The regime of aggregated working time provided by the Bulgarian Labor Code allows employers to foresee longer, respectively shorter working time during certain days or months, so that, at the end of the aggregated working time period (which has a maximum duration of six (6) months), the average working time of employees doesn`t exceed the maximum of working time of eight hours a day. In Bulgaria, this form of working time is especially preferred by companies from the production and retail sectors. Nevertheless, the absence of an adequate regulatory framework has brought contradictory interpretations.
The new changes, coming into force on 1 January 2018, clarify the way in which the regime of aggregated working time will operate. Practically, these rules now detail the procedure for preparing and implementing work schedules, changes to work schedules and the calculation of accomplished work at the end of the aggregated period.
Specific changes in these areas include:
- Once employers approve preliminary working schedules to be adopted for the aggregated work period, they must now inform employees of these working schedules, prior to when the scheduled work starts. Employers, however, have discretion in how they inform employees. These preliminary schedules can also be modified by the employer if employee numbers, or other circumstances (such as sick leave) change. Employers must retain these schedules for three years.
- Days off, including annual paid leave or sick leave will no longer be considered ‘working time’ and will evoke a recalculation of the respective working time of employees), when the days off are envisaged in the work schedule or when the employees were absent due to sickness, but should have worked. Until now, regulatory bodies considered the days off envisaged in the schedule or the sickness as part of the working time. In practice, this has led to situations in which employers had to pay for “fictitious” working time. As a result of the changes, the employers will no longer have to pay the additional overtime rates that often occurred when leave was calculated as working time, in addition to the usual hours (overtime increases the usual rate of pay by 50%).
- Even if the employee has worked less than the work schedule, the employer will be required to pay them the entire agreed remuneration. Additionally, where employment has been terminated before the end of the aggregated period, even if the employee has not worked all of the hours required by the work schedule, the employer will be obligated to remunerate the employee for the entire schedule. However, these rules do not apply if the employee intentionally does not come to work.
- The aggregated working time is now fixed in hours (not days) and if at the end of the aggregated working period, the total number of working hours exceeds the statutory working time, the employer must pay the employee overtime. For example, if the employer has chosen a one-month aggregated working period, and there are 20 working days in the respective month, the mandatory working time would be 160 hours. Therefore, if during the aggregated working period, the employee exceeds these 160 hours, the employer must pay the employee in accordance with overtime rates (an increase of 50%).