In case of a second violation related to undeclared labour, the penalty for the employer shall be a BGN 15,000 to 20,000 fine, and for the guilty official - a fine of BGN 5,000 to 10,000. These are the proposed amendments to the Bulgarian Labour Code that the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy published for public consultation.
The Bill also proposes an increase in the administrative penalty for repeated violations related to exploitation of undeclared work, and remunerations or compensations due by the employer that have not been paid in time. The offences listed above significantly affect the interests of workers and employees, and result in inflicting damage on the social security system and creating conditions for unfair competition between companies, thus posing a high level of public danger, especially if performed repeatedly by the same employer. To ensure prevention and guarantee compliance with the labour legislation regarding this issue, the respective administrative sanction amount needs to be deterring, which is why it has been suggested for the employer to be punished with a property sanction or a fine ranging from BGN 20,000 to 30,000 and the guilty official - with a fine ranging from BGN 10,000 to 20,000.
The aim of this penalty increase is to ensure a properly functioning labour market and to prevent such offences from occurring, because they significantly restrict employees' rights and lead to unfair competition between employers.
Upon establishing labour law violations, the Bill also allows for a mitigation agreement regarding the sanction, but sets the minimum agreed penalty amount to be no less than 70% of the standard minimum penalty for the violation concerned. In the event of repeated and habitual violations, the option for such agreements shall be inapplicable.
The Bill guarantees that teachers' employment contracts shall not be unilaterally terminated by the employer until they become entitled to a retirement pension under the general conditions for years served and age.
The proposed changes to the Labour Code improve employer-employee relationships with an international element, including business trip regulations. It is clearly stated that the law regulating employer-employee relationships with an international element is the Labour Code, which shall apply to employment relationships between an employer and a worker or an employee whose employment location is in Bulgaria or abroad, unless otherwise provided by any law or an international treaty valid in the Republic of Bulgaria. This aims to ensure equal treatment of workers and employees, while providing them with the opportunity to take advantage of their due protection under labour legislation regardless of their nationality.
The proposed provisions reduce the required minimum length of work experience for first-time employees before being entitled to paid annual leave from 8 months to 4 months.
The changes allow professional and sectoral trade unions and employers to negotiate longer overtime limits per worker or an employee via collective employment bargaining, which, however, shall not exceed 300 hours within one calendar year. That being said, the overtime limit set forth by the Bulgarian Labour Code continues to be 150 hours per annum in the absence of a signed collective agreement. The proposal aims to foster the development of industrial relations in the country by providing more opportunities for social partners to find better balance when organising working time, taking into account the specifics of each professional field or industry. The requirement that the collective agreement must be at an industry or professional field level and not at company level will ensure equality between employers and fair competition among them.
Another proposed amendment to the current provisions states that tobacco producers will also be allowed to employ workers with one-day contracts for short-term agricultural work during harvest gathering and processing. The inclusion of tobacco producers in the scope of employers who can sign such contracts will contribute to a smoother labour market functioning in certain regions of the country where such production is a traditional sector.