As of 1 January 2016, the Hungarian Labour Code has been subject to modification. This is the first major amendment of the new Hungarian Labour Code, which entered into force in 2012. The most important amendments are as set out below.
- The changes attempt to clarify the law concerning unlawful termination during an employee’s pregnancy. Until 2014 an employee was entitled to invoke her right of protection against unlawful dismissal based on pregnancy only if she had previously informed the employer about her condition. This rule has since been abolished by the Constitutional Court as of last year. The amendment provides that, if the employee informs the employer about her pregnancy after receiving the termination notice, the employer may withdraw her termination within 15 days. Following this reform, it is understood that the employee is still required to inform the employer about her pregnancy upon receiving the termination notice at the latest or, if she was not aware of her pregnancy at that time, as soon as she becomes aware of it. If the employer receives the information within this time frame it will have to withdraw the termination within 15 days.
- Based on recent case law of the European Court of Justice, the amendments enhance the statutory guarantees concerning the daily rest period. The minimum duration of the daily rest period will continue to be 11 hours, however it will still be possible to reduce this to eight hours in certain cases. The amendments provide that, if the employee has only eight hours of daily rest period on a given day, the employee will be entitled to a longer rest break the following working day. The total duration of the daily rest periods on two consecutive days shall in any case be at least 22 hours.
- The amendments broaden the scope of statutory guarantees concerning the weekly rest period. In the case of irregular work schedules, such as “working time banking”, employers will continue to be entitled to schedule weekly rest days irregularly provided that employees receive two rest days per week in the average of the whole work time banking period. The rule that at least one weekly rest day is to be allocated after six days of work, which is applicable to most employee categories, will also remain in place. The amendments concern employees working in shifts or in seasonal jobs where the rule of one weekly rest day after six days of work does not apply. Pursuant to the amendments, such employees shall be entitled to at least one weekly rest day every month.
- The amendments marginally increase the compensation payable by the employer upon the unlawful termination of an employment relationship. The main rule continues to be that employees may claim the damages actually incurred as a result of the unlawful termination, mainly in respect of loss of earnings. There is an alternative claim, however, under which the employee may demand an amount corresponding to his or her salary for the termination period instead of his or her actual damages. The amendments aim to increase the sum payable under this alternative claim to twice the salary for the termination period. This increased sum is still far less than the amount which was claimable under the old Labour Code (which provided for a lump sum of compensation, amounting to 2 to 12 times the monthly salary beyond actual lost wages).