Slight increase in part-time work

Participation in part-time work in Slovakia has historically been low and, despite legislation creating favourable conditions for it, interest - from both employers and employees - continues to be low. Employers fear loss of control and employees fear lower incomes. Women make up most of the part-time workforce. However, recent legislative changes are expected to increase interest, especially among women, in part-time work.

Legislative framework

The recently published EU Labour Force Survey - Principal results 2004 shows that only 1.4% of Slovakian workers work part time, the lowest rate in the EU. (The Slovakian labour force survey reports a higher, but still very low, rate of 2.7%.) However, these low rates are not due to the legal environment. The Slovakian Labour Code has for some time permitted part-time employment and the new Code creates even better conditions for it (SK0207102F).

The 2002 Labour Code permits employment contracts for shorter working times than the standard working week, and for switching between full-time and part-time work. Moreover, part-time work schedules do not have to be spread over the full working week. Wages for part-time work are reduced in proportion to the shorter working time. The Code prohibits employers from discriminating between part-time and full-time workers.

However, Labour Code amendments in 2003 changed the conditions for part-time work of less than 20 hours a week (SK0312103F). The amendments permit either employers or employees to withdraw from the employment contract for any reason or even without stating a reason, with only 15 days’ notice. (Full-time workers must give or receive two months notice.)

The amendments also exclude employees working less than 20 hours a week from several Labour Code provisions, including the following:

  • a period of protection against dismissal;
  • provisions on collective redundancies;
  • trade union representation in decisions on dismissals or employee claims for severance pay.

While the 2002 Labour Code (SK0207102F) required employers to grant employee applications for part-time work, the amended Code requires them only to consider the application and to inform employees and their representatives about their decision.

Impact of Labour Code amendments on incidence of part time work

The 2003 changes in labour legislation were implemented mainly in response to employers’ demands and focused on increasing the flexibility of employment conditions. However, these legislative changes do not account for the low participation in part-time employment in Slovakia. The labour force survey carried out by the Slovakian Statistical Office (Štatistický úrad Slovenskej republiky, ŠÚ SR) confirms that it is a long-standing phenomenon. Nonetheless, the ŠÚ SR survey also shows that part-time work is increasing, albeit slowly. While the proportion of the workforce in part-time employment was less than 2% in 2000, it rose to 2.1% in 2001, 2.6% in 2003 and 2.7% in 2004. The proportion of part-time workers who are women, around 75%, remains the same throughout that period.

Despite these increases, the fact that almost 40% of those who work part time do so because employers require it or because full-time work is not available is not encouraging. The ŠÚ SR survey for the first quarter of 2005 shows that the number of such employees is 0.1% higher than in the same period in 2004. In that time, the overall proportion of part-time employment dropped by 0.2%.

Reasons for working part time

The ŠÚ SR survey cites the following as the main reasons for people to work part time:

  • employee’s own choice (26%);
  • health reasons (22%);
  • employer’s request (22%);
  • lack of full-time jobs (17%);
  • attendance at school or training course (9%);
  • taking care of children or other dependants (4%).

While employers welcome the recent changes in conditions for part-time work, trade unions point out that employers often take advantage of the less stringent conditions on employment contracts of less than 20 working hours per week to terminate them more easily.

Some employment experts ('Companies do not want to employ for part-time work', Daily SME, 20 September 2005) state that, although people are interested in part-time work and in working at home, employers fear that these forms of employment would lessen their control over employees. Many employers seem to consider the presence of employees in the workplace to be more important than their actual productivity. Nevertheless, the trend to part-time working is gradually increasing in Slovakia.

The main reason that workers are reluctant to take on part-time work is probably financial. With Slovakian wages still generally low, any decrease in income is significant and workers try to work full time as much as possible, and often even work overtime.

Commentary

In Slovakia, as in other countries, more women than men work part time, usually because of women’s role as caregivers for children and family. A change in the conditions for family allowances might encourage more parents to take up part-time work. Previously, when a parent (mother or father) who had been on parental leave started working, the family allowance was reduced by 50%. However, from August 2005, parents of a child up to three years old get the full family allowance regardless of whether both are working or one is at home taking care of the child (unless the child is in a state-subsidised kindergarten).

Representatives of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ministerstvo práce sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej republiky, MPSVR SR) believe that this measure will create new working opportunities for women. Getting the full family allowance even when they work means that women who work part time can better afford to pay for childcare.

First observations suggest that women are using this opportunity to return to work. There is also new interest in childcare work and some women who previously could not find jobs have started to take care of children. The government anticipates that, if more women on maternity leave start working part time and leave their children in childcare, it will create new jobs for unemployed people. (Ludovít Cziria, Bratislava Centre for Work and Family Studies)

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