Changes To The Contract
Permanent changes to the contract require the parties’ mutual written consent. The only exception is the increase of the employee’s remuneration which can be done by an order of the employer.
Employers are allowed to unilaterally amend the employment contract for a specific period of time subject to the fulfilment of certain legal requirements. In particular, employers are allowed to amend the employee’s working functions where the production needs of the employer demand that (but for no longer than 45 calendar days per year); when the employee is idle (for the period of the idleness) or when force majeure circumstances require that (e.g. in cases of natural disasters). When temporarily amending the employee’s working functions, the employer may also for the same period amend the employee’s place of work to another location in the area.
Employers are entitled to unilaterally send employees to business trips when the needs of the business require it. The employees’ consent will only be required if the business trip will last longer than 30 consecutive calendar days or if the employee is pregnant, in an advanced stage of in-vitro treatment, or is a mother of a child who has not attained the age of 3.
Secondments of employees to other companies of the employer’s corporate group within the European Union are governed by the special posting of workers regulations and required the execution of an annex to the employment contract.
Change In Ownership Of The Business
Bulgaria has transposed the EU Directive relating to the safeguarding of employees' rights in the event of transfers of undertakings, businesses or parts of undertakings or businesses. Respectively, the change of ownership on the side of the employer does not affect the employment contracts. The employment relations are automatically transferred by the former to the new employer where the terms and conditions of the employment shall in no case be worsened.
The employment contracts are transferred permanently by the former to the new employer in the cases provided by law; e.g. merger of enterprises by the formation of a new enterprise, distribution of the operations of one enterprise among two or more enterprises, or change of ownership.
The rules apply also in cases of a lease of the enterprise or of a self-contained part thereof or when there is a concession agreement in place. In those cases, the transfer is temporary for the term of the lease and the employees are then returned to the initial employer.
The transferred employees have to be notified about the change at least 2 months in advance of the transfer date. The change on the side of the employer does not require the employees’ consent. Yet, a notification has to be made to the National Revenue Agency by the new employer that the employees have been transferred to its payroll.
Social Security Contributions
Social security contributions are due by each employee who works under an employment agreement. Their amounts are fixed as a percentage of the employee’s remuneration and are split between the employer and the employee. The employer has to withhold the employee’s contributions and transfer them to the National Revenue Agency jointly with the amounts due on the side of the employer.
The social security contributions secure employees for a wide range of social insurance risks, including temporary or permanent incapacity to work due to a general or a professional disease, work-related accident, maternity, unemployment, retirement, and death. Payment of social insurance contributions is mandatory and shall be made by the 25th of the month following the month for which they are due.
Accidents At Work
Employers are obliged to secure health and safety conditions at work for their employees. Respectively, the employer is liable for any damages caused to the employee as a result of a work-related accident or of a professional disease, when such an accident has led to the employee’s temporary incapacity to work, the employee’s permanently decreased capacity to work with 50 or more percent, or the employee’s death. The rule will not apply if the employee intentionally causes the work-related accident. As to some professions there is an inherent risk of work-related accidents, in some industries employers may be obliged to conclude a mandatory professional insurance for their employees.
If the work-related accident is a result of the employee’s intentional actions or omissions to act, the amount of the damages due by the employer may be partially reduced.
Discipline And Grievance
Employers are entitled to demand that the employees fully comply with the work discipline as mandated by the Bulgarian Labour Code and the employer’s internal rules on work discipline. Any breach of those mandatory rules will be considered a breach of the work discipline and may be a ground for the imposition of a disciplinary sanction. Under the Bulgarian law, there are three sanctions – reprimand, warning for dismissal and dismissal. No other sanctions may be imposed for a breach of the work discipline (e.g. monetary sanctions are not allowed).
The disciplinary process is strictly formal and requires as a mandatory step that the employer asks the employee to provide explanations on the disciplinary breach. A disciplinary sanction may only be imposed after an internal investigation by the employer and the evaluation of the employee’s explanations.
The sanction, regardless of its type, has to be imposed within 2 months as of the moment when the employer has become aware of the breach but in any case, not later than 1 year after the breach has occurred. The disciplinary sanction is imposed by a written order of the employer that shall be served to the employee.
In some cases, the disciplinary dismissal procedure may be further complicated by the employee’s protection against dismissal (e.g. pregnant employees). The prior approval of the Labour Inspectorate shall be obtained otherwise the dismissal will be rendered invalid. Additionally, the opinion of the medical authorities may be required (when the employee suffers from some legally defined illnesses) or the consent of the trade unions may be needed (for some of their members).
The Bulgarian Protection Against Discrimination Act prohibits any direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of gender, race, nationality, ethnicity, human genome, citizenship, origin, religion or belief, education, convictions, political affiliation, personal or social status, disability, age, sexual orientation, marital status, property status, or on any other grounds established by law or by an international treaty to which the Republic of Bulgaria is a party.
