JPM Partner Jelena Nikolić in an interesting dialogue with Tatjana Orlović (editor of the edition “Law in the economy” of Paragraf lex), on challenges and effects of COVID 19 on court practice, employment relations and labor law, giving a comprehensive insight into 2020 and a hint of what we are to expect in the year ahead when it comes to new legislation and employment law.
Our collaboration with Paragraf lex continued in 2020 on mutual pleasure. With seminars on “general and unilateral acts of the employer” and “termination of the employment relation,” we tried to help the employees and the employers to understand the importance of timely and precisely defining mutual rights and obligations, as well as respecting the procedures stipulated by the law when terminating employment relation.
In this conversation, we wanted to provide a comprehensive overview of the biggest challenges in labor and employment law during an unexpectedly difficult year and to look back on some of the most important topics in the economy.
The previous year was marked by questions related to taxes, accounting, employment relations, health protection, enforcement and security, planning, and construction. In addition, numerous questions were related to state aid that was aimed to mitigate the consequences caused by the pandemic of COVID 19. The webinars that were organized reflected the most interesting topics.
The effects of the situation caused by the COVID 19 pandemic on-court practice and opinions of the competent ministries
In the past couple of months, the dynamic of publishing the court practice remained unchanged regarding both topics and legal areas. During the period of the state of emergency, there was an unusual increase in the court practice, although there was no change in the stands of the court in comparison to the period before the pandemic. Redaction of Paragraf lex regularly publishes the author’s court practice from all legal areas as well as bulletins of the courts with which it has institutional collaboration, so in the following period, it should be analysed in a more detailed manner to which extent did the situation caused by the pandemic affect the court practice.
Regarding the official opinion of the Ministry of Finance, the situation is quite the opposite – the pandemic of COVID 19 has affected the content of the published opinions, as well as their number. Namely, the Decree on fiscal benefits and directs benefits to the legal entities in the private sector and monetary aid to citizens to decrease the economic consequences of the COVID 19, which entered into force in April 2020, caused numerous uncertainties in practice. The need for a detailed interpretation of the stated Decree resulted in a significant number of official opinions of the Ministry of Finance. Activities of the Ministry of Finance regarding the publishing of the official opinion in remaining tax areas have been significantly decreased in comparison to the same period in 2019.
Most common questions
The Year 2020 made employers adjust to the new circumstances in a very short period. Business activities that were hit the most by the pandemic, due to the business disruptions, found solutions that would enable them to continue to conduct the business activity with a decrease of certain expenses. Therefore, most questions referred to the possibility to change (decrease) the agreed salary, introducing minimal salary, assigning employees to unpaid leave, transfer from full-time to part-time working hours, and finally questions related to redundancy procedures as well as the possibility for the employee to waive the right on severance pay.
The employers who had increased scope of work during 2020 were interested to know whether they can prohibit the absence from work due to temporary inability to work, usage of annual leave, as well as other leaves on which employees have the right not only pursuant to the Labour law but also according to the Constitution of Republic of Serbia.
Once the legislation rendered during the state of emergency expired, primarily the Decree on organizing the work of the employers during the state of emergency, most employers were not clear about the manner and the act, according to which they can assigned employees to work from home, i.e. what their obligations would be in the said case. Also, many questions referred to the obligations of the employers regarding safety and health at the workplace. Staring from the risk assessment act to the obligations of the employees in terms of safety and health at work, ending with obligations regarding the preventive measures which prevent the occurrence and spread of infectious disease.
They say that the pandemic equally affected the business activity of Paragraf, especially in terms of the increased number of requests for interpretation of insufficiently defined provisions of the legislation referring to pandemic measures, as well as regarding the employment issues in the new circumstances. All employees transferred to home office starting from March 2020 and many novelties were implemented “on the spot”, adapting to the circumstances.
Together, we hope that a better year is ahead. We most definitely expect the amendments of the current or adopting of new legislation, by which appropriate legal framework for the work outside the business premises of the employer, submission of individual labour acts, as well as the question of regulating responsibility of the employer for the safety and health at the workplace in case of a home office, i.e. conducting work outside the business premises of the employer, would be regulated.