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Time-off and training rights in CEE countries

National rights to time off and training for workplace representatives

Bulgaria

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

There is no universal structure for employee representation in the workplace in Bulgaria. In many cases the local union is the key body, although the law also provides for the election of other representatives. Employees are also able to elect additional representatives for information and consultation but they can also choose to pass these rights to the existing union organisation or existing employee representatives.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

The chair of the union at the workplace has a right to time off as specified in a collective agreement, with a minimum of 25 hours a year. This right also applies to employees in union leadership positions at industrial, regional and national level. The union has rights to use facilities needed for the performance of its functions.

 

Employee representatives, both those elected to represent employees’ social and economic interests and those elected for the purposes of information and consultation, have a right to time off if this is necessary to enable them to fulfil their functions – either through reduced working hours or additional leave. They also have a right to participate in training and to be given the time off necessary for this. However, the arrangements must be agreed with the employer, either in a collective agreement or in some other agreement.

 

Czech Republic

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

The local union grouping is still the main way employees are represented at the workplace. In addition, a works council, which has fewer rights, can be set up. Rules which said that a works council had to be dissolved if a local union was established were declared to be unconstitutional in 2008. In practice works councils are rare. In most cases there is either a union or nothing. National rights to time off and training

 

Employee representatives must be given “the necessary” paid time off.  For trade union organisations, this will typically be partial release from normal work in workplaces with between 400 and 600 trade union members and full release from normal work where there are at least 600 union members. In workplaces with 1,500 or more trade union members two people will be given full release from normal work. Trade unionists are also entitled to five days’ paid time off a year for union training, unless “serious operational reasons” prevent this.

 

Estonia

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Employee representation at the workplace is primarily through unions, or does not take place at all. However, legislation, which came into effect in 2007, allows for the election of employee representatives both where there is a union and where there is not. If there is no union these representatives can be involved in collective bargaining.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

Both trade union and employee representatives are entitled to paid time off to carry out their duties. In the case of union representatives, “at least one” should be allowed this time off. In the case of employee representatives, all of those elected at the general meeting would have this right, but the general meeting may only elect more than one employee representative with the agreement of the employer. The relationship between the amount of time off and the number of individuals involved is the same for both union and employee representatives. However, there is an important difference: in the case of union representatives, the numbers relate to union members, whereas in the case of employee representatives they relate to all employees. The figures are as follows:

 

 

Number of employees (for employee representatives) / Number of union members (for union representatives)

Hours per week

5-100

4

101-300

8

301-500

16

500 plus

40

 

 

Trade union representatives are entitled to five days off from work a year to participate in training or other trade union activities. Two days of this are paid.

 

Employee representatives are entitled to necessary training “to a reasonable extent”. This training is in paid time and employers “may agree” to pay the expenses involved.

 

Hungary

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Workplace representation in Hungary is provided by both local trade unions and elected works councils with the balance between the two varying over time. Under the new labour code, unions have negotiating rights but have lost their monitoring powers and their right to be consulted. Works councils have information and consultation rights but in practice often find it difficult to influence company decisions.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

Under the new labour code the designated union representatives at the workplace are entitled to one hour per month release from normal duties for every two members at the workplace. (This is a reduction of a quarter, compared with the situation in the past, where it was two hours a month for every three members). In the past, the union could be compensated in cash, if these hours were not taken up, although only up to a maximum of half the available time, and this was a significant source of union income. However, under the new labour code, this possibility has been abolished. The union should also be given access to rooms on the premises for trade union activities.

 

Works council members are to be released from their normal duties for 10% of their monthly working time (15% for the chair of the works council. Chairs in companies employing more than 1,000 are completely released from their normal duties.) The employer should also pay for the necessary costs of the works council on a jointly agreed basis.

 

Latvia

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Employee representation at the workplace is either through unions or through elected workplace representatives. However, with low levels of union membership, particularly in the private sector, and a reluctance among employees to elect workplace representatives, most workplaces have no employee representation at all.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

Collective agreements may provide for time off and specific resources for employee representatives. There are no statutory provisions.

 

Lithuania

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Lithuanian legislation now provides for employees at workplace level to be represented either by trade unions or – if there is no union – by a works council. They both have almost identical functions, including collective bargaining and information and consultation, and since 2005, works councils can also organise strikes. In practice, most workplaces in Lithuania have neither.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

The legislation states that employers should “provide conditions for the representatives of the employees to perform their functions”.

