Slovakia: Temporary agency work and collective bargaining in the EU

  • Observatory: EurWORK
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  • Published on: 18 December 2008



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Temporary agency work is regulated by labour legislation from 1 February 2004. Agency workers can be assigned to user employer by TAW agency, and exceptionally also by their original employer. Temporary assignment is based on written employment contract. Labour Code specifies employment and working conditions of agency workers. It demands equal treatment and equal opportunity for agency workers with permanent workers of the user employer. Exemptions are allowed in wages during a limited period – now it is three month as a maximum. Collective bargaining does not play significant role in regulation of TAW.

Section 1. Definitions

1) In your country, is there a statutory definition of:

a) temporary agency work b) agency worker c) user enterprise

Yes, labour legislation defines the above terms.

  • a) As of 1 February 2004 temporary agency work is defined by Act No. 5/2004 on employment services as temporary employment. The Act No. 311/2001 on labour code defines it as a work performed by employee temporarily assigned to user employer.
  • b) Agency worker is defined by the Act No.5/2004 as temporary employee, and by the Labour Code as employee temporarily assigned to user employer by TAW agency or by original employer.
  • c) User enterprise is defined by the Labour Code as user employer. It can be legal as well as physical person.

2) Is there a collectively agreed definition of:

a) temporary agency work?b) agency worker?c) user enterprise?

No, there is not.

3) In your country, would you describe TAW as a sector in its own right?

No, TAW is not yet considered by social partners and policy makers as a specific sector. It is a specific form of personal service, including employment service provided for unemployed people.

Section 2. Regulatory framework

1) Have there been any changes in the law concerning TAW since 2004?

Since 2004, there was only one relevant change implemented. From 1 September 2007, amendments to the Labour Code changed the rule concerning the right of agency workers to equal pay in comparison with permanent employees of user employer (Para 58, part 7). The period during which exemption from equal pay rule could be applied was shortened from six to three month.

2) How is TAW regulated in your country?

a) Is there a legal framework specifically for TAW; and/or is it covered by general labour law (including case law/ jurisprudence)?

No, there is not. General labour law, e.g. acts on labour code, employment services and occupational safety and health regulate TAW.

b) What is the role, if any, of collective labour agreements and self-regulation?

The role of collective bargaining and self-regulation in TAW is marginal. There was no specific collective agreement regulating TAW concluded yet in Slovakia.

3) What is regulated in these provisions? In particular, does it cover:

a) use of agency work (e.g. length of assignment, sectoral bans, permitted reasons of use, number of agency workers per company, other)

The Labour Code specifies general rules for the use of TAW. However it does not regulate its specific aspects like the length of assignment, sectoral bans, number of agency workers per company. These issues, including possibilities of an earlier termination of the contract, should be specified in individual employment contracts concluded by TAW agency and agency worker.

b) the form of the contract (e.g. project, fixed-term, special contract, open ended, etc.)

TAW agencies conclude written fixed-term employment contract with potential agency worker. It can be terminated under conditions agreed in contract or upon mutual agreement between parties.

c) social security and social benefits

According to the Labour Code, user employer should allow agency workers to participate in enterprise welfare system, e.g. participation in catering, vocational education and training system. Exemptions are possible only in specific case where objective reasons do not allow or reduce the Agency workers´ participation in it. Contributions to compulsory social insurance funds for agency workers are paid by TAW agency.

d) conditions to open a TAW agency (e.g. license or authorisation schemes, supervision by public authorities, financial requirements, or others - please specify)

Act No. 5/2004 specifies conditions for obtaining business licence, e.g. minimum educational level and blameless requirement of legal or natural person intending to act as TAW agency, its prolongation and related payments. Supervision of TAW agency activities is performed by the Centre of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ústredie práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny, ÚPSVaR) and by the National Labour Inspectorate (Národný inšpektorát práce, NIP).

e) business activities/services delivered by TW agencies (e.g. prohibition to provide other services than TAW)?

