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Recent Legislative Changes in Social Security and Employment 

by Lenka Subenikova, Zuzana Zolakova

Published: March, 2020

Submission: March, 2020

 



On 25 March 2020 the Slovak parliament approved relevant changes in the field of social security and employment to mitigate the effects of the outbreak of COVID-19. This new piece of legislation shall enter into force very soon immediately upon its publication in the Collection of Laws of the Slovak Republic.


Allowance to Maintain Job Positions


Already now certain employers may apply with the office for labour, social affairs and family for an allowance to maintain job positions. We addressed this topic in one of our previous legal alerts. We also informed about plans to simplify the procedure regarding the allowance to maintain job positions with the aim to make it available to a broader group of employers adversely affected by the current situation.


The recently passed law does not regulate details concerning the expected new regulation on the allowance to maintain job positions yet. The government of the SR shall further specify details and criteria under which the allowance will be provided yet. However, it is clear already now that the (new type of the) allowance shall be provided to each employer if the employer meets the relevant conditions for the allowance (to be stipulated), i.e. the allowance will not be discretional (as is the case in respect of the currently available allowance to maintain job positions). The new scheme will be coordinated by the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family and the allowances shall be approved and paid out by offices for labour, social affairs and family. It is expected that the allowances will be financed by the European Social Fund and the state budget, but the total budget or the amount of allowances is not known yet.


Payments to Employees Due to Quarantine or Isolation of Employee


Currently, if an employee is in a (home) quarantine or isolation (e.g. because he/she returned from abroad after 13 March 2020, or because the employee lives with such person in the same household), the employee is regarded as being on a sick-leave, and during the first ten days the employer must pay to the employee a salary compensation in a certain amount (and the Social Insurance company pas the sick-leave allowance from the 11thday). This principle shall be changed now and under the new rules, the Social Insurance company shall pay the sick-leave allowance from the first day of the quarantine or isolation. This applies only to the sick leaves due to the quarantine or isolation ordered in the current crisis situation in relation to COVID-19, not to employees that are on the sick leave due to other medical conditions (in cases of sick-leaves due to other medical conditions the employer shall pay the salary compensation to the employees during the first ten days).


Although the aim of this new regulation was to ensure that the employers do not bear the burden of costs in respect of employees in a quarantine or isolation (during the first ten days), it seems that in course of drafting the bill on these changes, the amendment to the Act on Compensation During Sick-Leave[1]was forgotten. This legal regulation was not amended and thus, pursuant to the Act on Compensation During Sick-Leave, the obligation of the employer to pay to the employee in a quarantine the salary compensation during the first ten days (formally) seems to apply further. Nevertheless, the employee is never entitled to payments from both the employer and the Social Insurance company – either the employee receives the salary compensation from the employer OR the sick-leave allowance from the Social Insurance company.


Taking Care of Child Due to Closure of Schools and Similar Facilities


The amendment to the Act on Social Insurance[2]also confirmed the plans of the Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family announced earlier, to extend the range of the individuals entitled to the social care allowance if these take care of children who have to stay at home due to the closure of schools and similar facilities (kindergartens). The allowance will be provided to (insured) individuals


  1. a) taking care of a child up to up to 11 years of age; and/or
  2. b) taking care of a child up to 18 years of age if the child suffers from a long-term bad health condition;

provided that:


  • a quarantine or isolation was ordered to the child;
  • the school, or similar educational facility (such as kindergarten), which the child usually attends, was closed due to the quarantine or isolation ordered in them;
  • the person who usually takes care of the child (e.g. a mother or father) is ill, was ordered a quarantine or isolation, or is in a health care facility, and hence cannot take care of the child.

On top of that, only during the crisis situation in relation to COVID-19, the allowance shall be also provided if the respective (insured) individual:


  1. a) takes care in person and the whole day for a child up to 16 years of age provided that the respective physician has issued a confirmation that due to the health condition of the child, someone must necessarily take care of the child;
  2. b) takes care of a direct relative, sibling, spouse, a parent of a spouse, if a social care facility, in which these persons usually stay or attend, was closed due to a quarantine.

The allowance shall be paid for the same time period only to one person in respect of taking care of child or more children or other persons. That means for example, that only one of the parents is entitled to the allowance in relation to taking care of the children of the parents – the one who indeed took care of the children during the relevant time period. But the parents can take turns in taking care of the children (or other persons).


In general, the social “care” allowance can be provided only for a period of ten days in respect of a particular case of the need to take care (or nursing) of the respective person. Pursuant to the new legal regulation, during the crisis situation in relation to COVID-19, the allowance shall be provided during the entire period, in which there is the need to take care in person (or nurse) and the whole day of the respective person(s).


Absence at Work – Taking Care of Children or Other Persons


In our previous legal alert on the labour-law matters in the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, we highlited the discrepancy between the legal regulation contained in the Labour Code and the new approach of the Social Insurance company in relation to taking care of children (the employer was obliged to excuse the absence of the employee taking care of a healthy child only up to ten years of age).


The recently passed law amends also the Labour Code, with the aim to align the absence of employees taking care of (healthy) children or other persons at work, with the new legal regulation pertaining to the social “care” allowance.


Based on the new amended Labour Code, the employer must also excuse the absence at work of an employee who personally and the whole day takes care of an“individual according to a special legal regulation”. Whilst we believe that this wording of the new law (without any reference to the “special legal regulation”) is a little bit unfortunate, the intention was, in our view, to stipulate, that in all cases where the employee is entitled to receive the social “care” allowance due to taking care of another person (regardless of whether it’s a child or another person, and regardless of the age of the child) pursuant to the Act on Social Insurance, the employer must excuse absence at work of such employee.


On top of that, the employer will also have to excuse the absence at work of an employee who takes care of a child up to ten years of age if the person, who normally takes care of the child (e.g. the other spouse), must attend a medical check or medical care in a health care facility provided that it was not possible to attend such medical check or medical care outside of the employee’s working time.


***


This contribution was prepared on 26 March 2020. It does not provide comprehensive legal advice, but only a summary of selected legislative changes.


[1]Act No. 462/2003 Coll. on income compensation in a sick-leave, and on change and amendment of particular laws, as amended.


[2]Act No. 461/2003 Coll. on Social Insurance, as amended.


 



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