Answers to the first ten, relevant questions.
The production of legislation in the middle of a pandemic is going strong! Yesterday, May 1st, in the middle of the pandemic, it turned out that it was neither a holiday nor a strike-day. Returning (or, at least, attempting to return) to normalcy requires legislation. So let’s get started! The 1.5.20 LD (Government Gazette vol. A ’90 / 01.05.2020), addressing, among other things, labor relations, was published in yesterday’s Government Gazette.
“As you set out for Ithaka, hope the voyage is a long one ” And if, in this case, Ithaca is our return back to normalcy, we do see that the road will be really long. Although we all wish otherwise.
The above LD is titled: “Further measures to address the consequences of the pandemic; and the return to social and economic normalcy”. However, its title is not accurate, as it is impossible to return to “social and economic normalcy”. We all know that. As we know, we will be led (hopefully soon) to a new ” normalcy”. Both social and economic.
Issues arising around labor relations, in the context of the current pandemic, have preoccupied us in a series of (very) recent articles. The issues addressed in the above LD have preoccupied us in several of them and, among others- in the most recent: Coronavirus & Businesses: Basic (legislative) survival measures as well as Coronavirus: the invisible(;) enemy of jobs
Following our previous articles, we will address the abovementioned LD.
Question 1: Are businesses (depending on the NACE Revision 2 classification of their business activity) entitled to extend the suspension of their employees’ employment contracts?
These businesses had, inter alia, the possibility [in particular: Article 1 §1 (subsection A2) no. 12998 / 28.3.20 JM] to decide to suspend the employment contracts of part or all of their employees. If they have decided to suspend the contracts of their employees, they are entitled to extend said suspension (article tenth par. 1 LD / 1.5.20) at most:
(a) for up to 60% of the contracts already suspended and
(b) for a period of thirty (30) days but not beyond 31 May 2020.
It is noted that in the event the maximum limit (60% of the contracts already suspended) is exceeded, the business pays, on its own, the remuneration of those employees whose contract was extended in excess of that percentage.
Question 2: What about the employment contracts of employees of businesses whose operation (continues to) be suspended?
Some businesses continue to suspend their operations by order of the public authority in May 2020. The suspension of their employees’ employment contracts is extended for as long as the operation of the business in which they are employed is suspended (Article 10, paragraph 2 of the LD / 1.5 .20).
Question 3: Are employees whose employment contracts’ suspension is extended entitled to a salary?
NO-They are not entitled to a salary
BUT: Employees whose employment contracts’ suspension is extended (either if the business in which they work belongs to the affected sectors or if their employer’s operation has been suspended by a decision of a public authority), are entitled to financial aid in proportion to the days of this extension (Article tenth, par. 3 LD / 1.5.20).
Question 4: Is the ban on layoffs still in place?
For businesses that have opted to suspend the employment contracts of their employees, there was an explicit ban on layoffs for all their staff and, in fact, throughout the period of the specific suspension (Article eleven § 2A, case b ‘LD / 20.3 .20).
The businesses that will choose (Question 1) to extend the suspension of their employees’ employment contracts are obliged (for as long as they choose to suspend said contracts) to not make reductions of their staff by terminating employment contracts. In case they terminate them, such terminations are invalid (article ten, par. 4 LD / 1.5.20).
Of course, it should be noted that there is still an obligation to keep the same employees in the same jobs – see below…
Question 5: Is the obligation to maintain the same number of jobs still in place?
What was the case until 30.4.20?
Businesses that decided to suspend the employment contracts of their employees, had the obligation (article eleventh § 2A, per. C. LD / 20.3.20 as well as article 1 §5 (sub. A.2) no. 12998 / 232 / 28.3.20 JMC) to maintain the same number of jobs for a period of time equal to that of the suspension, following its expiration. In other words, these businesses were required to retain the same employees for 45 days after the expiration of the measure. Most importantly: under the same working conditions under which they were working on 21.03.2020. The concept of the same number of jobs, however, does not include those who resigned. And it also does not include those who retired and part-time employees whose employment contracts expire after the suspension.
What happens from 1.5.20 and on?
