and EU legislation on personal data protection prohibiting the processing of their personal data. Under existing legislation, an employee’s consent is not required for processing the personal data necessary for the performance of the employment contract; however, the employer is required to inform the employee in advance.

Under the Hellenic Data Protection Authority directive aiming to interpret the application of the law within employment relationships, certain monitoring measures are permitted – including systems monitoring access, video surveillance, phone calls and internet use – to the extent justified for the purposes of the employment and necessary to protect a clearly overriding right of the employer, provided that they do not offend human dignity and employees are informed in advance. At all times, the principle of proportionality should be applied. Therefore, internet monitoring is allowed only if preventive measures (eg, firewalls on unwanted use and access) do not suffice. Surveillance systems should be limited to entrance points, unless otherwise necessary (eg, in banks). Email monitoring is allowed to detect and avoid criminal activities for which the employer can be held liable.

Employees enjoy the right of information regarding and access to their personal data (including any rectification, deletion and locking of any inaccurate data), the right to object and the right to judicial protection.

As of May 2018, EU Regulation 2016/679 will apply, which stipulates that EU member states may provide more specific rules to ensure the protection of rights and freedoms in respect of the processing of employees' personal data in the employment context.

To what extent can employers regulate off-duty conduct?

Off-duty conduct falls under the sphere of the employee’s private life and is so protected under the Constitution. In exceptional circumstances, an employer may regulate off-duty conduct only to the extent that he or she would be entitled to terminate the employment contract on the grounds of such conduct.

Are there rules protecting social media passwords in the employment context and/or on employer monitoring of employee social media accounts?

No specific rules exist. Protection is afforded under the personal data protection legislation.

Trade secrets and restrictive covenants

Intellectual Property

Who owns IP rights created by employees during the course of their employment?

Copyright (including the right to exploitation and moral rights) created as part of an employee’s work is owned by the employee, while all powers emanating from the copyright relating to the specific work objectives assigned to the employee under the employment contract are automatically transferred to the employer. An employer can use such powers permanently and without limitation. However, all other powers, including different ways of exploiting the copyrighted work, remain with the employee unless otherwise agreed. In practice, employment contracts include standard clauses arranging this issue in a more advantageous manner for employers. Nevertheless, the non-abusive exercise of an employer’s considerably larger negotiating power to impose highly restrictive contractual terms is limited. In this sense, licensing rather than transferring the powers emanating from copyrights may be safer. A general rule applies whereby all contractual terms in any kind of contract that concern copyright are interpreted restrictively in favour of the author.  

As to copyright on computer programs created as part of an employee’s work, these are directly owned by the employer. Therefore, no issues arise regarding subsequent or extent of transfer. Due to the general rule described above, drafting must be done diligently since it depends on the description and actual performance of the job that is assigned to the employee.

As regards inventions:

  • Service inventions – falling within an employee’s duties and job description, these belong to the employer provided that an additional fee is paid to the employee-inventor, the extent of which is related to the value of the invention and the benefit to the employer therefrom.
  • Dependent inventions – created during employment using employer’s materials, means and information, these belong to the employee (60% ownership) and the employer (40% ownership); the employer has a first-option right of exploitation by paying an additional fee, as above.
  • Non-service or non-dependant inventions – these belong to the employee alone. The rights of the employee for service and dependant inventions cannot be restricted by contract, whereas an agreement for ‘free’ inventions being fully or partially transferred or licensed to any extent to the employer, are allowed. The same provisions apply to utility models.

Restrictive covenants

What types of restrictive covenants are recognised and enforceable?

Types of restrictive covenant include the following:

  • exclusive employment (provided that the restriction is imposed under a full-time employment contract or pertains only to employment by competitors);
  • non-compete covenants during the term of employment;
  • non-disclosure and non-confidentiality during the term of employment – after the expiry or termination of employment, disclosing confidential information may constitute a tort, and if the employee becomes a competitor or is employed by a competitor, issues of unfair competition may arise; and
  • if an employee is offered special training or other educational courses financed by the employer with the purpose of acquiring know-how to be used in the business of the employer, the employee may be obliged to pay back part or all the cost if he or she decides to terminate the agreement. The employment agreement may also provide such terms and conditions, or they may be agreed separately at the time of the training offer.

