Hungary: Workers may win back annual leave lost due to long-term sick leave rules

The Hungarian Trade Union Confederation has initiated a lawsuit against the Hungarian State due to the loss of annual leave suffered by workers on long-term sick leave arising from a legislative loophole.

The new Labour Code (Act I of 2012) reduced the length of annual paid leave in the case of longer illness, as only the first 30 days of sick leave were to be taken into consideration as time worked when the basis of the annual paid leave was calculated (Section 115, subsection (2) e). For example, if a worker, according to the general rule was entitled to 24 days of paid leave in a year, but he/she was on sick leave for half a year, they were only eligible for 12 days paid leave in that year.

In order to obviate the loss experienced by workers on longer sick leave, a representative of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (Ms Mária Hercegh) has turned to the Ombudsman for legal redress. The Ombudsman has pronounced his verdict and declared that the calculation referred to went against the Fundamental Law of Hungary. Subsequently, the Parliament scrapped the relevant provision as of 1 January 2015 (by Section 390 of Act XCIX of 2014). However, it has not taken any action regarding the compensation of workers affected negatively during the two and a half years that restrictive calculation had been in effect.

According to the President of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation (MaSzSz), László Kordás, the Hungarian Government must indemnify the workers concerned: ’It is unacceptable, that the Parliament passes a law which harmfully affects workers, then having acknowledged the damage caused the Parliament modifies the law but does not provide remedy accordingly’ , he argued, adding: ‘Employees shall be liable for damages they caused. So it is a legitimate claim that if employees suffer damages, then there should be also someone liable for this.

The legal office of MaSzSz is now preparing the petition to be filed. The Court will be asked to consider the case of a woman whose recovery from spine surgery took several years and thus she practically lost all her paid leave, leading to the loss of over a monthly salary. This would be a special, unprecedented legal case and its outcome is unpredictable. If a favourable judgement is given in this case, then tens of thousands of similar legal proceedings could follow.


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