Slovenia: Latest working life developments – Q2 2017

New apprenticeship legislation, an ombudsman’s report on unpaid wages and posted workers, failure of the ‘mini-labour law reform’ and the resulting amendments to a range of labour legislation are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Slovenia in the second quarter of 2017.

New law on apprenticeship

The new Law on Apprenticeship adopted on 8 May 2017 sets out to combine vocational training with on-the-job training. Apprentices older than 15 years of age will have the status of pupil and apprentice if more than 50% of their study programme takes place with an employer, and at least 40% takes place at school or college. An apprentice will not have the status of an employee, but will be entitled to social security, health and safety at work protection and a financial reward of at least €200 in the first year of schooling, €300 in the second year and €400 in the third. This financial reward was the main point of divergence between the social partners during the year-long negotiations before the legislation was agreed. However, it is not mandatory for pupils or employers to participate in the programme.

In the 2018–2019 school year, four vocational school programmes (toolmaker, stonemason, cook/hotelier, and carpenter) will join the pilot apprenticeship training scheme. The scheme will be partly financed by the European Social Fund, which will cover costs such as training of mentors, rewards for apprentices and mentors, transport and food allowances. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) stated that this law is the best possible compromise that could be achieved by all stakeholders at present.

Ombudsman's report on unpaid wages and posted workers

The Human Rights Ombudsman’s annual report for 2016 has been published. The chapter on labour relations points to some persistent problems in the field. Despite the evidence presented in several previous ombudsman reports of employers failing to pay their workers, the government has not enforced appropriate checks to ensure that employees are paid their due wages and employers pay the social security contributions required by law. The ombudsman also urges the government to increase the number of labour inspectors because there are not enough to carry out checks on employers.

The report also draws attention to the problems of posted workers, pointing to weak coordination between state institutions when issuing the form that certifies workers’ social security status when moving within the EU. It also states that there is a need for systematic regulation of precarious employment in order to reduce the economic and social risks to the workers concerned.

The report has been delivered to the Prime Minister, the President of the Republic of Slovenia and to the President of the National Assembly. The media – including the trade unions’ newspaper Workers’ Unity (Delavska Enotnost) – have paid considerable attention to the report.

Failure of ‘mini labour reform’

The mini labour reform to amend three laws – the Labour Inspection Act, the Employment Relationship Act and the Labour Market Regulation Act – has been halted after negotiations failed at the Economic and Social Council. The reform proposed the following:

  • stronger measures against fraudulent forms of labour
  • incentives and penalties for unemployed or redundant employees to accelerate their re-entry into the labour force
  • the modification of regulations that cover consensual termination of the employment contract, with an option providing for payment of unemployment benefits by the employer for up to six months.

Employers, whose proposal to liberalise the procedure for the laying off of workers was rejected, were particularly dismayed. Jože Smole, Secretary-General of the Association of Employers of Slovenia, said in a statement that proposals did not meet the expectations of members.

After the failure of negotiations in May 2017, the government decided to start the process of adopting amendments – only to the Labour Inspection Act and the Labour Market Regulation Act. The amendments to the Labour Inspection Act (PDF) propose that an employer will be compelled to enter into an employment relationship with a person working on a contract basis, if the Labour Inspectorate establishes that the elements of employment relations already exist. This must be done within three days of the Labour Inspectorate’s decision. Where salaries are unpaid by an employer – the most frequent type of labour law violation since 2009 – the Labour Inspectorate will be authorised to halt work in the business. 

The amendments set out, among other proposals, incentives for low-skilled workers to find employment before the expiry of the period in which they are entitled to employment benefits. If they find work, they will receive 20% of their usual employment benefits in addition to their salary. The amendments also set a penalty for workers who do not register as jobseekers after they have been given notice by their employer and before their employment ends: their benefit will now be cut to 60% of their salary, rather than 80%. The amendments set less severe penalties for recipients of unemployment benefits if they breach their obligations.

Commentary

The social partners have not been able to reach consensus on amendments to the Employment Relationship Act, disagreeing mainly on the redefinition of reasons for the termination of an employment contract; this has resulted in the failure of the mini labour reform. Trade unions are now preparing a legal proposal for a consensual termination of employment contracts, which will go some way towards meeting the employers’ request for greater liberalisation of the procedures for laying off workers.

The most important subject of the Economic and Social Council’s negotiations in the next few months will certainly be the forthcoming healthcare reforms. The anticipated major change is the abolition of voluntary complementary health insurance and the introduction of health compensation as a compulsory tax instead.

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