 

For works councils the law is more detailed. Works council members have the right to 60 hours paid time off a year for meetings of the works council and other duties. They are also granted three paid days off per year for training – more if a collective agreement improves on this provision.

 

Poland

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Until recently unions provided the only legally constituted representation for employees at the workplace. However, legislation implementing the EU directive on information and consultation provides for the creation of works councils and large numbers have been set up. Initially, where unions were present, they could dominate the choice of works council members, but this arrangement was judged unconstitutional and new rules mean that works councils must be elected by the whole workforce.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

All employees have a right to be released from normal duties to fulfil their trade union functions, although it is not required that this be paid except where it is a temporary activity which cannot be undertaken outside work time.

 

In addition, members of the executive committee of the local union have time off rights as set out in the table below, during their period of office. The trade union is able to request that this leave is paid. The number of individuals entitled to time off and the amount of time off provided both depend on the number of members and the number of individuals is subject to the limit that the total entitled to time off cannot exceed the number of management. The details are as follows:

 

Less than 150 members

1 representative with the same number of hours per month, as there are members

150 – 500 members

1 representative – full-time

501 – 1,000 members

2 representatives– full-time

1,001 – 2,000 members

3 representatives– full-time

2,000 plus members

3 representatives – full-time plus one for each additional 1,000 members

 

The workplace union organisation is also entitled under legislation to “the necessary premises and technical facilities required for carrying out its activities”, although the employer may request payment for this.

 

Works council members have the right to paid time off to carry out their duties, if these cannot be undertaken outside working time. Works councils also have the right to be assisted by a specialist, although the legislation does not specify who should pay.

 

Romania

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Employee representation at the workplace is through the unions, although legislation does provide for employee representatives to be elected if there are no union members. Workplace union structures potentially play a key role in collective bargaining but they also have significant consultation rights.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

The rights of elected union representatives at the workplace to time off now depend on a collective agreement at company level. The previous right to five days off was removed by the Social Dialogue Act. The time off for employee representatives, which was 20 hours per month, must similarly be fixed in a collective agreement or a direct agreement with the employer.

 

Before the changes in the structure of collective bargaining, which have made it almost impossible to renew industry level agreements, the metal and foundry agreement, for example, includes provisions on time off for union duties, among a range of other issues such as long-service payments and pay protection for older workers.

 

Slovakia

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Recent years have produced major changes in legislation favouring works councils over workplace trade union organisations. Both can now exist in the same workplace and powers are divided between them, although the precise balance between the two has varied as a result of the changes recent governments have made.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

Employee representatives have rights to paid time off – union representatives to perform trade union activities and works council members (or the works trustee) to undertake their works council duties. The amount can be agreed between the employer and the representatives, but if there is no agreement, the representatives are entitled to a total of 15 minutes per month per employee. This total is then divided between all the employee representatives, both the union and the works council, if they are both present. If the employee representatives cannot agree on the distribution of the time off, they can call on an arbitrator to make the decision. The employer has the right to check whether the time off is being used for the purpose for which it was provided. It is possible for time off not used to be taken as monetary compensation by the union or works council if there is an agreement to this effect. (Time off rights are another area, where the 2013 Labour Code  restores rights that had been lost. For a period, paid time off depended on reaching an agreement with the employer.)

 

Slovenia

 

Key elements of workplace representation

 

Workplace level representation in Slovenia is provided by both the union in the workplace and the works council. Both have information and consultation rights, although the works council’s are more extensive, while only the union can undertake collective bargaining.

 

National rights to time off and training

 

Legislation requires that the employer should give trade union representatives “the conditions for quick and efficient performance of trade union activities” but other issues are settled through collective agreements. The agreement for the metal and foundry industries, for example, states that trade union representatives should have at least two hours paid time off a year per union member employed, with a minimum of 50 hours a year.

 

Works council members are entitled to time off in medium and large companies. In companies with between 50-100 employees one member is entitled to be released from normal duties on a half-time basis. In companies with 101-300 employees it is two members. In companies with 301-600 employees one person is entitled to be released on a full-time basis, rising to two in companies with 601-1,000. After this threshold there is one for every further 600 workers.

L. Fulton (2013) La représentation des travailleurs en Europe. Labour Research Department et ETUI. Réalisé avec l'aide du Réseau SEEurope, publication en ligne, disponible sur : http://fr.worker-participation.eu/Systemes-nationaux