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Slovenia: What Changes Are on the Horizon for Labor Law?

Slovenia: What Changes Are on the Horizon for Labor Law?

Issue 10.9
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For more than half a year, Slovenia has been intensively preparing amendments to the Employment Relationship Act (ZDR-1), which is usually called the “little workers’ constitution.” Like any other exemplary EU country, we transpose and implement all EU regulations and directives into our legal order in as timely and effective manner as possible. Unfortunately, this often does not solve the most acute problems of the labor market and the adopted legal solutions do not always help the economy to achieve higher productivity.

This year’s amendments to the ZDR-1 include, among others, the implementation of two EU Directives (Directive 2019/1152/EU and Directive 2019/1158/EU). In doing so, they significantly interfere with the content of the law and introduce new labor law institutes, the impact of which will need to be reflected in the various employers’ procedures. The envisaged amendments are mostly aimed at improving the employment situation of workers, and the criticism in social dialogue negotiations was mainly voiced by employers as their proposals – mainly aimed at the flexibilization of employment relations – were not accepted.

One of the envisaged novelties is the right of workers to carers’ leave. This will be used to care for a family member or a person with whom the worker lives in the same household in cases where time off work is not something the worker can claim (under health insurance regulation). Despite the fact that this type of leave will be unpaid for the worker, the employer will be obliged to pay all the compulsory insurance contributions. It is foreseen that the employee’s obligation to notify the employer of the use of this leave may be a posteriori, which will certainly have a negative impact on the employer’s organization of the work process. In addition, we consider that the ex-post notification of the exercise of this right is also contrary to the foundations of contract law as it creates unpredictability and uncertainty for the employer.

The law will also regulate the “right to disconnect,” which is essentially self-evident, but nevertheless requires additional legal safeguards due to abuses in practice. If you are wondering what the right of disconnection entails, it covers the right of a worker not to be at the employer’s disposal during rest periods or justified absences from work. To this end, the employer will have to take appropriate measures aimed at stopping work-related activities – in particular, enforcing the right not to communicate online or to answer calls, emails, or any other communication – and the employer may also be fined in the event of a breach.

The bill also redefines the right to special protection for workers who are victims of domestic violence. This is a new concept that has not been regulated in the ZDR-1 so far. Victims of violence will be subject to an absolute prohibition on dismissal, which means that even in the event of serious breaches of employment obligations, the employer will not be allowed to terminate the employment contract. However, under the proposed regulation, the employer will not be able to terminate the contract even in the course of the employer’s winding-up proceedings, which certainly constitutes a violation of the constitutionally guaranteed category of the right to free economic initiative.

Other amendments concern the regulation of the possibility for the employee to propose to the employer a more predictable and secure employment in order to improve their employment situation, but the emphasis remains on the “propose,” as the employee will not have any serious leverage to request the employer to amend the employment contract.

ZDR-1, as the fundamental law that should govern the rights and obligations of workers and employers, is increasingly being transformed into a law whose primary purpose is to ensure the protection of workers’ rights. There are certainly several reasons for this transformation, which are also closely linked to the development of EU law. It will be interesting to follow its future development, and it is likely to open up further legal dilemmas for us labor law specialists.

By Ziga Sternad, Head of Labor, and Maja Skorupan, Associate, Senica & Partners

This article was originally published in Issue 10.9 of the CEE Legal Matters Magazine. If you would like to receive a hard copy of the magazine, you can subscribe here.