This article will inform you on how the COVID-19 state of emergency and the emergency epidemic situation affect your rights as a worker. It is based on the information given by lawyer Maria Todorova during the webinar “Employment rights and Visa issues during a pandemic” on 30 January 2021.
You should note that the extraordinary epidemic situation that was announced in the Republic of Bulgaria was not prolonged after 31 March 2022. Since no new official state of emergency or extraordinary epidemic situation has been announced, the Employer may not use its rights under sections “Working from home”, “Part-time work”, “Paid and unpaid leave” and “Suspension of work” as described in the sections below.
Working from home
Your employer can make you work temporary from home, without your consent. However, only your place of work is changed. The rest of your labour contract conditions stay the same (working hours, salary etc.).
Your employer may order you to work part-time, although you usually work full-time. This may reduce your salary.
Paid and unpaid leave
When, by order of your employer or a state body, the work process in your workplace is temporarily suspended, your employer has the right to make you go on paid leave without your consent. That may happen even if you do not have 8 months of work experience.
You can ask for a paid or unpaid leave during the pandemic and your employer is obliged to allow that if you:
- are pregnant or in an advanced stage of in-vitro treatment;
- are a mother/single father/adoptive parent of children under 12 or, regardless of age - children with disabilities;
- are a worker under 18 years;
- have permanently reduced working capacity of 50 % or more;
- have the right to be protected in case of dismissal (e.g. you are suffering from an illness such as ischemic heart disease, active form of tuberculosis, oncological disease, occupational disease, mental illness and diabetes);
In 2021 and 2022, you have the right to use 90 days of unpaid leave which will be recognized as length of work experience (трудов стаж/trudov staj).
If you are quarantined because of Covid-19 and you cannot work
There is no self-quarantine in Bulgaria and you cannot just stop working because you are afraid you may get sick. Your quarantine has to be assigned by your doctor and the Regional Health Inspectorate. Your doctor will issue you a sickness certificate, which you must present to your employer. You are entitled to compensation for the time of your quarantine.
Suspension of work
Your employer can suspend the work process of your workplace entirely or partially or can suspend the work of individual workers until the end of the state of emergency. For this period, unless you are on unpaid leave, you are entitled to receive your gross salary. If you are on paid leave, you will receive your leave pay.
No employer has the right to force you to quit your job. Keep in mind that even if your employer offers or tries to force you to sign a document to resign by mutual consent, if it is against your will, you should not accept nor sign.
Do not sign documents that your employer gives you until you read and understand them. If you sign such a document to resign by mutual consent, you will lose your right to defend yourself in court. Ask for a copy of the document provided to you to read it at home and, if necessary, consult a specialist.
Your employer may propose you to resign by offering you compensation. The amount of this compensation must be minimum 4 gross salaries, but you can negotiate a higher sum. There is no upper limit.
Protection in Court
If your labour contract is terminated illegally, you can file a claim to revoke the termination before the respective city court within 2 months from the date of the termination. The procedure before the court is free of charge, but you still may have to pay for legal representation by a lawyer. Free legal aid is provided only under specific conditions.
You can combine this claim with a claim to be re-hired and a compensation claim. The compensation can be for up to 6 gross monthly salaries for the time you were unemployed after the termination of your labour contract.
You can get unemployment benefits only if you have worked and been insured for this risk (unemployment) for at least 12 months during the past 18 months before the termination of your labor contract. In order to receive the unemployment benefit in the maximum amount that is owed to you, you have to file an application within 3 months as of the date your labor contract was terminated and register as unemployed person at the Agency for Social Assistance (Employment Bureau), no later than 7 days after your labor contract was terminated.
This article is created under the project "Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform", implemented by the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR with the financial support of the Active Citizens Fund of Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area.
The project "Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform" is implemented with financial support in the amount of EUR 10,000 provided by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Financial Mechanism. The main goal of the project “Legal aid to financially disadvantaged refugees and immigrants during a pandemic by using and improving the Migrantlife.Bg platform” is to offer modern digital solutions for access to reliable information and a lawyer during a pandemic.
The entire responsibility for the content of this article lies with the Foundation for Access to Rights - FAR and under no circumstances it can be assumed that this content reflects the official opinion of the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area and the Operator of the Active Citizens Fund Bulgaria.