Act No. 5/2004 specifies competencies and obligations of TAW agencies, e.g. to act in line with obtained licence, collect fee from user employers. TAW agency provides wage, wage compensations, daily allowances and pays contributions to compulsory social insurance funds for agency workers. TAW agencies should protect personal data of agency workers, and ensure agency workers´ right to association and collective bargaining.

f) third-national companies or temporary agency workers (e.g. activities of foreign agencies)?

Legislation does not make distinction between Slovak and foreign legal or physical person acting as TAW agency. According to information from APAS, almost all significant multinational personal agencies, including TAW agencies, are operating in Slovakia. Foreign agency workers are allowed, and their work in Slovakia is regulated by legislation concerning migrant workers.

4) Do any regulations (by law and/or collective bargaining in the TAW sector) specify equal treatment rights for agency workers with permanent workers in the user enterprise concerning:

Equal treatment rights for agency workers with permanent workers at the user employer are ensured by the labour legislation.

a) pay

The Labour Code ensures the right of agency workers to equal pay with permanent workers of the user employer. Exceptions are allowed during first three month of their assignment to user employer. The pay of agency worker can also vary where collective agreement assures other adequate protection of agency workers´ wage.

b) training

The Labour Code as well as Act on employment services ensure equal right for agency workers with permanent workers to vocational education and training.

c) other terms or conditions of employment?

Employment and working conditions of agency workers should be specified in written employment contract. It usually includes protection of agency workers´ claims in the event of the insolvency of user employer, their protection in case of occupational injury and entitlement to sickness benefit.

5) Do TAW workers have the right to information, consultation and representation?

Yes, in principle they have. According to the Labour Code, user employer should supply information to agency workers abour vacant jobs in order to ensure them the same chance to get permanent job at the user employer. User employer should inform employee representatives about the use of agency workers at its premises.

Agency workers have the right to association and collective bargaining. In practice, these rights can be applied at the TAW agency. However, because of high fluctuation of agency workers these rights are actually not applied - agency workers do not establish their representative bodies, (trade union organisation or Works Council) at TAW agencies.

6) Is there a control/enforcement mechanism regarding any TAW regulation?

If yes,

a) is there a special labour inspectorate or a bi-partite body governing TAW?

There is no special body established for controlling activities of TAW agencies. There are two bodies entitled to control the implementation of labour legislation, including TAW, in practice. According to the Act 125/2006 on labour inspection, the National Labour Inspectorate (Národný inšpektorát práce, NIP) conducts checks of keeping the labour legislation regulating employment and working conditions and occupational health and safety. These checks cover also TAW. According to Act No. 5/2004, TAW agencies should submit a report on their activities to the ÚPSVaR SR annually. It also allows agency worker, who suffered by activity of TAW agency, to report the case to ÚPSVaR SR.

b) are there any sanctions/penalties for not respecting the regulations (whether stemming from law and/or collective agreements)?

In case of breaching rules for regulation for TAW, the ÚPSVaR SR can temporarily terminate or abolish the licence for TAW agency. In case of breeching the labour legislation, including regulation of TAW, the NIP can impose a fine to the employer - up to SKK 1,000,000.

7) Are there any procedures governing use of TAW and strike breaking?

In particular, can workers on strike be replaced by agency workers?

There is no special regulation concerning the use of agency workers in case of strike. According to the Act No.2/1991 on collective bargaining, the employer hit by strike must not replace workers on strike by other people, i.e. including agency workers, during the strike. Such case actually did not emerge in practice, and this issue was not regulated by collective agreements.

Section 3. Social dialogue and collective bargaining

1) Is there any employers’ association(s) for TAW firms in your country?

If yes, please provide any data on membership (e.g. sectoral coverage of firms/workers)

Nine (out of 10 most relevant ones) world-wide multinational personal agencies operating in Slovakia, which act also as TAW agencies, are associated in Association of Personal Agencies of Slovakia (Asociácia personálnych agentúr Slovenska, APAS). Considering about 400 TAW agencies active in Slovakia their density, in terms of number of organisation, is very low - about 2%. According to APAS president, Luboš Sirota, these nine multinational agencies create, however, about 50% of annual turnover in the branch. APAS is member of peak employer organisation in Slovakia, the National Union of Employers (Republiková únia zamestnávateľov Slovenskej republiky, RUZ SR). RUZ SR represents APAS at the national tripartite social dialogue.

