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New law voted by the Greek parliament, regulating multiple matters

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A review of the law’s provisions on employment & labor matters

The government has voted a new law, regulating a number of matters belonging in different jurisdictions and sectors of policy, mostly related to facing the COVID-19 crisis. The law includes, inter alia, a section legislated by the Ministry of Labor, dealing with labor matters.

A brief presentation of some important provisions which set a framework of support to the affected businesses and employees follows:

1. Covering the balance of working hours missed due to submission of the employee to precautionary self-quarantine

Employers may place under a teleworking regime the employees who are submitted, in accordance with the EODY recommendations, in precautionary self-quarantine of seven (7) or fourteen (14) days.

However, in case the nature of the work offered by the employee is not compatible with teleworking, the employers may request that the employee works one (1) hour above the contractual daily working time schedule, per day, until the point when 1/2 of the working hours which were missed during the quarantine is covered. It is noted that the said extra working hours are not considered as overtime work (υπερεργασία) nor as overtime work exceeding maximum working hours (υπερωρία), therefore, the employee is not entitled to receive any kind of payment corresponding to the said extra working hours.

In any case, the relevant protective labor legislation regarding time limits of employment shall be applied.

The above regulation is based on the argument that employers continue to provide the agreed payment and to cover the social security contributions of the employee for all the quarantine period during which the employee is not actually working.

This legislative measure enters into force from September 1st 2020.

2. Special parental leave provided to parents with children infected by the COVID-19 virus

Employees who are parents to children, who are babies, registered to infant schools, nursery schools and childcare centers, children attending institutions of compulsory education, children attending special schools or institutions providing special education, regardless children’s age, as well as children with disabilities who are beneficiaries in receiving open care in facilities for persons with disabilities, are entitled to a special parental leave of fourteen (14) days, in case their child gets infected by the COVID – 19 virus. The duration of the special parental leave may even exceed 14 days, if there is such need and it is proved by a medical report or if the child gets hospitalized for treatment.

This leave is provided on a separate basis and in addition to parental leaves of a different nature, whereas there is no condition of work-history in order for the leave to be provided to working parents.

During the employee’s absence, his/her payment is based on the following tripartite scheme: employee – employer – State, where the 2/3 of the special parental leave are covered by the employer and the 1/3 by the State. Employers shall register with ERGANI the employees who make use of the special parental leave.

3. Conditions for granting the regular unemployment benefit to seasonal workers of the touristic and food & beverage sector

Exceptionally, for the year of 2020, in order for the regular unemployment benefit to be granted to seasonal workers of the sectors of tourism and food & beverage services, it is required that they have only completed 50 working days which fall within the OAED unemployment insurance domain.

4. Extension of force of the labor mechanism “Syn-Ergasia”

“Syn-Ergasia” labor mechanism is extended until 31.12.2020, allowing entrance to the scheme to all businesses, either seasonal or all – year operating, regardless their Activity Code Number, which show:

a. For businesses obliged to submit VAT Periodic Statement, at least 20% reduction of turnover (Tax Code no. 312 of the VAT Periodic Statement) in comparison with the turnover they had during the reference period, as follows:

Month of entering the mechanism:  Loss showed in months

  • In June 2020: at least 20% turnover loss deriving from March and April 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In July 2020: at least 20% turnover loss deriving from March - April - May 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In August – September 2020: at least 20% turnover loss deriving from March - April – May – June 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In October – December 2020: at least 20% turnover loss deriving from March - April – May – June – July - August 2020 (cumulatively calculated)

It is noted that the reference period and the way of calculation of the turnover loss is different for businesses which use a double-entry accounting system and businesses using a single-entry accounting system, according to the respective tables as provided in article 13 of the recently voted law in question.

b. For businesses not obliged to submit VAT Statement or relieved from this tax obligation, at least 20% reduction of gross earnings (Tax Code no. 047 of the E3 Statement) in comparison with the amount of gross earnings they had during the reference period, as follows:

Month of entering the mechanism:  Loss showed in months

  • In June 2020: at least 20% gross earnings loss deriving from March and April 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In July 2020: at least 20% gross earnings loss deriving from March - April - May 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In August – September 2020: at least 20% gross earnings loss deriving from March - April – May – June 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
  • In October – December 2020: at least 20% gross earnings loss deriving from March - April – May – June – July - August 2020 (cumulatively calculated)
     

In this category of businesses, the reference period includes the gross earnings of the year 2019, divided to six (6) in case of entering the mechanism in June, to four (4) for entering the mechanism in July, to three (3) for entering the mechanism in August – September and to two (2) for entering the mechanism in October – December.

