Changes in the Labour Code: relevant to those with health problems, working on project work, to workers posted to Lithuania

Date

2020 08 03

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At the beginning of August, various amendments to the Labour Code come into force, which are relevant to many. For those with health disorders there are more guarantees at work, the duration of project work is extended, and the working conditions of foreigners posted to Lithuania and employees of our country are equalized.

Amendments to the Labour Code also address the problem of job vacancies in state, municipal institutions or companies, where a vacancy is announced but the job remains vacant for months due to lengthy or, in some cases, re-advertisements. From now on, it will be possible to hire a selected employee under a fixed-term contract until the competition.

For those with health problems

The changes, which will take effect on August 1, will ease the situation of people with serious illnesses at work: it will be possible to work remotely part of the working time, it will be easier to take vacation leave as soon as the employee needs it, and severance pay will be increased if the employee is unable to work.

These amendments were initiated by organizations of patients with oncological diseases and the Ministry of Social Security and Labour.

Prohibition of discrimination. The Labour Code prohibits discrimination on health grounds. To date, no such ground of discrimination has been established. The prohibition of discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, age, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, membership of a political party or association, religion, belief, faith, opinion or views.

Once the prohibition on discrimination on the grounds of health has been enacted, an employee who has experienced discrimination will have the opportunity to apply to the State Labour Inspectorate.

More flexible working conditions. The Labour Code also provides better opportunities for workers with health problems to work remotely part of their working time. 

Until now, the employer has had to comply with a request to work remotely for at least one-fifth of the time by a pregnant, a female employee who recently gave birth or a breastfeeding worker, or by a worker raising a child under 3 years old, a single father or mother with a child under 14 years old or a disabled child under 18 years of age.

From 1 August, the employer will be obliged to comply with the request for telework and, at the request of the employee, after submitting the conclusion of the health care institution about his or her illness. Teleworking can only be refused if, due to the nature of the work organization, this would lead to excessive costs, such as an employee working in a factory on a conveyor belt.

Twice as much severance pay. The Labour Code also provides for higher severance pay in the event of dismissal of an employee who is no longer able to perform his or her duties due to a medical condition. At present, the severance pay for such patients is the same as for most employees: one month's salary if they have worked for more than a year and half a month's if the employment relationship has lasted less than a year.

With the entry into force of the amendments, severance pay will double - if you work for less than a year, you will be paid one month's salary, if you work for more than a year, you will be paid for two months.

Vacation leave is a priority. Under the new procedure, the employer will have to ensure that the patient being treated can take leave as a matter of priority. As a general rule, annual leave is granted by agreement between the employee and the employer, according to the order in which the leave is granted.

Until now, the employer has had to comply with a pregnant worker's request for leave before or after maternity leave, as well as if the father so requests before or after the partner's birth, when the worker is studying while working, caring for sick or disabled family members.

The employer will now also have to accept the request of the sick employee to take annual leave at a time convenient to him, when the request is based on the conclusion of the health care institution.

A similar regulation applies to a sick employee's request for unpaid leave, which the employer will have to comply with.

The employer is informed about the existing health disorders by submitting a conclusion of the health care institution.

From January 2021, amendments to the Law on Transport Benefits relevant to oncology patients will enter into force. They will be able to purchase a one-time or time-limited long-distance, local, regular ticket for travel by bus, train, regular ship or ferry with 80 percent discount.

Apprentices, field workers and project promoters

Apprenticeship. According to the Department of Statistics, about 82 percent of companies in Lithuania are very small, which means that they have up to 9 employees. Until now, such companies have not been able to employ workers on the basis of an apprenticeship contract - so far the Labour Code has stipulated that the number of valid apprenticeship contracts may not exceed one tenth of all valid employment contracts. This means that only a company with at least 10 employees could conclude 1 apprenticeship contract.

Apprenticeships, where a person is recruited in order to acquire the qualifications, competencies or professional skills required for a profession in the workplace, are not very popular, but such contracts are on the rise. In the second half of 2017, 155 such agreements were concluded, in the first half of 2019 - already 321. A total of 532 apprenticeship agreements were concluded in 2019.

From now on, the Labour Code stipulates that if an employer has up to 10 employees, he will be able to conclude one apprenticeship contract. Such a change will allow the recruitment of apprentices for more than 80 percent. of all Lithuanian companies.

Project work contract. Until now, when an employee was employed for a specific project, his work could not last longer than 2 years - regardless of whether he worked under a project employment contract or under a project work agreement. The latter agreement applies when a person is already working in the company, but also agrees on project work.

However, it has been noted that projects usually last longer, so from August onwards, a project work contract or agreement can be concluded for a period of up to 5 years.

Compensation for field work or mobile work. Employees whose work is of a mobile nature, carried out outdoors or in connection with travel will be able to receive new compensation from 1 August. If the staff member is not reimbursed for mission expenses, he will be reimbursed for the increased costs for the type of working time actually worked.
The amount of these allowances may not exceed 50 per cent of the basic salary.

For employers: pre-competition employment contract and liquidation of the business

Posts for which competitions are being held. Competitions for executive or specialist positions are usually held in state or municipal institutions, companies or public institutions.
The list of positions for which competitions are organized and the procedure for their organization are usually determined by the Government.

However, there are institutions where the specifics of competitions are determined by special laws, such as the Law on Museums, the Law on Cultural Centers and the like. True, these laws usually regulate competitions for heads of institutions, while competitions for other positions remain unregulated.