2) Is there any union(s) specifically for agency workers?

If no, have any unions or confederations targeted the recruitment of agency workers? launched any campaigns around agency workers’ rights?

No, there was no trade union established for agency workers. Agency workers very often change their workplaces, and it is difficult for trade unions to contact them and recruit into union membership. Confederation of Trade Unions (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) criticised the misuse of agency workers in practice, e.g. working for lower wages in comparison with permanent workers at the user employer. Trade unions made steps towards better protection of agency workers. The government accepted the proposal to reduce the six month period during which agency workers´ pay can vary from the pay of comparable permanent workers of the user employer. Recent amendment to the Labour Code reduced this period to three month.

3) Collective bargaining levels

Is TAW governed by collective bargaining at:

a) intersectoral/ national level?

There was no collective agreement concluded at national/intersectoral level in order to regulate TAW.

b) the sectoral level for TAW?

There was no sectoral collective agreement concluded which regulated TAW. (Implementation of equal treatment and equal opportunity principles prohibit positive or negative discrimination of employees on grounds of their employment contract).

c) company (ie. temporary agency firm) level?

According to available information from APAS, TAW agencies do not conclude collective agreements with representatives of agency workers. Agency workers are usually not organised in trade unions, which are exclusively entitled to collective bargaining.

Collective agreements concluded at user employers do not contain provisions regulating separately TAW. These agreements do not cover agency workers who are employees of TWA agencies and not of the user employer. There is no distinction between Slovak companies, and foreign multinational companies where EWCs operate.

4) Collective bargaining outcomes

Please provide examples and details of any recent/ significant collective agreements governing TAW at the levels referred to in question 3.

According to information from trade unions, there were no collective agreements concluded at sectoral and enterprise-level, which regulated the use of TAW.

5) Are there any examples of sector- or company-level collective agreements in other sectors that restrict, permit or otherwise regulate the use of TAW within their domain?

As stated in section 4, there were no collective agreements concluded at sectoral or enterprise-levels, which regulated the use of TAW. According to available information from Metal trade Union (Odborový zväz KOVO, OZ KOVO), currently trade unions are dealing with options how to regulate the number/share of agency workers in enterprises.

6) Please provide any data concerning:

a) trade union density for agency workers

Agency workers are employees of TAW agencies, and according to available information they are not organised in trade unions.

b) the coverage of collective bargaining within the sector.

TAW is not considered a specific sector. According to information from MPSVR SR and APAS, there were no sectoral collective agreements concluded, which covered TAW or TAW agencies. Agency workers are usually not covered by collective agreements concluded at user employers.

Section 4. Employment and working conditions of TA workers

1) Please provide the most recent data (averages) on TAW employment

a) longevity of TAW employment, i.e. how long workers remain employed

- in the sector?

According to information from ÚPSVaR SR, about 61% of agency workers were employed for less than six month in 2006. According to information from APAS, the average longevity of TAW is about six month.

- with a particular agency?

There are no data available on longevity of TAW employment by particular agencies.

b) duration of TAW placements, i.e. the length of assignment in a user company.

There are no data available on duration of TAW placements at user employers. According to information from ÚPSVaR SR, the length of TAW placements varies according to companies from several months to one year, usually in case of white collar workers.

2) Please provide any evidence from official, academic and social partner sources concerning:

a) the reasons for user companies’ usage of TAW, including any differences by sector, occupation, firm size etc.

According to information from social partners, user employers consider TAW as suitable tool, which assists them to increase internal labour market flexibility in the company. Changes in production volume and related labour demands can be flexible managed by the use of TAW. Employment of agency workers can reduce the labour cost in the company, e.g. user employers do not pay contributions to compulsory insurance funds for agency workers. The use of agency workers reduces also the administration of HR management, e.g. in case of redundancy, user employers do not need to deal with dismissal of agency workers.

