Catering establishments and their reopening: the legal dimension
A very significant number of businesses in our country are in the field of catering. An important part of businesses operating in the field of tourism are catering establishments. Economic activity in our country has suffered a severe blow. Ans so have catering establishments. What happens regarding the reopening of these businesses immediately after the, still ongoing, pandemic? What obligations burden them? Dozens of questions regarding the “next” day. Let us take a closer look at the basics, taking into account recent legislation.
Which businesses constitute catering establishments?
“Catering establishments” are, among others, taverns, restaurants, nightclubs, dance clubs, clubs, patisseries, bars, cafes, etc.
How can they operate?
The opening hours of restaurants are, in most cases, defined by law. They may apply five-day or, as the case may be, six-day work weeks.
Work on Sundays can legally be provided to catering businesses. In these cases, a legal increase of 75% is provided on top of the legal minimum daily wage.
The work schedule (in other words: the alternation of working days and hours – the so-called “per diems“) is usually drawn up on a weekly or monthly basis. This is done, as a rule, by exercising the “managerial right” of the employer. Depending on the needs and choices of each business.
The choices of work schedules vary. Indicative: (a) Part-time (less, ie, “per diems” per week), (c) Rotational Work (with a reference period per week or per month), (d) Part-time with few working hours per day, (e) Alternation of full-time and part-time employment and so on.
Is a catering establishment obliged not to make redundancies after its reopening? Is it entitled to reduce the salaries and working days of its employees?
Businesses in the catering sector are (also) entitled to extend the suspension of their employment contracts for the month of May (the same will probably apply for June). In this case they will not be entitled to lay off their staff – for the entire period of the suspension. They will also be required to maintain the same number of jobs for another 45 days (after the expiry of the suspension period) – with the same type of employment contracts. It will be possible, ie, to dismiss an employee but someone else will have to be hired in their place – with the same type of contract (full-time, part-time, etc.).
However, in the event that such a business does not extend the suspension of employment contracts, it is not burdened with the specific obligations. It is therefore entitled to make redundancies and, under certain conditions, to reduce the working hours and days of its employees. That is, the general provisions of labor law apply.
What happens to the resignations of employees when there is an obligation to maintain jobs?
This phenomenon seems common in this area. Resignations are excluded from the job retention obligation clause. As long as their resignations are truly voluntary.
However, there are two more exceptions to the job retention obligation clause. These are the cases of retirements and of expirations of fixed-term employment contracts.
In the event that a company “does not make it”, what is the fate of the redundancies?
This question is very important and of wider interest.
In order for a dismissal to be legal and valid, the payment of severance pay is required. Even when a business closes because, as they say, it “did not make it”.
However, compensation for dismissal is not due in the event of force majeure (if, for example, a business is destroyed by an earthquake). Thus, if the pandemic (which could lead to the closure of a business) is assessed as a “force majeure event”, no severance pay will be due.
We wait with eager anticipation the first court decisions on this issue.
Do changes in licenses, ownership or a possible transfer of business affect employment relationships?
Changing the subject-matter of a store (from a club, for example, to a cafe), changing the share ownership scheme or the “boss” has no impact.
Especially regarding the change of employer, we must stress that: The one who succeeds or replaces a certain employer in a company, enters (as a rule) in the position of the (initial) employer, in terms of the obligations deriving from employment relationships.
What about special purpose remuneration for employees in this industry?
The employees of businesses that reopen, will receive the special purpose remuneration depending on the days that their employment contracts are suspended in the month of May, calculating on the total sum of 534€ (18€ rounded up / day).
For the period of the extension of the suspension of the employment contract lasting 24 days (01.05.20 – 24.05.20) until the reopening of the catering establishments on 25.05.20, the employees will receive 432 €.
What are the most important among the recent prime ministerial announcements regarding, among others, businesses in the field of catering and tourism?
Particularly important are those concerning the retention of jobs and the remuneration of employees. In particular, efforts are being made to maintain jobs while facilitating business. “Businesses that… face lower demand will be able, until the end of October, to adjust the working hours of their employees accordingly.” Reduced working time, however, will not mean (respectively) reduced wages. These employees will continue to receive, according to the Prime Minister, almost the same salary. Also: their insurance contributions will be fully covered. The COOPERATION program will be used, which will be funded by the European SURE program.
Other important provisions are:
(a) The reduction of VAT from 24% to 13% for the next 5 months on all tickets in the means of transport.
(b) The reduction of the tax advance.
(c) The reduction of VAT on coffee products and non-alcoholic beverages.
(d) The extension of the rent reduction by 40% for the whole summer.
(e) The announcement of domestic tourism support programs for the disadvantaged citizens.
(f) The gradual reopening, from 01.07.20 on, of direct flights abroad to tourist destinations, following sampling tests and compliance with health protocols.
An important part of the business activity in our country is associated with the catering industry. There is a great number of businesses in that field. But the number of employees in them is even greater. The recent legislative measures (also, of course, the recent prime ministerial announcements) highlight the absolutely necessary care the state must take for the survival of these businesses (among others). In order to also save the jobs they offer.
And this seems perfectly normal: The recovery of the Greek economy can only be achieved if this specific sector is taken very much into account.
The majority of catering businesses are small in size. The legal and other problems they are called upon to manage, however, do not differ from the ones the larger and / or very large businesses in the same industry face. It is therefore necessary for them to manage them in spite of the costs that they, inevitably, entail.
After all, one thing is certain: careful management of a business’s problems is a necessary condition for both its survival and longevity.-
Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.