The 2021 amendment to the Slovak Labour Code

Slovakia
Available languages: DE SK

Changes effective from 1 March 2021

  • New parameters for remote working

    The amendment establishes better working conditions for so-called digital nomads. The legal definitions of working at home, telework, and occasional home office are now more flexible. It is now possible to work anywhere outside the employer’s premises. In the employment contract, the employee can agree to determine where he or she will work (i.e., the specific place is not determined and may change according to the employee’s needs). An important change is that work at the employer’s workplace can be combined with regular work at home. For example, an employee may always work at home two days a week and at the employer’s place on other days. In our view, employers will welcome the fact that they can, according to their requirements, organise also working time of home workers (it was not possible before 1 March 2021). Even after the amendment, the exception for the so-called occasional home office still applies when an employee must unexpectedly work at home. The amendment does not regulate occasional home office in detail. Employers should therefore continue to regulate occasional home office through their internal guidelines.

    The amendment brings an interesting change in “the right to disconnect”. Employees who work outside the employer’s workplace may in principle refuse to work during holidays, during certain hours of the day, or of the week, etc. without fear of breaching work discipline.

    Employees also have a new benefit in the form of compensation for the increased costs of working at home (e.g., electricity costs, faster-than-average internet connection). They are only entitled to compensation if the employer has agreed to this in the employment contract or collective agreement. Another condition is that the employee’s costs have increased because they must use their own equipment and material. These costs cannot be generalised to the same amount for all employees (e.g., set in the internal policy). It is necessary to proceed on an employee-by-employee basis taking into account his or her actual costs. Reimbursement of a proportional amount of one’s costs is also not permitted. However, this benefit cannot be used by employees who only occasionally work in home office.

  • Meal vouchers vs. financial meal allowance

    Only employees who do not have the opportunity to eat at the employer’s facility may choose between a meal voucher (so-called gastrolístok) and financial allowance. The employee is bound to his/her choice for 12 months. Until the employee makes a choice, the employer can proceed according to its preferences.

    The Labour Code only lays down the basic rules for the allowance. In order to minimise the administrative burden, the internal policy should regulate all the practical details (e.g., the date by which the employee should make the selection, the date the allowance is paid, the procedure for newly recruited employees etc.). In addition, the principle of equal treatment should be respected (e.g., the allowance should not be paid to the employee’s account before other employees have received their meal vouchers).

    The amendment also further regulates the amount of the allowance, the exemption of the allowance from income tax, and the exceptions when the allowance is provided automatically.

    Although employees can opt for the allowance from 1 March 2021, employers have time until the end of this year to prepare.

    The amendment allows employers to submit vouchers until the end of their meal voucher contracts, but no later than 31 December 2021. Discussions with our clients’ accounting and tax departments revealed that the practical implementation of the payment of the financial allowance raises several issues that will need to be addressed during the transition period. We recommend employers use this transition period to establish an internal policy, change their internal processes, and update software solutions.

  • Easier temporary assignment of employees within a group

    It is possible to assign an employee from the parent company to its subsidiary immediately after he/she has entered into the employment relationship, even if there are no objective operational reasons for doing so.

  • Probationary period is automatically extended

    The probationary period will be extended by each day the employee does not complete the entire work shift for his/her own reasons.

  • Mandatory representativeness of the union

    The employer has the right only to admit to its company trade unions to which his employees belong. However, the employer does not have the right to request information about union membership, so the amendment introduces new rules for verification of the membership base by independent arbitrators.

  • The institution of a representative superordinate collective agreement expires

     

Changes effective from 1 January 2022

  • Retirement age as a reason for termination of the employment relationship

    Surprisingly, the amendment introduces a new possibility for dismissal. The employer can now also dismiss an employee when they reach retirement age.

    In this case, the dismissed employee is entitled to severance pay. In addition, other conditions must also be met, similar to a dismissal for organisational reasons. The employee and the employer also have the option of terminating their employment relationship by mutual agreement.

  • Holiday

    This amendment meets the requirements of employers by defining a new concept of an employee who permanently cares for a child and a rule for determining his/her additional leave.

 

Changes effective from 1 January 2023

  • Meal vouchers in electronic form

    Employers will have to preferably offer meal vouchers in electronic form. Employers whose employees do not have a genuine opportunity to use them at or near the workplace will be exempt.

Conclusion

During the pandemic, employers have an unexpected opportunity to test and analyse the benefits of working at home for their operating model. Once the pandemic measures are over, employers will have to respond to new occupational health and safety measures, as well as increased requirements for hygiene and workplace equipment. In our view, returning to normal working conditions will be a challenge also for many workers. The amendment enables employers and workers to better respond to the new situation through changes in the organisation of work outside the permanent workplace. We recommend taking the following steps as soon as possible:
  • Negotiate changes to the employment contracts of workers in positions suitable for combining work at the employer's premises with remote working.
  • Align the employment contracts of your home workers with the new requirements.
  • Create or update existing internal policies for home workers and those who work in occasional home office.
  • Prepare internal training for management on monitoring the work of home workers and home office employees and inform them about the right of employees to disconnect.
  • Prepare an internal training or information document for home workers and those in occasional home office to comply with the information requirements.
  • Prepare measures to protect home workers and home office workers (e.g. mandatory measures to prevent their suffering from isolation and discrimination, and to make sure they have access to advanced qualifications).
  • Create or update the existing internal policy on meal allowances for employees and change the items that the employer must still regulate itself according to the Labour Code.
  • Update the provisions of the collective agreement on the financial allowance and reimbursement of expenses for working at home and adapt the relevant internal guidelines.
  • Contact the accounting department about the payment of a financial allowance for meals, and update the usual internal processes and existing software solutions.
  • Establish a process (i) when and how employees will make their choice between the meal voucher and the financial allowance, and (ii) for employer to respond to the change in selection.