New labour relations law passed

In late April 2002, the Slovene parliament passed a Law on Labour Relations, which governs individual employment relationships. The new legislation represents an important shift towards the 'Europeanisation' of Slovene labour law.

On 26 April 2002, after seven years of preparations and negotiations between the social partners, parliament finally passed a 'Law on Labour Relations' which will come in force on 1 January 2003. This law, which governs individual employment relationships, is one of the most important parts of the new framework of labour legislation in Slovenia and an important shift towards the 'Europeanisation' of Slovene labour law. On one hand the law will increase the flexibility of the Slovene labour market, but on the other hand it will protect workers in line with International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and EU Directives.

In the new framework of labour legislation, collective labour relations are or will be regulated by several different laws concerning different aspects. The existing legislation in this area is the Law on the Representativeness of Trade Unions and Law on the Participation of Workers in Management. The legislation in preparation is the Law on Collective Agreements and Law on the Economic and Social Council (see below), while the Law on Strikes should be renewed and matters such as the representativeness of employers' organisations should be regulated. Individual labour relations, however, have now been regulated by one comprehensive law, accompanied with relatively few other legal regulations.

The main driving force behind these changes is the transition of Slovenia from the previous system of 'self-management' and a partially planned (mostly in the form of indicative planning) economy, to a society based on the market economy and 'social state' principles. In labour law, this change is reflected in a transition from so-called 'associative' labour relations to 'contractual' labour relations. Under the old self-management system, workers were also the owners of companies and the means of production (therefore the Slovene system was referred to as 'societal' and not 'state' ownership as in other socialist countries) and thus were employers at the same time - this meant that labour relations were 'associative'. Now, the division of labour and capital is recognised. Authentic trade unions have emerged with a clear role to protect workers' interests, and with privatisation authentic employers' organisations too have appeared, making possible 'contractual' labour relations.

The new Law on Labour Relations contains provisions on:

  1. general definitions (of the employment relationship, worker, employer), prohibition of discrimination etc;
  2. contract of employment, covering parties to the contract, rights and obligations of the parties regarding the conclusion of the contract, content of the contract, obligations of the parties to the contract, fixed-term, part-time, temporary and home work contracts, termination of the contract etc;
  3. rights, duties and responsibilities arising from the employment relationship, covering 'preparatory' employment relationships (up until now obligatory for people employed for the first time), probation periods, payment for work (structure, fringe benefits, compensation of expenses, equal pay for women and men etc), working time, night work, breaks, holidays etc;
  4. protection of certain categories of workers, covering protection of women, of workers because of pregnancy and parenthood (prohibition of performing certain work, parental leave, wage compensation etc), of workers less than 18 years old, of disabled workers and of older workers;
  5. enforcement and protection of rights, duties and responsibilities arising from the employment relationship, covering judicial protection, arbitration etc;
  6. activity and protection of workplace trade union representatives;
  7. special provisions, covering work in foreign countries and the conditions of workers posted to work in Slovenia, work by children younger than 15 years of age, apprentices, schoolchildren and students, contracts of employment for seafarers, 'work booklets' (an official document with data on the employer and other matters) etc;
  8. inspection control;
  9. penal provisions; and
  10. transitional and final provisions.

While preparing the law, the government adopted a consensual approach. The tripartite Economic and Social Council of Slovenia (Ekonomsko – socialni svet Slovenije) formed the preparation group. For employers and trade unions the most contentious issues included: whether to include in the law certain items which are included in collective agreements in other countries (eg the payment of so-called 'holiday reimbursement', which is paid on top of the normal wage); whether the new law's obligatory 30-minute daily break is counted as working time and paid by the employer (the employers say that, although the law introduces 40 hours paid normal weekly working time, because the paid break is included the actual working time is 37.5 hours); and the regulation of fixed-term employment (protection of workers etc).

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