5. Option to extend suspension of employment contracts to severely affected businesses and distribution of State aid to their employees

Employers of the private sector of (either seasonal or not) tourism, air and sea transport, passenger land transport, food & beverage, culture and sports, and private-sector employers of any other sector with Activity Code Number (ΚΑΔ) belonging to the category of businesses adversely affected by the crisis, as defined by the Ministry of Economy, may extend suspension or place for the first time under suspension a part or the whole of their employees who have been hired until the date of official publication of the law in question, for a time period of  thirty (30) days and only until 31.10.2020.  Moreover, employment contracts who had been suspended before publication of the said law and their suspension was afterwards permanently recalled by the employer, may be re-placed under suspension until 31.10.2020.

Employers, while using the option of suspension, shall not proceed with terminations of employment contracts, otherwise said terminations are null and void. Additionally, for thirty (30) days after the end of the suspension period, employers shall maintain the same number of employees and the same type of employment contracts.

Suspended employees are entitled to receive State aid, pro-rated to the days of suspension, calculated on the basis of €534 corresponding to thirty (30) days, whereas social security contributions are covered on the basis of their contractual nominal wage. The State aid is not subject to any tax, concession or seizure in the hands of the State or of third parties, fees or contributions, withholdings, offsets.

6. State aid to seasonal employees of consecutively suspended businesses of the tourism sector and automatic dismissal after a certain point of time

Employees working in businesses of the sector of touristic and hotel accommodations, as well as touristic buses, which have suspended their operation during the whole time period from 01.06.2020 until 30.09.2020, are entitled to receive the State aid, as calculated for all employees under suspension (please see above section 5).

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs undertakes to cover the social security contributions of both the employer and the employee, calculated on the amount of the State aid – 534€ -, for twenty-five (25) insurance working days. For the period from 01.06.2020 until 20.09.2020, a Vat Periodic Statement (AΠΔ) shall be submitted, with deadline οf submission on 31.12.2020. The Vat Periodic Statement is then issued on the basis of the data drawn by the competent authorities (e-EFKA, OAED, Ministry of Labor records etc.).

After the 31st October 2020, employees of the businesses in question are automatically considered as dismissed from work, without the need of any act of termination of employment to take place, while the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs delivers the relevant records of the automatically dismissed employees to OAED, in order for the latter to check who will be beneficiaries of the seasonal unemployment benefit.

7. Christmas bonus payment for 2020

Businesses suspended by State order and businesses severely affected by the crisis shall pay the Christmas bonus to their employees for the year 2020. The calculation of the bonus is made as follows:

In cases of employees who were suspended and the time of their actual employment (excluding the time period of suspension) does not cover the entire period from 31 May until 31 December 2020, the Christmas bonus paid by the employer is reduced, calculated on the basis of the actual employment. The amount of the Christmas bonus corresponding to the time during which the employee was placed under suspension, is covered by the State and it is calculated on the amount of the State aid that the suspended employee received while on suspension.

Accordingly, employees who have been under suspension during the whole period of reference, are still entitled to receive the Christmas bonus, which will be paid by the State and calculated on the amount of the State aid they received while on suspension.

8. Extension of support measures provided to the employers for facing exceptional business needs

Employers and businesses who have used up the maximum limits on overtime work, as laid down by law, may still request from their employees to do overtime work without the need for the relevant Act of approval of the competent authority to be issued, until 31.12.2020. It is, however and surely, noted, that the protective labor legislation regarding time limits of employment is applied.