Improved quality of work for casual workers

Employment by means of the ‘casual employee booklet’ is an atypical, legal form of employment in Hungary. It allows for the recording of short-term or occasional employment, and is advantageous both for the employer and the employee. Through use of this booklet, the administrative burden related to employment is reduced for the employer, while the employee becomes entitled to receive medical care, pension insurance and a jobseeker’s allowance.

Legal background

In 1997, a form of employment was introduced based on the ‘casual employee booklet’, the so-called ‘blue booklet’ (Alkalmi munkavállalói könyv or Kék könyv), and on the payment of reduced employer rates and taxes, as set out by Act 1997/LXXIV. The law enables the employer to pay wage contributions as well as the advance on income tax by buying a tax stamp, which is then applied to the employee’s booklet. The value of the stamp is determined by the wage of the individual employee. Thus, the complex procedure of determining, calculating and certifying employment taxes and rates is significantly reduced.

The bureaucratic procedures imposed by social insurance laws are also simplified by using the ‘blue booklet’: instead of registering the employment relationship with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour (Szociális és Munkaügyi Minisztérium), the employer has only to keep a record of basic information about the employee.

Modifications of the law in 2002 and 2005 made the casual employment booklet popular both among employers and employees.

  • In 2002, the value of the tax stamp to be paid by employers was reduced by 50%, and by 75% in the case of hiring a person registered as unemployed.
  • In 2005, private employers were allowed to write off 75% of the tax stamps’ value against their own income tax.

Advantages and obligations for employer

Any Hungarian-born citizen and economic organisation in the public or private sector can employ casual workers holding an employment booklet. In addition to the abovementioned advantages, the employer also enjoys other benefits. Besides the simpler method of paying the levies on wages, these taxes are also lower, compared with those applying to other forms of employment.

Nevertheless, the employers must fulfil certain obligations. First, they must buy the tax stamps from the post office. They are also required to keep a detailed record of casual employees, which includes employee data, the serial number of the employment booklet, the value of the tax stamp, the amount of the net salary and the signature of the employee. Furthermore, it is the duty of the employer to record in the ‘blue booklet’ on a daily basis the place, time and type of work in respect of the employee.

Advantages and obligations for employee

All Hungarian-born citizens – and, with some restrictions, foreign naturalised persons – holding an employment booklet can be hired. Through the use of the employment booklet, these persons become registered employees even when they only work for a short period of time. This means that they become entitled to medical care, pension insurance and a jobseeker’s allowance.

It is the employee’s duty to apply for an employment booklet, which is issued for free. The employee is required to sign the booklet each day to validate his or her work. In addition, the booklet must always be kept at the workplace, so that it can be inspected on demand.

Length of employment

As the booklet’s name suggests, it serves for casual, short-term employment. According to the law, an employer may not employ a casual worker with the ‘blue booklet’ for longer than five days in succession at one time. The maximum length of employment by one employer can be 15 days altogether in one month and 90 days per year, the only exception being in the agricultural sector, where longer periods of employment are allowed. The law makes it possible for employees to work for more than one employer, which enables the employee holding a ‘blue booklet’ to work more than 90 days a year but no more than 200 days in one year.

Use of booklets

The employment booklet has become popular in recent years. According to data from the National Employment Service (Állami Foglalkoztatási Szolgálat, ÁFSZ), in 1997, when the booklet was introduced, approximately 20,000 booklets were issued. This number had increased to 268,674 booklets issued per year by 2005, and a further 144,550 booklets were issued by the end of April 2006.

In addition to the growth in the extent of employment with the ‘blue booklet’, the income from tax stamps has also increased.

Increase in use of ‘blue booklet’
Increase in use of ‘blue booklet’
Year Number of booklets issued Income from tax stamps
2002 39,421 HUF 287.5 million (€1.1 m)
2005 268,674 HUF 1,481.4 million (€5.69 m)
2006 (until the end of April) 144,550 HUF approx. 662 million (€2.55 m)

Source: ÁFSZ

The booklet is most often used in the agricultural and construction sectors; this is substantiated by the greater number of employment booklets that are issued during the summer months.

Commentary

Apart from the abovementioned advantages, the casual employee booklet is proving to be an effective way to combat undeclared work, as well as to improve the situation of people who do not have regular jobs.

References

Lajkó Dóra, L, ‘Alkalmi munkavállalói könyvvel történo foglalkoztatás’ [Employment with employment booklet for casual workers], in Munkaügyi Szemle No.3, 2006.

Material for the press in relation to the employment booklet is available on the ÁFSZ website.

Katalin Balogh and Zsuzsanna Kiss, Institute for Political Science, Hungarian Academy of Sciences

 

 

 

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