At its October session, the Slovak parliament approved amendments to the Labour Code to transpose provisions from European Union directives into the Slovak law. One directive relates to transparent, predictable working conditions and the other to work-life balance for parents. Czech lawmakers are preparing draft legislation to transpose this Directive into law.

The following is an overview of the most important changes that employers and employees in Slovakia and the Czech Republic must follow beginning 1 November.

Transparent working conditions

The amendment addresses what information employers are required to include in employment contracts. The terms and conditions are divided into essential elements and other content.

“Essential elements are minimum information that must appear in the employment contract,” explains Pavol Kundrik, an employment lawyer at CMS Slovakia. "These are, in particular, the type of work and its brief characteristics, the place of work, the work commencement date and the wage conditions."

If the employee works outside Slovakia, the employment contract must also specify the country where the work is taking place and the period of time that this work occurred abroad.

The employer is also obliged to inform the employee in writing about their working conditions and terms of employment. This may be the method of determining the place of work or the designation of the main place of work if several places of work are agreed in the employment contract. The written information must also include the following details:

  • the weekly working time, the method and rules for the distribution of working time;

  • the amount of leave or the method of determining it;

  • the due date for payment of wages and the payment of wages, including pay dates;

  • the rules for termination of employment, the length of the notice period or the method of determining it; and

  • the right to training provided by the employer.

If a company hires an employee for a definite period of time, it must now set a trial period for the employee in a different way than previously required. The trial period may not be longer than half of the agreed-upon duration of the employment relationship and will therefore depend on the length of the employment relationship. If an employee is hired for four months, the trial period may not be longer than two months.

There will also be changes for students or for those working under various forms of agreements. These are agreements to perform a job, student temporary work agreements or work agreements.

“In the new situation, the employer is required to provide written information about the days and periods of time in which the company may require the employee to perform work," explains employment law expert Pavol Kundrik. "The period within which the employee is to be informed of the performance of the work prior to its commencement must also be provided for in writing. This must not be less than 24 hours.”

The aim of these changes is to ensure that employees working under an agreement also have predictable and transparent working conditions. Previously, there have been problems with wage deductions, such as meal allowances, which were previously deducted on the basis of a wage-deduction agreement. From now on, employers will be able to make deductions directly pursuant to law. The amendment also addresses issues related to teleworking or working from home.

“If this type of work is requested by an employee caring for a child under the age of eight, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with a written answer justifying why the employee’s request was not granted,” says Pavol Kundrik.

Paternity leave and more information

The amendment introduces the possibility of electronic communication between the company and the employees under precisely defined conditions. According to these conditions, employees may be given access to such communication or permitted to print out the documents received. “This form of communication can only be used in some situations to provide written information but some documents, such as an employment contract or a notice of termination will still have to be delivered physically,” says Pavol Kundrik.

Employers also send important documents to employees by mail. While until now there was no time limit in the Labour Code for the length of the collection period at the post office, the new law stipulates that a company may not specify a collection period of less than ten days.

The amendment to the Labour Code also introduces a new concept of “paternity leave”, replacing the term “parental leave” that was used previously. The amendment also specifies the exact length of the paternity leave: 28 weeks from the date of the child's birth. In the case of a single man, the entitlement is 31 weeks. If two or more children are born, the length of the paternity leave is 37 weeks.

Employers will also have additional obligations to justify some of their decisions. The sections of the Labour Code that dealt with an employee’s request to switch to another form of employment have also been amended. “If an employee who has worked for a definite period of time or had an employment relationship for a shorter period of time and whose employment relationship lasts for more than six months requests to switch to an employment relationship for an indefinite period of time, the employer must justify their answer in writing,” says Pavol Kundrik.

The employer has one month from the date of the request to respond. If the employer is an individual or a company with less than 50 employees, the employer must respond within three months.

Employees will also be given more information about the possibilities of joining a trade union. The latter has the right to address the employee in an appropriate manner, which will be agreed upon with the company’s management. However, if no agreement is reached, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with written information about the trade union that operates at the employer’s company. Trade unions also have the right to provide adequate information about their activities.

Upcoming amendment to the Labour Code in the Czech Republic

This September, Czech Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs published a draft amendment to the Czech Labour Code that parliament is expected to adopt next year. The new law will regulate mainly remote work, agreements for work performed outside the employment relationship (i.e. agreements on work performance and agreements on work activity), or electronic delivery and signing of certain employment documents.

Remote work (home-office)

Currently, the law does not provide for a comprehensive regulation of remote work (i.e. home-office). Under the new law, remote work will be generally allowed based on a written agreement between employer and employee. Employers will be entitled to order remote work unilaterally only in situations where a legal act expressly allows it (typically extraordinary legal acts during pandemic). Employers must always allow remote work requests made by employees who are caring for a child under 15 years or another dependent person, unless the character of the work does not allow for it (e.g. cashiers or factory workers) or serious operational reasons make remote work impossible. Employers will be obliged to reimburse employees for costs incurred during remote work.

Work performed outside the employment relationship

Agreements for work performed outside the employment relationship (i.e. agreements on work performance and agreements on work activity) that are commonly used for part-time, seasonal or temporary workers will lose much of their former flexibility, which has been their major benefit for employers. Employees working under these agreements will have more protection and rights and will be entitled to:

  • request to enter into employment relationship with the employer in case they performed work for at least six months within a calendar year;

  • make use of obstacles on the side of employee;

  • ·vacation accrual; and

  • receive a work schedule at least seven days in advance.

Electronic delivery and signing of documents

The new law provides for a significant shift to electronic execution and delivery of some HR documents. It will be possible to validly conclude employment contracts (including agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship) by using a simple electronic signature and by delivering the contract to the employee by email. (The employer must share the contract with the employee in advance). The same applies to agreements on termination of the employment relationship or agreements on work performed outside the employment relationship. Delivery of other employment documents to the employee’s email address will be also easier. An employee will not need a qualified electronic signature and the document delivered by e-mail will be deemed delivered after ten days.

These rules will not apply to termination documents (except for termination agreements) and salary statements, which will still be subject to currently applicable rules and wet-ink signatures will be usually necessary.

The draft is now being discussed on the governmental level and has not yet been submitted to parliament. The draft version of the amendment has been criticised by other state authorities, which means that it will likely be heavily redrafted. Therefore, many changes and tweaks are expected until the final law is passed.