Czechia: Latest developments in working life Q1 2019
The increasing digitalisation of the labour market, the abolition of the unpaid sick leave period, efforts to improve wage levels for foreign workers and reactions to the European Semester country report for Czechia are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Czechia in the first quarter of 2019.
Czech government prepares for digitalisation
A new study by analytical company Trexima, commissioned by the Association of Independent Trade Unions (ASO), predicts that robotisation and digitisation will put at risk the jobs of roughly 12% of the economically active population. According to the study, the effects should be similar for both men and women. Workers from the middle-income group and those with secondary education without a school certificate will be most at risk.
A similar document was published by the government at the end of 2018. Authors from the Technology Centre of the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic predicted that technology will be able to provide more than half of the required skills for 11% of professions within five years. Robots will therefore be able to replace 1.3 million workers in Czechia to some extent, and this number may grow to 3.4 million within 30 years.
The Czech government is serious about future labour market transformations, largely because the country’s economy is industry-led and therefore among those at most risk in Europe. From April 2019, a set of workshops will be launched with representatives from industry to discuss how to tax the work of autonomous robots in order to offset the expected income losses resulting from digitisation. 
- Trexima: Zabránění vzniku dlouhodobé nezaměstnanosti a nové uplatnění na trhu práce v důsledku technologických změn pro znevýhodněné skupiny zaměstnanců
- Technology Centre CAS: Výzkum potenciálu rozvoje umělé inteligence v České republice
Unpaid sick leave period is abolished
On 22 January 2019, the Chamber of Deputies overturned a Senate veto when it decided that employees would receive wage compensation for the first three days of sickness.  Trade unions have long been pushing for the abolition of the unpaid sick leave period, and it was also one of the main conditions that the Social Democrats had before they agreed to enter into the coalition government.
Employers see the abolition as unfortunate in times of labour shortages. The Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SP ČR) also pointed out that many companies might eliminate relevant benefits or cut wage increases in response. Employers requested that the abolition be accompanied by the introduction of electronic sick notes, which should prevent abuse. However, these will not be fully introduced until at least 2020.
Wage levels for foreign workers under discussion
According to the Czech Statistical Office, employees from eastern Europe earn less for the same work than Czech workers, with Ukrainians being the worst paid.  The Minister of Labour and Social Affairs, supported by trade unions, wants to remove the wage inequality so that foreign workers are not seen as ‘cheap labour’.
Trade unions propose that foreign workers receive either 1.2 times the guaranteed wage or wage median in their respective industries, in order to prevent abuse. However, representatives of the Czech Chamber of Commerce believe that this contradicts the principle of equal conditions and, according to the Confederation of Employers' and Entrepreneurs' Associations of the Czech Republic (KZPS ČR), the Ministry of Labour is failing to comply with the Labour Code and forces companies to break the Anti-discrimination Act. 
The increase in guaranteed wages is part of a programme whereby the government seeks to increase the annual quota of legally employed Ukrainians from the current 19,600 workers to at least 40,000, and to speed up the hiring process. 
Social partners accept 2019 country report
After having received the 2019 European Semester country report for Czechia, the government is expected to discuss the National Reform Programme (NRP) and the Convergence Programme at the end of April. Three roundtables for the preparation of the 2019 NRP were organised by the Office of the Government in March, attended by representatives of the state administration, tripartite, regions and municipalities, the European Commission and other institutions. 
The social partners agreed with the results of the country report. The SP ČR did not find them surprising and pointed out that the problems affecting the business environment, outlined in the report, have persisted or deepened.  The Czech-Moravian Trade Union of Workers in Education (ČMOS PŠ), which has been actively involved in the European Semester, conducted a survey among its members on specific issues affecting the Czech educational system and incorporated the results into a summary document addressed to the Commission. The ČMOS PŠ acknowledged that the Commission had taken its views into account when writing the country report.