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Employment Brief: Bulgaria to implement “the right to disconnect” and other changes for remote workers

Widely debated amendments in the Bulgarian Labour Code are expected to enter into force in early 2024, elaborating on remote/hybrid work provisions introduced in local legislation in 2011. A summary of some key changes from the legislative draft can be found below.

Right to Disconnect

The “right to disconnect” concept was developed at the EU level primarily with a focus on remote employees. Therefore, the Bulgarian legislator has taken different approaches in implementing this concept for office and remote workers. Namely, only remote workers are not obligated to respond to any communication initiated by their employer during the daily or weekly rest period between working days. This has already raised public objections, arguing inequality and potentially discriminative treatment between the two groups of employees. 

Place of work for remote employees

During the pandemic companies opted for greater flexibility in terms of employees being able tofreely choose their place of work (including foreign locations) and the allocation of the associated obligations (including health and safety (H&S) risks). However, the proposed legislative clarifications will be in favour of a more conservative approach than practical solutions adopted by companies during and post-pandemic. The key elements are as follows:

  1. an obligation shall exist for the parties to mutually agree on an explicitly indicated/fixed place of work. In other words, employees cannot choose or amend their place of work unilaterally;
  2. regardless of where the place of work is determined to be by the parties, the employer always remains ultimately responsible for securing adequate H&S requirements. In this respect, the draft bill clarifies that said responsibility cannot be contractually excluded or transferred to the employees;
  3. employees can only bear limited liability for labour accidents if incurred by their gross negligence or wilful non-compliance with H&S rules. Even in those cases, the liability is co-shared with the employer. 

Possible removal of the cap on redundancy compensations

Another critical change concerns the removal of the current cap on statutory compensation for unlawful dismissal. At present, Bulgaria is one of the few EU countries which caps compensation for unlawful dismissal to 6 salaries (regardless of the duration of any legal disputes involving the termination). If an employee is removed, employers may now be liable for the whole period of unemployment due to unlawful dismissal (which, taking into account the average duration of court cases for unlawful dismissals, can now extend to up to 2-3 years.)

Digitalisation of employment documents

The first step towards a long-awaited digitalisation of employment-related documents is the possibility of handling labour books digitally starting from 01 June 2026. Labour books are official records with key information on employment relationships, such as the entire professional history of an employee, salary levels, etc.