New labour legislation implemented

From 1 April 2002, new labour legislation was implemented in the Slovak Republic. A new Labour Code and new labour legislation for the public sector have introduced different employment regulations for business organisations and public organisations, after more than 35 years when a unified Labour Code applied to all employees and employers equally.

As of 1 April 2002, a new Labour Code for the private sector and new labour legislation for the public sector came into force in the Slovak Republic. The previous Labour Code (adopted in 1965), amended more than 30 times, played a very important role in providing a comprehensive codification of employment and working conditions in Czechoslovakia, and as from 1 January 1993 (the date that the independent Slovak Republic was established) in Slovakia, too. It applied to all employees and employers equally, regardless of whether they were active in companies conducting a business or in public organisations.

Labour legislation in Slovakia has been changed many times, especially during the last decade when the changes have reflected the requirements of an effective market economy, which has been established step by step in the country since 1990. These changes have also reflected the principles of the Council of Europe's European Social Charter and the Conventions of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Recent changes in Slovak labour legislation have been influenced especially by its harmonisation with the relevant EU legislation.

The adoption of the latest new labour legislation was preceded by long running negotiations between representatives of the government, especially of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family (Ministerstvo práce, sociálnych vecí a rodiny Slovenskej republiky, MPSVR SR) - which made proposals - and representatives of the Trade Union Confederation of the Slovak Republic (Konfederácia odborových zväzov Slovenskej republiky, KOZ SR) and the Federation of Employers' Associations of the Slovak Republic (Asociácia zamestnávatel'ských zväzov a zdruzení Slovenskej republiky, AZZZ SR).

Negotiations took place in the tripartite Council for Economic and Social Concertation (Rada hospodárskej a sociálnej dohody, RHSD). After several changes to the proposed legislation, the social partners eventually agreed on a final version. As a result of the tripartite concertation, parliament then adopted three new Acts in July 2001- Act no. 311/2001 on the Labour Code, Act no. 312/2001 on the Civil Service and Act no. 313/2001 on the Public Service. The latter two Acts lay down conditions of employment for the civil service (eg state administration bodies) and for public services (eg education and healthcare services). All three new Acts came into effect as of 1 April 2002.

More freedom, democracy and contract-based labour relations are the main principles of the new Labour Code. In this respect, the new Labour Code lays down only the basic duties for employers on one hand and the minimum social standards for employees' social rights on the other hand. Better employment and working conditions may be agreed upon in sector or company-level collective agreements. The new Labour Code abolishes the previous limits to the scope of collective bargaining (eg the previous Code placed limitations on wage bargaining in the public sector). Employers and trade union representatives in the business sector can now bargain on any issues of common interest. There are some differences in the public sector, where the Act on the Civil Service and Act on the Public Service lay down some limitations for the scope of bargaining.

The new labour legislation also introduces a new employee representation structure for the first time in over 15 years. In business organisations where no trade union is present, employees now have the right to elect 'employees' councils', representing the employees' interests and rights in relations to the management. Similarly, 'personnel councils' are to be elected in public organisations. The election period of both councils is four years.

More details on the new labour legislation will be provided in future EIRO articles.

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