According to information from the ÚPSVaR, mainly companies in automotive and electrical industries, where usually big companies operate, use agency workers. Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot Citroën, Kia Motors, Sony and Samsung Electronics can be mentioned as examples. Almost all agency workers were employed in positions of blue collar workers in 2006. About 50% of them were employed, in terms of ISCO-88 classification of occupation, as auxiliary and non-qualified staff.

b) reasons for workers participation in the sector and levels of satisfaction, including any differences by age, sex, education etc.

There were no studies conducted in order to analyse the reasons why people accept TAW. Many agency workers are recruited from regions with high level of unemployment. TAW is for many of them the only option to get any job. The most of agency workers have low qualification or are without qualification. Some agency workers are qualified young people, including school leavers who consider TAW as suitable starting position in the labour market. According to information from APAS, about 60% of agency workers were men in 2007. While blue collar agency workers were mainly of middle age, white collar workers were mainly young people.

3) In practice, which rules and procedures may apply to temporary-agency workers in contrast to other workers in the user company?

Implementation of non-discrimination and equal opportunity principles demands the same employment and working conditions for agency workers as for permanent employees of the user employer. Agency workers have usually the same working time schedule as permanent workers. According to the Labour Code, the only difference can concern wages of agency workers, which can vary with respective permanent employees of user employer for determined time period. Currently, this period is three months as a maximum.

Section 5. The extent and composition of TAW.

1) For 2004 and 2007, please state

a) the number of agency workers

In 2004, 10,354 agency workers were assigned to user employers. This figure has been increasing to 22,378 in 2007. It was, however, less than 30,818 agency workers who were assigned to user employers in 2006.

b) total revenues of the TAW sector

This information is not available. According to ÚPSVaR data the number of TAW agencies has increased from 180 in 2004 to 611 in 2007 (about two third of them were active). That indicates that TAW business is developing rapidly, and it can be estimated that the revenue of TAW sector has increased accordingly.

2) What proportion of the TAW workforce is currently

a) male/ female?

There is no information available about gender structure of agency workers. According to information from APAS, about 60% of them are men.

b) full/part time?

No data are available about this. Agency workers have usually the same working time schedule as permanent workers.

c) young (<c. 25) or older (>c. 50) workers?

No data are available about this. According to information from APAS, blue collar agency workers are usually people of middle age (e.g. between 30-40 years of age), and white collar workers are mainly young people (around 25 years).

3) Has there been any changes to the TAW sector in terms of

a) concentration, i.e. proportion of employees or turnover accounted for by the largest firms?

No data are available about this. It can be only assessed that large firms play significant role in TAW. According to ÚPSVR SR data, in 2005-6, the most of agency workers were assigned in electrical and automotive industry where big firms prevail.

b) internationalisation, i.e. number/significance of multinational TAW firms?

According to ÚPSVR SR data, since 2004, the number of multinational TAW agencies operating in Slovakia has increased, up several dozens in 2007. According to APAS president, Luboš Sirota, nine multinational member agencies create about 50% of annual turnover in the branch.

4) What is your evaluation of the availability and quality of statistical data concerning TAW in your country?

Official data on TAW are collected by the ÚPSVaR from reports submitted by TAW agencies yearly. The quality of available statistical data has some weaknesses, e.g. not all TAW agencies submitted the required report what can reduce the representativeness of available figures. At the same time, specific data on structure of agency workers, e.g. by gender, age, working time schedule, longevity of assignment at user employer are not collected by ÚPSVaR.

Commentary by the NC

According available information, TAW is expanding and it is going to be a standard form of employment in several, mainly multinational, companies. Despite of this, agency workers are not subject of collective bargaining and are not covered by collective agreements. Although agency workers have the right to association and collective bargaining, they can apply these rights at TAW agencies and not at the user employer. Since agency workers are not organised in trade unions they actually do not apply these rights.

Trade unions did not deal yet separately with TAW in collective bargaining. Nevertheless, OZ KOVO, which covers sectors with high share of agency workers, started to deal with TAW issue. OZ KOVO representatives, in cooperation with German Metal Trade Union, discussed options for regulation of TAW in companies, e.g. how to limit the share of agency workers at user employers.

Ludovit Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research

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