The amendments to the Labour Code stipulate that if a special law does not discuss the procedure for organizing job competitions, then it will be regulated by the Government.

Fixed-term contract before the competition. The Labour Code provides for a new possibility to conclude a fixed-term employment contract before the competition. This amendment is relevant because it usually takes about 2-3 months from the announcement of the competition to the permanent employment of the employee, and even longer when the re-competition is announced. As state and municipal institutions and companies have a duty to ensure uninterrupted work or the provision of public services, staff shortages can exacerbate the situation. For this reason, it is possible to hire an employee for a fixed-term job before the competition.

Termination of employment contract upon liquidation or transfer of business. Pregnant women and parents raising children under the age of 3 enjoy special protection in the labour market - their employer cannot dismiss them. However, when, for example, an employer is liquidated and one of the parties to the employment contract simply ceases to exist, such a restriction may cause additional problems for the employee himself, so that in the event of liquidation, the employment contract with such employees can be terminated.

When a business is transferred, it is forbidden to change the working conditions of employees and to lay off pregnant employees with children under 3 years of age. As a result, there may be situations where employees do not agree to continue the employment relationship, and the employer cannot dismiss them. The amendments make it possible to dismiss an employee who has children under the age of 3 and does not agree to continue working after the transfer of the business, although his or her working conditions remain unchanged.

Labour dispute resolution. The amendments also provide that when the labour dispute commission decides to refuse to examine the application regarding the labour dispute, the parties may not be invited to the commission meeting if:

• The claim has already been examined.
• The plaintiff waived the claims.
• Examination is not within the competence of the Labour Disputes Commission.

Criteria to be met by the temporary employment business. The criteria to be met by temporary employment agencies are transferred from the by-law to the Labour Code.

Temporary employment agencies temporarily employ staff selected according to the requirements of the customer, for example, when a company faces a greater need for warehouse workers during the Christmas period, it contacts a temporary employment agency, which offers temporary staff.

In Lithuania in 2019 there were 163 temporary employment agencies.

For employees posted to Lithuania

Amendments to the Labour Code related to posting of employees to Lithuania will enter into force on 30 July. These changes, which implement the European directive, will affect both the citizens of the European Union countries and third-country nationals posted to Lithuania. The main goal is to create equal conditions for posted and local workers.

With these innovations of the Labour Code, the conditions of payment for work to the employees posted to Lithuania are changing, new provisions are provided for accommodation when it is provided by the employer, as well as for reimbursement of expenses, and long-term posting.

Payment for work. As the same salary must be paid for equivalent work, the requirement for remuneration of employees posted to Lithuania is changing. Previously, the posted worker was required to pay at least the minimum wage, and from 30 July, posted workers will be subject to the same wage rules as local workers under legislation or collective agreements (extended to a higher level than the employer).

However, provisions on minimum wages still apply to posted drivers of road vehicles transporting goods or passengers on international routes. The new posting rules for these workers will enter into force together with the provisions of the Mobility Package.

Accommodation and reimbursement of posting expenses. Posted workers will be subject to the same provisions for accommodation as to be provided by the employer and for the reimbursement of posting expenses, which will also apply to local workers.

Daily allowance. In order for daily allowances to be included in wages, they must be clearly distinguished from actual travel, accommodation and subsistence expenses. In the absence of a clear separation, the full amount paid to the employee will not be included in the salary.

Non-discrimination. When a posted worker works as a temporary employee in Lithuania, the company operating in Lithuania must inform the foreign temporary employment company about the working conditions and wages.

This means that a posted worker must enjoy the same protection against discrimination as other workers. This concerns the protection of pregnant workers and workers who have recently given birth, breastfeeding workers, as well as the protection of workers who raise children under the age of 3 or under 18, non-discrimination, maximum work and minimum rest requirements, overtime, night breaks, leave of absence and public holidays and wages.

When a posting lasts more than a year. If the posting lasts for more than 12 months (starting from 30 July 2020), the posted employee shall be subject to all legal acts regulating employment relations in Lithuania, including national, territorial and branch collective agreements or separate provisions thereof, the application of which has been extended. Posted workers are not only subject to the rules on the conditions for concluding and terminating employment contracts and the terms of non-compete agreements.

The period of actual posting may be extended, but may not exceed a total of 18 months. An employer seeking to extend the period of actual posting will have to submit a reasoned notification to the State Labour Inspectorate electronically.

If a posted worker is replaced by another posted worker performing the same work in the same place, the total duration of all such posted workers shall be considered as the duration of the posting.

The provisions on long-term posting do not apply to posted drivers of road vehicles carrying goods or passengers on international routes.

Notification about the posted worker. The procedure for submitting a notification about an employee posted to Lithuania by an employer abroad is being changed. From 30 July, the notification to the State Labor Inspectorate about the posted worker will be submitted only electronically by filling in the notification form for the posted worker. The notice will have to be submitted no later than before the employee starts working in Lithuania, it will be possible to submit it in English.

Double posting. If a temporary worker posted to Lithuania is additionally sent to work in another country, a company operating in Lithuania, which is called a temporary work user, will have to inform a foreign temporary employment company, which is the formal employer of this worker.

For example, if a temporary worker posted to Lithuania has to perform work in Estonia at the initiative of a Lithuanian company, then the Lithuanian employer must inform the foreign temporary employment company before starting work - it is formally considered that the foreigner is posted to Estonia by a foreign temporary employment company.