General Employee Rights in Bulgaria
Employment contracts must be in writing, signed and registered with the National Revenue Agency (NRA) no later than three days from signing the contract and before the employee’s first day of work. Contracts are only recognized if in Bulgarian (the bilingual form is a standard solution). Contracts must include the following:
- Parties to the agreement (employer & employee)
- Length of contract (contract type - indefinite or fixed term)
- Date of execution (when it was signed)
- Date of commencement (i.e. starting date)
- Annual paid leave (minimum 20 days per year)
- Employment terms and conditions:
- Position (also indicating the code for the position according to the National Classification of Professions and Positions)
- Place of work (i.e. work office or home office; location)
- Remuneration details (the amount of the basic monthly remuneration; the mandatory additional payment for work experience on the same or similar position; any possible extra remunerations and allowances)
- Type of employment (if the work is to be performed on a full-time or a part-time basis)
- Probation period (maximum is six months)
- Notice period in case of termination (should be the same for both parties)
Beyond those, the employment contracts may include other elements as well.
The employer must provide the employee with a signed copy of the employment contract and a duly certified copy of the notification to the National Revenue Agency regarding its registration.
The job description is an integral part of the employment contract, where employers define the nature of the work and the particular duties and obligations of the employee, a copy of which is handed to the employee upon signing the contract.
Health & safety
Employers must ensure employees work under healthy and safe working conditions. Employees are not allowed to perform work if they do not hold the qualifications or abilities necessary to perform the work, as well as adequate knowledge of provisions and principles of health and safety at work. Employees are entitled to health and safety instructions on their first day. After it’s done, both the employer and the employee should sign a document that proves the training took place.
Employers need to ensure health and safety conditions in the following three directions:
- Prevention of occupational risks by assessing possible risks and undertaking measures to limit and mitigate those
- Provision of information and training
- Ensuring the necessary organisation and means
The employer’s basic health and safety obligations include:
- Assessing the workplace risk and determining the measures to ensure health and safety at work
- Establishing a governing body whose task is to facilitate and monitor the planned measures
- Working with a health and safety service provider
- Ensuring that the legal provisions and requirements related to certain risks are observed
- Ensuring the workplace is compliant with health and safety at work requirements
- Conducting initial and regular health and safety at work instructions
- Providing food, refreshments and proper working conditions to employees working night shifts
- Estimating the specific threats and dangers for the employees in need of special protection, including those with disabilities
The employer should guarantee that each employee has been provided appropriate training (as an instruction session). More information on health and safety training is provided above.
All costs related to ensuring health and safety at work are at the employer's expense.
The employee has the right to refuse to perform work or stop altogether when there is a serious and immediate danger to their life or health. In such cases, the employee should notify their direct line manager immediately.
An employer with more than 50 employees must create a health and safety at work committee (an employer with 5 to 50 employees should appoint a health and safety at workgroup). The committee/group includes representatives of the employer and the employees that discuss activities to be carried out to protect the health of the employees and create safe working conditions and environment.
Employees have equal rights and must be treated equally when being hired or dismissed, receiving a promotion or training to improve professional qualifications and under the employment terms and conditions (such as work-related benefits, etc.).
Employee Protections in Bulgaria
Protection from discrimination
Under Bulgarian Law, it is illegal to discriminate against an employee based on sex, age, disability, race, religion, ethnic origin, nationality, sexual orientation, skin colour, political or religious beliefs, trade union membership or family and financial situation.
Preservation of the employment in the event of employer change
In certain cases, employee protection is extended if the employer changes. This change may be permanent and related to the transfer of ownership (merger, acquisition, division, separation, insolvency proceedings, restructuring, etc.) or be temporary, where the change is happening without ownership transfer (rent, leasing, concession, etc.).
In all the above-mentioned cases of employer change, the main legal consequence is that the employment relationship with the employees is not terminated, but it is preserved and transferred by law (ex-lege) from the former employer to the new employer.
Moreover, the general rule is that the former and the new employer are jointly liable for the employment obligations. This general rule applies except for mergers and acquisitions, as well as a change in the legal, organisational form of the company where only the new employer is responsible for these obligations.
In addition, the former and the new employer are obliged to provide information and consult their employees on the forthcoming change.
Protection against dismissal
Special protection from termination is extended to certain employees. Those include mothers with small children, pregnant women, employees who suffer from certain diseases (indicated in an ordinance of the Minister of Health), etc. If the employee falls within that category, permission has to be obtained by the Labour Inspection before the termination.
Protection from harassment
Verbal attacks and insults are the most common harassment in the workplace. If the employer is informed that an employee feels harassment, they must investigate the case. Any act of discrimination against another employee can lead to disciplinary liability to be imposed on the employee making the harassment. The harassed employee can lodge a written complaint to the Commission for Protection against Discrimination.
Data protection (GDPR)
Amongst all other GDPR requirements, employers are required to handle employees’ data with care and security. Personal data is any information relating to an identified or identifiable individual. Specific provisions aim to protect employees' data, and they have the right to:
- See the information held on them
- Access the information
- Request the rectification of the information
- Request the erasure of the information
- Restrict the processing of the information
- Request the portability of the information
- Object to the information being processed
Employers, as data controllers, need to follow six data protection principles when collecting, processing and storing employees' data:
- Ensure the lawfulness, fairness and transparency of the data
- Ensure the data use is limited only to the purpose for which it was collected
- Minimize the amount of data collected to only that which is necessary
- Ensure the accuracy of the data
- Limit the data stored to only that which is required
- Ensure the integrity and confidentiality of the data
Employers are responsible and must be able to demonstrate compliance with these principles continuously and at any time. They must implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure security appropriate to the risk.
The special categories of sensitive personal data require a higher level of protection and an additional basis for their collection, storage, and use.
Required Employee Benefits in Bulgaria
Employees are subject to mandatory preliminary (at commencing work for the first time, at moving to another job in the same company with a higher risk of occupational injury, etc.) and periodic preventive medical examinations, which are at the employer's expense.
Job Security in Bulgaria
Employees have the right to be members of trade unions and unions to protect their labour and social security interests. Employees can become members and terminate their membership in the trade union at any point. To do so, they only need to comply with the trade unions’ Articles of Association. Moreover, every employee can ask the trade union to represent them in court, saving on legal counsel.
Under Bulgarian law, the trade-union activists are a protected category of employees and cannot be terminated with notice in certain cases. If an employee falls within that category, the explicit consent of the respective trade union authority is required for employment termination.