Major changes to Czech Labor Code now in force: Here's what you need to know

The new Czech Labor Code, which came into effect at the start of October, will see greater remote-work opportunities and more renumeration for freelancers.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 02.10.2023 14:14:00 (updated on 02.10.2023) Reading time: 5 minutes

At the start of this month, an update to the Czech Labor Code ushered in a series of large changes to workers’ rights and benefits, ultimately aiming to improve the lives of employees in Czechia. But what exactly will change, and how will this benefit you?

The amendments, largely in compliance with EU directives, touch upon various aspects of the working landscape, including contract workers' rights, remote work regulations, digital contracts, and overtime laws for healthcare workers.

Contract workers get more rights

One of the most noteworthy changes is the newfound rights granted to contract workers or freelancers, referred to as "contractors." Starting in 2024, these individuals will be entitled to vacation, provided they have worked for a minimum of 80 hours with the same employer within a four-week period. Vacation entitlement for contractors will be calculated similarly to full-time employees, except it will be based on their work hours, effectively considering them as half-time workers.

In a notable move, contractors who have worked with an employer for at least 180 days in the past year will have the right to request transitioning to a traditional employment contract. Employers must provide a written explanation if they choose not to grant this request.

Contractors will now also have access to leave for personal reasons, including medical appointments, weddings, blood donation, or attending camps, although without financial compensation. The amendments aim to align the Czech Republic with EU standards, ensuring that vacation is a standard condition for all workers.

For every 20 hours worked, contractors will accrue approximately 1.5 hours of vacation, rounded up to whole hours. If the accrued leave goes unused, employers will be required to provide compensation, mirroring standard employment arrangements. Additionally, contractors will enjoy extra payments for working on weekends, holidays, and during nighttime hours, with the option of compensatory time off. Employers are also obligated to inform these workers of work progress and schedules at least three days in advance.

A greater balance between remote and office-based work

The revised Labor Code is also designed to facilitate a better balance between work and personal life. Pregnant employees, those caring for a child under nine, or individuals providing care to dependent loved ones can now request a home office arrangement. A prior written agreement allowing the employee to work remotely must be made (even if the employee works for just one day). Employers rejecting such requests must provide written justifications.

Employees working from home will generally be eligible for reimbursement of their home office-related costs, either based on actual expenses or a standardized rate.

The Ministry of Labour is expected to set a flat rate for the reimbursement for working from home, which is currently under discussion at CZK 2.8 per hour. With 160 hours worked per month, an employee would thus receive CZK 448. Exact details and payment announces are set to be announced on Jan. 1, 2024.

However, employers and employees can mutually agree to waive cost reimbursements, or the employer may offer partial reimbursements. Notably, remote workers can also claim compensation for utilities like electricity, gas, and water, the amount of which will be determined annually by the ministry.

The amendments come as a relief to many, as the lack of regulation previously made cost reimbursements for remote work difficult to implement effectively.

Good news for pregnant women and parents

Pregnant women, parents of young children, and caregivers can request remote work or home office arrangements. Employers must provide written explanations if they decline such requests, which can only be done for significant operational reasons.

"The intention is that especially parents of small children or caregivers have the best possible support in the law and good conditions for combining family life with work."

Minister of Labor Marian Jurečka

Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Marian Jurečka emphasized the amendments' intention to support parents of young children and caregivers in finding a better balance between family and work life, especially mothers who have faced challenges in the job market.

According to Eurostat data from 2021, the Czech Republic has ranked as the worst country in the EU in terms of job opportunities for women with children. The gap between the employment rates of women with and without children in the country is significantly wider compared to other EU nations. In contrast, the employment gap for men in the same statistics is notably smaller in the Czech Republic.

Digitization: Embracing virtual contracts

Another notable change in the Czech Labor Code is the adoption of digital contracts. As of now, it is possible to conclude employment contracts electronically, including additions or amendments to existing contracts. 

FEATURED EMPLOYERS

Termination of contracts can also be done electronically if the employee consents, with the condition that the termination is sent to a designated private email address provided by the employee. However, employees can revoke their consent in writing at any time.

For delivery purposes, employee consent is not required if the message is sent to the employee's mailbox. If the message remains unopened for ten days after delivery, it is considered delivered.

More overtime for healthcare workers doesn't please all

The amendment also includes a provision regarding overtime work in the healthcare sector. Until the end of 2028, healthcare workers may engage in additional overtime, with a general limit of eight hours per week and up to 12 hours per week in emergency services. Workers in these roles will receive a 25-percent bonus for this overtime.

Notably, doctors have expressed concerns about the extension of overtime hours, especially the possibility of serving up to 832 overtime hours annually (which is two times the previous amount). In response, the Minister of Health Vlastimil Válek has promised to propose a change to the law to revert to the original overtime hours.

In Czechia, approximately 4,900 doctors have refused to accept overtime work in December, according to a Facebook post by the young doctors' section of the Czech Medical Chamber. The Institute of Health Information and Statistics reported 23,150 physician positions in acute care as of 2021.

A change for the better

Experts foresee a positive impact on the labor market as a result of these changes. Greater utilization of remote work is expected, and the overall amendments to the Labor Code are seen as beneficial for employment. These revisions, in particular, provide valuable support to mothers of young children, enabling them to pursue their careers without compromising family life.

The recent changes to the Czech Labor Code signify a significant shift in favor of employees, granting more rights to contract workers, facilitating remote work, embracing digital contracts, and addressing overtime in the healthcare sector. These amendments aim to foster a healthier work-life balance and enhance job opportunities, particularly for parents and caregivers, bringing the Czech Republic more in line with European labor standards.

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