Czech Republic: Latest working life developments Q4 2018

The government’s strategic document on digitalisation, uncertainty surrounding the abolition of the unpaid sick leave period, and a survey on perceptions of the main social partners are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in the Czech Republic in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Government launches Digital Czechia

Labour shortages and rapid wage growth are forcing employers to accelerate investment in digitalisation and the automation of production and administrative processes. In the context of this trend, Prime Minister Andrej Babiš identifies digitalisation as one of the priorities of his government, which approved the concept of Digital Czechia on 3 October 2018.

This concept is based on three sub-documents, one of which – Digital Economy and Society – is particularly relevant to employers and workers. The document focuses on setting up appropriate conditions for the Industry 4.0, Construction 4.0, and Research, Development and Innovation 4.0 initiatives. Its main goals include:

  • developing a more effective system of support for research, development and innovation
  • preparing sectors of the economy for digital transformation
  • helping citizens tackle associated changes in the labour market, for example, through improvements to the education system and the development of digital skills
  • supporting the connectivity and infrastructure of the digital economy and society

Unions have not taken a stance on the concept yet, but the Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic (SP ČR) has welcomed it as it resonates with the confederation’s new programme statement.[1]

Senate rejects abolition of unpaid sick leave period

On 31 October, the Chamber of Deputies approved draft amendments to the Labour Code proposed by the Social Democrats, which were designed to abolish the three-day initial unpaid sick leave period. According to the proposal, employees would receive 60% of their salary in the first three days, with the cost borne by employers. As compensation, employers’ obligatory social security contributions would be reduced by 0.2 percentage points. The amendments were one of the conditions that the Social Democrats had before they agreed to enter into the government coalition and the cabinet promised it in their policy statement. However, the Senate rejected the amendments in December.

According to opponents of the proposal such as the Civic Democratic Party, the abolition of the unpaid sick leave period threatens to overburden employers and is nothing more than a populist gimmick. Senate votes also suggests that there is no reason to abolish the current system, which has proven to be an effective way of combating fake sickness (a fact that the SP ČR and the Czech Chamber of Commerce acknowledge). Meanwhile, representatives of the Czech-Moravian Confederation of Trade Unions (ČMKOS) consider the amendments to be insulting to employees.

The proposed amendments will now return to the Chamber of Deputies, which may overturn the Senate’s decision.

Survey explores views on the main actors in social dialogue

In 2018, market research company Ipsos conducted a survey for SP ČR and ČMKOS, entitled ‘Analysis of the perception of SP ČR and ČMKOS as the main umbrella organisations and participants in social dialogue in the Czech Republic’. The aim of the analysis was to understand the current perception of both social partners by selected target groups, and to obtain the information needed to raise awareness of the organisations and social dialogue itself. Questions about SP ČR were addressed to a sample of 100 representatives from companies with over 100 employees. In the case of ČMKOS, a representative sample of 2,005 respondents aged 18–65 was selected from the general population.

The SP ČR survey of company representatives found that

  • 79% of respondents already knew the term ‘social dialogue’
  • 76% knew who ‘social partners’ were
  • 80% were aware of some of the institutions that represent the interests of industrial companies in the Czech Republic

This is in contrast to the ČMKOS survey of the general population, which found that

  • only 32% had heard of the term ‘social dialogue’
  • only 39% were aware of some of the organisations representing the interests of employees in the Czech Republic
  • 71% did not know who ‘social partners’ were

SP ČR survey respondents were also asked about their membership of the respective organisations.

  • 76% of respondents whose companies were already SP ČR members saw their membership as advantageous, especially in terms of obtaining up-to-date information or possibly having a voice in the legislative process.
  • 22% of non-members were interested in becoming a member of SP ČR.

Respondents from the general population sample were asked about union membership.

  • Only 11% indicated they were trade union members.
  • An additional 31% knew someone who was a union member.
  • 85% of trade union members saw their membership as an advantage and particularly appreciated having access to advocacy and legal aid, and the ability to participate in collective bargaining.
  • 27% of non-members expressed an interest in union membership.

 

Outlook

Legislative work on a substantial amendment to the Labour Code is expected to continue in 2019. In the context of the impending abolition of the unpaid sick leave period, electronic sick notes will be phased in by 2020.

The Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs prepared a proposal for an amendment to the Child Group Act, which should, among other things, legalise micro-nurseries for children up to four years of age and ensure the affordability of new childcare services. In addition, the Ministry wishes to advocate the introduction of five weeks of paid holiday as standard.


Footnotes

  1. ^ SP ČR (2018), Programové prohlášení Svazu průmyslu a dopravy ČR 2018/2019 , 20 November

 

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