Non-compete restrictions for a period thereafter, and in general all other covenants restricting the professional freedom of an employee (ie, contrary to morality, excessively restrictive) are subject to judicial control on the basis of Articles 178 and 179 of the Civil Code, and their duration, territorial application and compensation – especially for non-compete provided – are taken into account. Open-ended non-compete restrictions after termination are null and void. Usually, the non-compete clause which applies after the lapse of termination of the agreement cannot exceed a year and must be compensated.

Other restrictions, such as non-solicitation, non-enticement of personnel or clients and the obligation to pay back training expenses to an employer, are subject to the same judicial controls  above, and should be proportionate to and necessary for the protection of an employer’s professional interests.

Third parties that hire employees despite such restrictions, if valid, may be sued for unfair competition, in case they knew of the existence of such restriction.

Non-compete

Are there any special rules on non-competes for particular classes of employee?

Managing executives can be subject to stricter non-compete restrictions.

Non-compete restrictions can be imposed on managing executives by the statutes of the company they are employed by, under the company’s law.

Discipline and grievance procedures

Procedures

Are there specific laws on the procedures employers must follow with regard to discipline and grievance procedures?

Τhere are no specific laws on this matter. If a company has an internal labour regulation, the employer must follow the procedure set forth in the regulation with regard to disciplinary matters.

Disciplinary measures are provided by Law 3789/57 and may vary from being reprimanded verbally to fines and temporary leave from work. Employees can file complaints against their employer before the Labour Inspectorate.

Industrial relations

Unions and layoffs

Is your country (or a particular area) known to be heavily unionised?

Greece is heavily unionised. The main labour union is the General Confederation of Labour of Greece (GESEE).

Legislation adopted between 2010 and 2014 in response to the economic and financial crisis significantly restricted the collective agreements’ importance, assigning them a subsidiary role.

What are the rules on trade union recognition?

Trade unions are divided into primary, secondary and tertiary grades:

  • Primary trade unions – unions, local branches of nationwide trade unions and associations of persons.
  • Secondary trade unions – federations and labour centres.
  • Tertiary trade unions – confederations (ie, associations of federations and labour centres), the only one being GESEE.

Unions are formed by at least 20 people and their association must be approved by the first-instance court and recorded in the specific trade union book. In addition to trade unions, councils of employees are recognised under Greek legislation as representatives of their employees, their role being an intermediary between employees and employer.

What are the rules on collective bargaining?

The right to sign collective agreements is assigned to only one representative union per sector of business activity, enterprise or profession. The representativeness of a trade union is judged by the number of employees who voted in the last election for its administration. Any employer can sign a collective agreement for its employees.

National collective agreements are concluded between GESEE and employers' organisations (currently the Federation of Greek Industry, the Confederation of Trade Associations, the General Confederation of Greek Artisans and Handicrafts and the Association of Greek Tourism Enterprises. In accordance with Law 4093/12, national collective agreements set minimum work conditions applicable to employees across the country, with the exception of wages. Collective agreements per sector or profession are concluded by the relevant competent primary and secondary-grade trade unions. All above collective agreements are subject to mediation and arbitration proceedings.

Introduced by Law 3899/2010, company agreements must be entered into by associations of persons comprising at least three-fifths of a company’s employees, without any legal or real independence in relation to the employer. These agreements take precedence over the sectoral collective agreements in force, even when they specify less favourable conditions for workers.

Termination

Notice

Are employers required to give notice of termination?

A written termination notice is always required.

For indefinite terms of employment less than 12 months, no prior notice applies and no redundancy compensation is due.

For employment over 12 months, an employer must give written notice, which takes effect the next day (no prior notice). An employer also has the option to give the prior notice stated by the law, varying from one months’ notice for employment up to two years and up to four months’ notice for an employment of 10 or more years, in which case he or she must pay half of the severance compensation due.

