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What changes will bring the amendment of the Labor Code effective from 1st March 2021?

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The amendment of the Labor Code brings several interesting changes that also reflect the current situation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, especially during the beginning, for example, the concept of an employee who is permanently caring for a child and its interpretation seemed problematic. The legislator therefore added to § 40 par. 11 of the Labor Code, its definition, while from the point of view of the employer, the obligation of the employee to notify the employer of the relevant facts is particularly interesting. 

However, the amendment to the Labor Code, above all, re-regulates the conditions for performing work from home (so-called domestic work and telework) and also introduces the possibility for the employee to choose between a meal voucher (so-called gastro ticket) and a financial contribution. I will write about these two areas below.

I. Domestic work and telework

The amendment of the Labor Code is ambitious as it aims to modernize the provisions of domestic work and telework due to the expected increase in this type of work. Nowadays, the domestic work in the Labor Code is characterized as work that could be performed at the employer's workplace but is performed regularly within the scope of the established weekly working hours or part thereof from the employee's household. Telework is also defined, in addition to the fact that it is work performed using information technology, in which there is a regular electronic transmission of data at a distance. Domestic work or teleworking is not considered to be work which the employee performs only occasionally or, in exceptional circumstances, on his own account, also called a 'home office'. This term is often used incorrectly in connection with domestic work.

Domestic work and work, therefore, represents work that can be performed at the employer's workplace, but is transferred to the employee's household and for this purpose the amendment defines the term household as an agreed place of work outside the employer's workplace (it is a place other than the premises of the employer, it does not have to be the employee’s address or residence).

Domestic work and telework will have to be agreed, so it will not be possible for the employer to unilaterally order it to the employee against his will, of course, this will also apply, on the contrary, the employee himself cannot decide where his place of work will be. Thus, the agreement of the employer with the employee in the employment contract will be required for the performance of domestic work and telework (with the exception of the situation within the meaning of § 250b para. 2 of the Labour Code - order for the performance of household work, or the employee's right to work from a household during an extraordinary situation).

Even after March 1st 2021, an employee will not be entitled to overtime pay, holidays, night work, etc. for domestic work or teleworking, if he schedules his working hours himself. However, the employee has the opportunity to make an agreement with the employer differently.

As for the adoption of appropriate measures by the employer in domestic work and teleworking, the amendment takes over from the previous wording of the law and also complements them (eg the employer will have to pay the employee's increased costs associated with domestic work or telework if the employee uses its own equipment, the employer should also give the employee access to in-service training as well as a comparable employee at the place of work at the workplace).

The principle of the prohibition of disadvantage, resp. prohibition of benefits is still valid, In essence, it is a matter of prohibiting discrimination against an employee performing domestic work or teleworking in comparison with a comparable employee at the employer's workplace, as well as prohibiting discrimination against employees at the employer's workplace. The domestic employee must have comparable working conditions. 

II. Gastro tickets

The amendment further stipulates the obligation of the employer to enable the employee to choose between a meal voucher and a financial contribution for a meal. This means that instead of a meal voucher, the employer can provide the employee with direct money if the employee chooses so. However, such a right of choice will apply only to employees of those employers who do not provide meals in their own catering facility or in another catering establishment and at the same time do not go to an employer who is obliged to provide the employee with a financial allowance for meals (eg performing domestic work or telework and the employer does not provide him with meals in his own catering facility or catering facility of another employer). An employer who does not provide meals in his own catering facility or in another employer's catering facility must, from 1 March 2021, allow employees to choose between providing meals through a legal or natural person authorized to provide catering services, in the form of a meal voucher or financial contribution for eating.

The staff member shall be bound by his choice for a period of 12 months from the date on which the choice is made. The details of the choice of the implementation of this obligation of the employer to provide meals for its employees on the basis of their own choice may be laid down by the employer in an internal regulation. There is no need to conclude any amendments to employment contracts in this regard, but I recommend that employers have the employee's expression of will sufficiently documented (eg by signing a declaration, sending an e-mail, etc.), including the date when it was made.

The amount of the financial contribution for meals shall be the amount by which the employer will contribute to the meals of the employees and shall be at least 55% of the minimum value of the meal voucher. This financial contribution for meals will be the net income of the employee, i. e. the employee will not pay tax, social or health insurance.

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