The government of Slovakia introduced several amendments to the labor code, including new regulations on teleworking and meal benefits, a basis for dismissal at retirement age, and other employment matters. While permanent, most changes came about as adaptations to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new amendments entered into effect on 1 March 2021.
The main changes to the labor code include the following:
Remote work arrangements
If remote work is to occur on a regular (need not be every day) and permanent basis, remote work arrangements should be agreed upon between the employer and the employee, in writing, through an amendment of the employee’s employment contract. Remote work can include work from home or telework from another location. Under the new law, in such arrangements, employers are now able to schedule their employees’ working hours on both a fixed and flexible basis. Where the employer and the employee agree that the schedule will be on a flexible basis and set by the employee, the employee must only meet a deadline to complete the work and the employer will no longer be required to compensate the employee for overtime work during holidays, weekends and night shifts. Employers cannot require an employee to work remotely.
Employers will now be required to provide employees with the means to do their work or cover work from home-related costs resulting from the use of employees’ tools, devices and any other telework-related material, including, for example, internet. Further guidance from the government will be needed to determine whether employers’ costs can be reimbursed to the employer as tax deductions.
Two additional rights which have accrued to employees are:
- The right to enter the workplace even if regularly working remotely and while working remotely
- The right to disconnect from work-related tasks and devices outside of work hours, including phone calls and emails, based on the work schedule agreed upon between the parties
Employees who work more than four hours in a day and whose employer does not provide an on-site cafeteria will now be allowed to choose between receiving meal vouchers or a financial allowance for meals. The financial contribution is tax-free and should be equivalent to at least 55% of the minimum value of the meal voucher. Since the minimum value of a meal voucher is currently set at EUR 3.83, the employer’s minimum financial allowance for meals should be a minimum of EUR 2.11.
For business trips from five to 12 hours, the financial contribution should be a minimum of EUR 2.81, which is 55% of the travel allowance (currently set by the Travel Allowance Act at EUR 5.10). Please note, if the employer provides both, they must be of equivalent value.
Employees will be bound by their voucher or allowance choice for a 12-month period. Where the employer has an ongoing contract with a meal voucher provider, the employee’s choice option may be delayed until the expiry of such contract so long as it is no later than 31 December 2021. In addition, meal vouchers should be electronic by 1 January 2023.
Industry-wide collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) can no longer be made binding on non-signatory employers. Therefore, employers are no longer required to allow the operation of a labor union organization whose members are not employed at the employer. If there are doubts as to whether the labor union has members among the employees of a company, proceedings may be initiated before an arbitrator to settle such a dispute within 30 days. Existing CBAs will remain in effect until their expiration date.
In addition, representative sectoral collective agreements are no longer binding for employers who are not members of any employer association and not covered by any sectoral collective agreement.
Dismissal at retirement age
To create space in the workforce for younger generations and reduce unemployment, as of 1 January 2022, employers will be allowed, but not mandated, to dismiss employees who reach age 65 (the current social retirement age) and have fulfilled the requirements to receive a social pension. Terminated employees will be entitled to severance. This ground of dismissal already applies to civil servants and will now be extended to private sector employees.
Other changes include the abolition of the tax-exempt treatment of the voluntary 13th and 14th month of salaries since 1 January 2021.
Employers might want to review and update their current policies to ensure compliance with the new amendments. Employers should document employment contracts with any remote work arrangements as well as who has determined work hours. Employers should further enhance their compliance process by documenting allowance/voucher choices and adopting an internal policy on meal benefits is recommended to avoid any potential claim.