Redundancies

What are the rules that govern redundancy procedures?

Termination must strictly adhere to all formalities stated by the law. It must be made by the employer personally (or by an authorised representative) and at the same time, notice thereof must be given in writing and payment of severance compensation must be offered. The termination must be notified to the competent authorities within eight days.

The severance compensation varies from two months’ salary for employment up to two years, up to 12 months’ salary for employment of 16 years. If the employer gives prior notice (as per above) the above amounts of compensation are limited to one half.

Fixed-term employment can be terminated by the employer only on grounds of grave cause relating to the employee’s competence.

Are there particular rules for collective redundancies/mass layoffs?

Before the recent reform introduced by Law 4472/2017, the key characteristic of the rules for collective redundancies was the decisive intervention by the administration. Under the new provisions, the competent authority is no longer entitled to oppose and disapprove an employer's layoff plan, in case employer-employee consultations have not reached an agreement. However, its role is limited to determining whether an employer has complied with the obligation to inform, consult and notify the authority of all necessary documents and to extend the consultation period. During consultations, an employer may (but is not obliged) to propose a social plan with financial measures to address the impact of the layoffs.  

Protections

What protections do employees have on dismissal?

While the termination of an indefinite term employment can be made without grave cause, an employee can file an action in the competent court to request the annulment of the termination for abuse of employer rights, within three months as of the termination. Ιf the termination is declared null and void, the employer must pay default salaries. Αt the employee’s request, the court can order the employer to rehire the employee.

In addition to the above, under the laws against discrimination set out in Law 4443/2016, employees are protected against dismissal as a reaction to a complaint or to any legal proceedings aimed at enforcing compliance with the principle of equal treatment.

Courts/tribunals

Jurisdiction and procedure

Which tribunals or courts have jurisdiction to hear complaints?

Unlike other EU countries, in Greece there are no labour courts. Labour disputes are defined in Article 614 of the Civil Procedure Code and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of single-member courts (both first-instance and appeal). Under Article 621 of the Civil Procedure Code, competence depends on the place of residence of the defendant or the place of work of the employee.

What is the procedure and typical timescale?

Labour dispute resolution follows the special procedure foreseen by Articles 591 and following of the Civil Procedure Code, with an emphasis on the speed of the proceedings. The short deadlines are foreseen as follows:

  • For summons before the hearing – normally within 30 days, or 60 days if the summoned party lives abroad.
  • Interventions – within (at least) 10 days before the hearing.
  • Joinders – within (at least) five days before the hearing.
  • Counterclaims – within (at least) eight days before the hearing; while the filing of submissions takes place on the date of the hearing, rebuttals must be filed within three working days after.

All abovementioned legal means must be made in writing and filed within the aforementioned deadlines. Further, litigant parties are required to orally present their objections in brief and should ensure that these objections are registered in the minutes, otherwise they will not be considered.

Under a recent amendment to Article 621(3) of the Civil Procedure Code, labour action hearings (under specific grounds) before a first-instance court and appeals before a court of appeals are set within 60 days of filing. In case of postponement, the new hearing is set within 30 days and the court resolution must be published within a month of the above hearing. Moreover, the issuance of an order of payment of wages due is now permitted under Article 636(a) of the Civil Procedure Code.

Appeals

What is the route for appeals?

Appeals of labour dispute decisions must be filed within 30 days as of the notification of the decision of the first-instance court. If the appellant lives abroad or has no known address, the deadline is extended to 60 days. In case the first-instance court decision is not notified to the other litigant party, the deadline for filing an appeal is two years as of the issuance of the first-instance decision. Any counter-appeal, as well as additional grounds of appeal, must be made in writing and filed with the court of appeals secretary at least eight days before the hearing (Article 591 of the Civil Procedure Code). Submissions before the court of appeals must be filed (at the latest) before the hearing and rebuttals must be filed within three working days after. New material evidence is permitted during the hearing of the appeal subject to good faith principles (Article 529 of the Civil Procedure Code).