Bulgaria: New Rules For Calculating Working Time

Last Updated: 22 March 2018
Article by Roger James

Co-authored by Anna Rizova and Hristina Dzhevlekova of Wolf Theiss

New rules on calculating working time in Bulgaria went into effect on January 1, 2018. The Ordinance on Working Time, Breaks, and Holidays sets rules on what is called the Summarized Calculation of Working Time (SCWT) as it is more commonly known.

SCWT allows flexible structuring of working time and allows calculations to use an average based over several weeks—therefore allowing long working hours in any given day, as long as the average stays within the eight-hour maximum limit.

The amendments regarding SCWT concern the following main areas:

  • Informing employees of schedule and method of calculation: From January 2018, employers are obligated to inform employees in advance about the method of calculating SCWT. The new requirement does not set a specific way or deadline for the notification, leaving some discretion and flexibility for employers on the precise application and scheduling of hours.
  • Amendments: In addition, the ordinance specifically provides grounds on which a work schedule (and accompanying method of calculation) can be amended after adoption. The new rules require changes to be linked to a change in the number of employees participating in the working schedule or other circumstances that trigger the implementation of SCWT.
  • Days to be included in calculation: The amendments also bring legislation in line with case law by excluding bank holidays from calculations. The precise detail of this means that in practice this will likely show a reduced maximum number of working hours for organizations that require uninterrupted production processes or which for some other reason do not follow Bulgarian official holidays. This in turn may result in organizations requiring more employees to be involved in the working process over such periods.
  • Night work: Changes to the calculation of night hours will also have the effect of reducing the number of hours employees can work before hitting the maximum limit. Again, this may result in employers requiring more employees to enable them to reduce shift length. However, there are exemptions for employees hired to work entirely at night or who work under reduced working time.
  • Clarification of the definition of “working time”: Any leave time, irrespective of the ground, i.e. annual paid leave or sick leave, will no longer be treated as “working time” for the purposes of SCWT. Prior to this amendment, all leave days were perceived as working time, which often triggered entitlements to overtime payments even though the employee was not working.
  • Overtime pay and reporting: The ordinance also specifies rules on paying for overtime hours worked and reporting overtime to the Labor Inspectorate. There is also a requirement to pay for normal working hours even if in a period an employee did not actually work the number of hours anticipated. It is felt the employee should not suffer, and the presumption is that it is not the employee’s fault that there was a lack of work.

Comment

This reform is mixed news for employers. On the one hand, there will be relief at no longer having to include days spent on leave in calculations of working time. On the other hand, a number of the changes may be seen as “pro employee.”

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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