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Specifications on Ministerial Decision. B’ B’ 1779/10-05-2020, regarding labor law related matters [Circular of the Ministry of Labor dated 19.05.2020]

Thursday, May 21, 2020

I. Specifications on Ministerial Decision. B’ B’ 1779/10-05-2020, regarding labor law related matters [Circular of the Ministry of Labor dated 19.05.2020]

A. Extension of suspension of employment contracts

A1. Businesses under mandatory lockdown during May

Suspension of employment contracts, either indefinite or fixed-term, of businesses under mandatory lockdown during May, are extended for an equal period of time. Employers shall not reduce the number of their employees through dismissals for as long as the lockdown applies; otherwise, such dismissals shall be null and void.

When the suspension period ends, fixed-term employment contracts continue for the remaining agreed time, unless a. it is objectively impossible to continue, for example in cases of seasonal work, such as winter-season theatres, ski resorts etc. or b. the reason for employment was to address needs which ceased to exist after the end of suspension, such as employment of school bus drivers, theatre attendants, temporary replacement of an employee etc.

A2. Businesses re-operating in May after lifting of mandatory lockdown

Employers of this category may extend the suspension of 60% of their already suspended employees and recall the suspension of at least 40%. Extension shall last for 30 days maximum and in any case until 31.05.2020.

Employers who elect to extent the suspension of their employees shall maintain after the end of the suspension and for a period of 45 days the same number of employees and with the same type of agreement (full time, part time, rotation employment) and refrain from terminations of employment contracts until 31.05.2020. Employers who elect to permanently recall suspension of all their employees and, therefore, do not make use of the measure of suspension, do not fall under the above restrictions regarding maintenance of the same number of employees and prohibition to terminate employees.

It is noted that businesses re-operating in May are considered severely affected businesses from now on.

A3. Businesses severely affected and currently using the option of suspension of employment contracts

Employers of this category may extend the suspension of 60% of their already suspended employees and recall the suspension of at least 40%. Extension shall last for 30 days maximum and in any case until 31.05.2020.

Employers who elect to extent the suspension of their employees shall maintain after the end of the suspension and for a period of 45 days the same number of employees and with the same type of agreement and refrain from terminations of employment contracts until 31.05.2020. Employers who elect to permanently recall suspension of all their employees and, therefore, do not make use of the measure of suspension, shall maintain after the end of the suspension and for a period of 45 days the same number of employees and with the same type of agreement as they stood on 21.03.2020.

For both A2 and A3 categories, extension of suspension of fixed-term employment contracts is possible. When the suspension period ends, fixed-term employment contracts continue for the remaining agreed time, unless a. it is objectively impossible to continue, for example in cases of seasonal work, such as winter-season theatres, ski resorts etc. or b. the reason for employment was to address needs which ceased to exist after the end of suspension, such as employment of school bus drivers, theatre attendants, temporary replacement of an employee etc.

B. Business operation with safety personnel

Businesses severely affected, including businesses re-operating in May which are considered severely affected, may operate with safety personnel, on the following conditions: a. each employee may work for a minimum of two “whole” weeks per calendar month, either consecutively or intermittently. A “whole” working week means 5 days in case of a 5-day working schedule and 6 days in case of a 6-day working schedule, while any kind of leave is not calculated. b. This system is applied on a weekly basis and it shall concern at least 50% of the employees who are not suspended, either because their employment contracts were never suspended in the first place, or because they were suspended and the suspension period is over or the suspension was permanently recalled. The employer shall plan the safety personnel every week and the concerned employees shall be informed accordingly.

Employers who elect to use this working system shall, as long as they use it, maintain the same number of employees and with the same type of agreement (full time, part time, rotation employment). The term “same number of employees” does not include those resigning, those retiring and fixed term employees whose employment expires.

C. Clarifications on the obligation to grant regular two consecutive weeks' leave to employees in conjunction with the special purpose leave

Greek labor law foresees that the employer shall grant annual regular leave to the employee, while the period of leave is agreed between the employer and the employee, and, in any event, it shall not exceed 2months after the employee’s respective request for leave.

With regard to the possibility to section the annual regular leave in parts, this may happen (i) by deviding the annual regular leave into two periods within the same calendar year, by decision of the employer, due to a particularly serious or urgent need of the business, and (ii) by sectioning the leave in more than two periods of which one must include at least 12 working days in case of a 6-day working schedule and 10 working days, for a 5-day working schedule, or in the case of minors 12 working days, by decision of the employee and following submission of a written request to the employer.

At the same time, and in the framework of tackling the negative effects of the new coronavirus by taking exceptional measures, special legislation provided employees of the private sector who are parents with the right to receive a special purpose leave of minimum duration of three (3) months, under the condition that the beneficiary makes use from its personal regular leave of one (1) day in every three (3) days of the special purpose leave.

In view of the above, the Circular of the Ministry of Labor clarifies that the provisions on annual regular leave and its sectioning in parts remain valid in full, even in the present exceptional and temporary circumstances. In particular, with regard to working parents who have made use of special purpose leave [and therefore fall into that category of workers who have sectioned their annual regular leave into more than two periods as defined above under (ii)] and who wish to make use of an annual regular leave, may do so if they fulfil the legal conditions for taking annual regular leave and follow the relevant procedure.

In this case, one of the sectioned periods must include, as mentioned above under (ii), at least 12 working days in case of a 6-day working schedule and 10 working days, for a 5-day working schedule, or in the case of minors 12 working days, unless the remaining days of leave of those workers are not sufficient to fulfil this obligation, due to the fact that some days were used for the special purpose leave.

II. New mechanism for supporting businesses

In a televised address to the Greek nation, the Prime Minister announced, inter alia, a new mechanism in the labor sector which is called ‘Syn-Ergasia”, with the aim to support businesses in recovering from the crisis and workers. This mechanism will allow businesses and employers with more than 20% turnover loss, regardless their Activity Code Number (ΚΑΔ), to reduce up to 50% the working time of whole-time employees, seasonal or not.

The employer will cover all the insurance rights of the employee on the basis of their whole nominal salary. At the same time, the state will cover 60% of the amount of the employee’s salary that corresponds to the working time reduction, while the employee’s amount of net earnings shall not fall under the minimum wage limit, as currently set by Greek legislation.

It is pointed out that, as far as employees submitted under this mechanism are concerned, employers are restricted from a. terminate them and b. amend their contract’s terms and conditions.

With the aim to tackle unemployment, the state will provide until September a seasonal unemployment benefit to almost 120.000 seasonal unemployed and it will further cover in favor of the employer the insurance distributions of the part-time seasonal workers, in order to motivate businesses to proceed with re-employment. Regarding the unemployed, unemployment benefits expiring in May will be extended for two (2) months.

The respective legislation by virtue of which the above measures, along with many more regulations concerning other sectors of the economy, are going to enter in force, is expected soon.