This general rule fully applies in the employment context as well. In addition, the Bulgarian Labour Code explicitly prohibits discrimination on the basis of the duration of the working hours (full or part time) and the employment contract (indefinite contracts or for a definite term). Also, male and female employees shall by virtue of an explicit provision receive equal remuneration when they do the same work, or their work is of same or similar value.
If an employee claims to have been subject to harassment on the workplace, including sexual harassment, the employer must immediately conduct an internal investigation and take measures to stop the harassment, including by the imposition of disciplinary sanctions.
Compulsory Training Obligations
Employers are under a general obligation to secure adequate conditions for the employee’s appropriate qualification for the position occupied. The employees are required to participate in the training and educational events as organized by their employer. Additionally, employers have to instruct their employees on an ongoing basis about the appropriate health and safety conditions at work, including by organizing training.
The employer may offset amounts from the employee’s remuneration either upon the employee’s consent or when there is a specific legal provision authorizing the withholding. There are no limitations on the amount and/or the purpose of the withholding when the employee has provided his/her consent.
To the contrary, when there is no consent on the employee’s side, offsetting is only possible for any of the following purposes of the withholding:
- For advance payments when the remuneration is paid in instalments;
- For salary payments made in an increased amount due to a technical error;
- For the employee’s social insurance contributions and tax payments;
- For the performance of obligations defined by a garnishment of a bailiff;
- For damages incurred by the employer due to the employee’s actions but when the respective legal procedure has been followed.
In all of the cases above, the amount of the offset shall be within what is allowed by the law so that the employee is not fully denied of his right to have the remuneration as a payment to cover ongoing needs and expenses.
Payments For Maternity And Disability Leave
Maternity and disability leave are covered by the social security contributions paid jointly by the employer and the employee.
If an employee is on a sick leave, during the first 3 days of the leave he/she is entitled to 70 percent of his daily remuneration. This is the only compensation payment instead of a remuneration due by the employer in cases of illness.
The employee’s maternity leave is covered by a compensation payable by the Bulgarian National Social Insurance Institute. The amount of the payment is equal to 90 percent of the employee’s average daily remuneration in the 24 months preceding the maternity leave.
Compulsory insurances under the Bulgarian law apply solely to employees who work on positions with a high level of work traumatism. The evaluation is based by an order of the Minister of Labor and Social Policies – the Minister defines the average level of risk traumatism for Bulgaria for the respective calendar year. All employers who operate in sectors with risk levels on or above the average shall insure their employees against the “Work related accident” risk. The employer shall bear all expenses related to the insurance.
Absence For Military Or Public Service Duties
Bulgaria does not impose a mandatory military service on its citizens. Yet, some of the latest legal amendments are directed to the promotion of voluntarily military service. Therefore, employees who want to explore this option, are allowed to be absent from work and their employers are under the obligation to secure their positions while in the military.
As to the absence for public service duties, the Bulgarian Labour Code provides for a leave in a number of cases such as marriage, death of a close relative, blood donation, participation in court hearings, etc. Depending on the reason for the leave and the agreement between the employer and the employee, the leave may be both paid and unpaid.
Works Councils or Trade Unions
Under the Bulgarian law, employees are entitled to freely form by their own choice work councils as a realization of their constitutional right to gather. Employees can therefore join and leave trade unions they participate in on a voluntary basis. Work councils represent and protect the employees’ interests before state bodies and the employers. The main aspect of the work council’s functions is to negotiate the execution of a collective bargaining agreement.
Employers are also entitled to form legal structures for the protection of their joint interests. The employers’ organizations under the foregoing sentence shall represent and protect their interests through collective bargaining, participation in tripartite co-operation, and through other actions within the law.
The rules on the creation of work councils and trade unions are regulated by the law, where the day-to-day operations of the structures are subject to their internal rules and procedures.
Employees’ Right To Strike
The employees’ right to strike is a constitutionally recognized right in Bulgaria. Strikes are allowed when the employees wish to protect their collective economical and social interests. The participation in the strike is voluntarily and there is an express prohibition according to which employees on a strike shall not impede other non-striking employees in them accessing the workplace or performing their functions.
The strike is considered as a remedy of final resort when amicable dispute settlement is not possible in the relations with the employer.
Employees On Strike
While on a strike, the employees have to be at their workplaces during their working hours. The employees are not allowed to undertake actions that impede the ordinary course of activities which are not within the striking employees’ work functions.
While the strike is ongoing, the efforts on the side of both the employer and the employees shall proceed so that a mutual compromise is reached.
Employees do not receive remunerations by the employer for the duration of the strike. However, the period of a lawfully conducted strike is considered as length of service for the employees. Employees may not be held disciplinary liable by the employer for their participation in a lawful strike.
Employers’ Responsibility For Actions Of Their Employees
Employers under the Bulgarian law are generally responsible for the damages caused by their employees upon or in relation to the performance of the employee’s functions under the employment contract. Deviations from this general rule will apply in cases where the employee has willfully deviated from the employer’s explicit lawful instructions.