Czech Republic: Latest working life developments – Q3 2017

A pay rises for public sector employees, trade union strike alerts, legislation extending paid leave to care for sick/dependent family members, and work–life balance 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 third quarter of 2017.

Trade unions consolidate their position and influence

The labour market in the Czech Republic has long been struggling with a serious shortage of labour. This situation, along with economic prosperity and the social dialogue-friendly attitude of the current government, has strengthened both the influence and the negotiating position of the trade unions. They have increased pressure on wage growth which, according to statistics, is occurring in all sectors of the economy and wage growth has been highlighted not only by the Czech Statistical Office (ČSÚ), but also in research by the Czech Chamber of Commerce, in which 82% of firms stated that they had increased wages last year.

Representatives of the government, trade unions and employers met at the last tripartite meeting before the October elections to the Chamber of Deputies. The meeting, on 18 September, concluded that the social partners’ level of cooperation was significantly above average, with high-level social partners having met every two months with the government to discuss fundamental political measures. In addition, the National Council for Economic and Social Agreement has met four times with regional tripartite organisations during the current parliamentary term, and has also conducted international meetings with fellow Visegrad Group (V4) members – Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Public administration and teaching trade unions on strike alert

The Czech-Moravian Trade Union of Education Staff (ČMOS) announced, on 5 September, a strike alert, as part of its fight to increase the salary scales of teachers by 15%. The next day, strike alerts were announced by other trade unions representing public sector employees and public services, which are making similar wage demands.

The demands by ČMOS were supported from the outset by Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka, who feels the Czech economy is healthy enough to afford the increases. The government promptly responded to the demands of the trade unions and, on 25 September, introduced a series of regulations increasing the pay scales of public sector employees by 10% and those of teachers in the regional education sector by 15% from 1 November 2017. Salaries will, therefore, be increased not only for teachers, but also for firefighters, health workers, the police force, civil servants, social service workers and those working in the culture sector.

However, employer representatives, as well as some independent experts think that the pressure on wage growth is disproportionate to both the productivity and economic potential of Czech companies. Vladimir Dlouhý, the President of the Czech Chamber of Commerce, has even stated that the unions have attained a pre-eminent position in terms of exerting political pressure, and that issues surrounding wage growth have become an integral part of pre-election propaganda and manoeuvring.

New provisions for carers in the Labour Code

It will now be possible for workers to claim paid leave for up to 90 days in order to provide 24-hour care for a family member, according to a new regulation in the Labour Code. Caregivers will be entitled to compensation for their loss of income from the health insurance system at the rate of 60% of the daily assessment base.

Employees engaged in providing such care will be protected from dismissal during their leave and will be entitled to return to their original job. Employers will be entitled to refuse to allow such a care period only in the case of serious operational reasons, and will have to set out their reasons in writing.

The amendment to the Labour Code was approved in July by the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament and then, in August, by the Senate. Currently, it is now waiting to be signed into law by President Miloš Zeman.

Work–life balance in Czech households

The Czech Republic has one of the highest gender pay gaps in Europe (22.5% in 2015). According to experts, the major contributing factor is the length of parental leave taken by women. In September 2017, a study examining the quality of life enjoyed by different types of family (PDF) was published by the Sociological Institute of the Academy of Sciences. The study provides a detailed analysis of the theme of work and its connections with family life. The research was based on the Changes in Czech Society panel research project for which data were collected in three waves.

This study was extraordinary in terms both of its scope and the sample selection methodology. The sample consisted of 5,159 households selected in 2015 by means of the multistage stratified random selection method. The results confirmed the deeply rooted principle of men as the breadwinners in Czech families. Women were found to spend considerably less time in work than men in all types of households. The differences between men and women in terms of hours usually worked per week were found to be the greatest in complete families with children under the age of 18. The average father in this type of family usually worked 46.5 hours per week, while the mother worked just 37.3 hours, a difference of almost 9 hours. In childless partner households, it was found that men worked on average five hours per week more than women.

 

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