Basically, nothing changes. Businesses that decide to extend the suspension of their employees’ employment contracts are obliged, after the expiration of the extension of the suspension of the employment contracts of these employees, to maintain for forty-five (45) days the same number of jobs and with the same type of employment contract (article ten, par. 5 LD / 1.5.20).
Of course, we will wait for the Ministerial Decision that will exclude those who resign or retire from their job. Also, fixed-term employees whose employment contract expires after the expiration of the suspension. (Of course we cannot be sure, because the specific, necessary, exceptions were not included in this LD).
Question 6: Do we expect further specifications on the above issues?
We expect, in any case, some JMCs (of the Ministers of Finance, Labor & Social Affairs and Health) that will define the relevant details, among them, the amount of financial support for employees whose employment contract is extended (article tenth, par. 6 LD / 1.5.20).
This LD provides the possibility of providing extensions with JMC (of the Ministers of Finance, Labor & Social Affairs) of the implementation of the above measures until June 30, 2020 for businesses, whose operation is suspended in May 2020 by order of a public authority.
Question 7: Under what conditions is a final revocation of the suspension of employment contracts taking place?
Businesses NOT concerned:
Those businesses whose operation continues to be suspended by order of a public authority during the month of May 2020 (article eleven, par. 5 LD / 1.5.20).
Businesses that have suspended (on their own) their employment contracts of part or of all of their employees (in the context of the measures of the pandemic) – (article eleven, par. 1 LD / 1.5.20).
Possibility of revoking the suspension of employment contracts:
(Only) The businesses (mentioned above) are entitled to permanently revoke the suspension of the employment contracts of their staff (Article eleven, par. 1 of the LD of 1.5.20).
There are two important conditions in order for the permanent revocation of the suspension of their staff’s employment contracts to take place:
(a) The revocation shall apply to at least 40% of the employees whose contracts are suspended and
(b) The employment contracts have been suspended for at least fifteen (15) days.
It should be noted, however, that employees (for whom a permanent revocation of the suspension of their contracts will take place under the aforementioned regulations) are entitled to the financial support provided for in proportion to the days of their suspension (Article eleven, par. 3 LD of 1.5 .20).
Question 8: Can a business which permanently revoked suspensions re-suspend their employees?
The employees whose contracts’ suspension was permanently revoked, in accordance with the above (Question 7), cannot be suspended again (Article eleven, par. 2 LD of 1.5.20).
Question 9: Is it possible to temporarily revoke the suspension of employment contracts?
YES-there is a possibility of temporary revocation of the suspension of employment contracts (article twelve, par. 1 LD / 1.5.20).
Businesses concerned: Both those that have been classified (depending on the NACE Revision 2 classification of their business activity) as affected and those whose business activity has been suspended by order of a public authority.
Prerequisites for the temporary revocation of the suspension of employees’ employment contracts: Unjustifiably strict: The coverage of extraordinary, urgent, inelastic needs of the business that cannot be delayed.
Employee Remuneration: During the temporary revocation of the suspension of the employment contracts, the employer is responsible for paying the agreed upon remuneration of its employees, in proportion to the days they worked.
Obligation to notify ERGANI: Businesses that temporarily revoke the suspension of employment contracts of their staff are obliged to notify “ERGANI” before the extraordinary work is performed (Article twelve, par. 2 LD / 1.5.20 ).
Return to the suspension status: After the expiration of the temporary revocation of the suspension of an employment contract, the suspension of the contract continues until the completion of its full-time suspension length (Article twelve, par. 3 LD / 1.5.20).
Question 10: Is it possible to temporarily adjust the working hours of employees?
YES – there is a possibility of temporary adjustment of the employees’ schedule (article thirteenth LD / 1.5.20).
Businesses concerned: Both those that have been classified (depending on the NACE Revision 2 classification of their business activity) as affected and those whose business activity had been suspended by order of a public authority.
Schedule adjustment: These businesses are entitled to adjust their employees’ working hours to their operating hours. The adjustment of the working hours of the employees is carried out on the condition that the type of employment contract of the specific employees is not changed.
The way back to “normalcy” is not short – it is not even possible.
Most importantly: It is also not possible, despite any expectations, to return to the (pre-pandemic) “normalcy”.
But let’s hope that, contrary to Cavafi’s urgings, “the voyage will not be a long one.”
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.