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Employment 18 June 2020

Common labour law issues and misconceptions in the state of emergency

COVID -19 Legal Alert
18 June 2020

If the company’s sales have fallen due to the crisis caused by the coronavirus, can employees’ salaries be reduced or even employed in other jobs?

The employer may not unilaterally reduce the wages of employees or change their jobs. According to the Labour Code, the parties to the employment contract must agree on the employee’s basic salary and position. That is why wages and positions can only be changed by mutual agreement of the parties. Thus, a salary reduction or a change of job can be made by amending the employment contract, which requires the consent of the parties.

If the salary cannot be reduced and the job cannot be changed unilaterally, then how can the employer get rid of the overstaffing situation?

The employment may be terminated by the employer by notice, which is a unilateral act, i.e. it does not require the agreement of the parties. If the parties can agree on the termination of the employment, they may settle the matter of parting ways by mutual agreement. Thus, the rules for termination of employment have not been changed with regard to the coronavirus, employment can still be terminated by mutual agreement or termination if the employee cannot be provided with work.

Could the coronavirus be the reason for the termination?

The employer is required to give the reasons for the termination and the Labour Code requires the reasons for the termination be clearly stated. This requirement is not met if the justification for the termination is merely that “the termination is due to the coronavirus”.

The reason for the termination in this case will be a reason related to the operation of the employer, i.e. the loss of income due to the coronavirus and the resulting redundancies and/or reorganisations. However, these must be apparent from the statement of reasons, which must be clear, real and reasonable.

Of course, in an eventual labour lawsuit, the employer has to prove the fact that the income has decreased and as a result the number of employees has actually been reduced and the work processes have been reorganized. Thus, termination will be unlawful if, after the termination, another employee is hired for the same job instead of the employee who was terminated with reference to redundancies.

If the rules for terminating employment have not changed, what has changed because of the coronavirus? Although the Labour Code has not changed since January 1, 2020, the government has allowed deviations from certain rules of the law for a period lasting until thirtieth day following the end of the state of emergency. Thus, for example, the employer may unilaterally order the employee to work from home and telework, but the government decree also gives the opportunity for the parties of the employment to deviate from the rules of the Labour Code in a separate agreement.

„This Alert is a source of general information for clients and friends of act legal. Its content should not be construed as legal advice, and readers should not act upon the information in this Alert without consulting our lawyers.“