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Bulgaria

Staff

Updated 07/2012

Legal requirements

Relations between employers and employees are regulated by the Labour Code (KT).

The Labour Code (KT) applies to employment relations between Bulgarian citizens, citizens of Member States of the European Union, citizens of Member States of the European Economic Area agreement and Switzerland with Bulgarian employers, and Bulgarian employers abroad, unless otherwise stated in any other law or international agreement that applies in Bulgaria.

The Labour Code does not extend to employment relations with an international element if the parties have opted to place their relations under the legislation of another country.

Labour rights acquired abroad are recognised in Bulgaria by law, by an act of the Council of Ministers or by an international agreement to which Bulgaria is party.

Conditions of employment

Social security

Social security in Bulgarian includes unemployment benefits, pensions and health insurance.

Social security

State health insurance provides benefits, aid and pensions for: temporary work incapacity; temporary reduced work capacity; invalidity; maternity leave; unemployment; old age; and death.

Insurers, insurance funds, self-contributing persons and employers must regularly submit to the National Revenue Agency details about: insurable income, social security contributions for state social security, social security payments, contribution history and taxable income under the Personal Income Tax Act (ZDDFL) – individually for each person subject to social security.

The main legislative act governing state social security is the Social Security Code (KSO).

Pensions and benefits are paid by the National Social Security Institute.

Citizens living in other countries and who wish to make use of their social security rights or to draw their Bulgarian pensions abroad are served by the Central Administration of the National Social Security Institute – European Integration and International Agreements Directorate.

Declarations certifying someone's insurance contribution history in another EU/EEA country (Е 104 and Е 301 forms) are available from the Institute's website.

Health insurance

Bulgaria has compulsory health insurance in the form of the National Health Insurance Fund (NZK). Contributions are usually paid by employees, except in certain cases. Employers pay for health costs:

  • for staff, who receive benefits for temporary leave due to illness, pregnancy, childbirth or parental care;
  • when payment is compulsory by law;
  • for people on unpaid leave, when they are using such leave due to drops in production demand or downturns, or for parental care.

The main legislative act setting out the categories of persons covered by, and the conditions for, paying health insurance contributions for various categories is the Health Insurance Act (ZZO).

Contracts of employment

Contracts of employment are made between employees and employers before starting work in the position.

Contracts of employment must be in writing, give the details of the parties and set out:

  • place of work;
  • the title of the position and the nature of the job;
  • the date of the contract's conclusion and the start of its term;
  • the time period for the contract of employment;
  • the extent of base and additional paid annual leave;
  • the same notice period for both parties for terminating the contract;
  • base and additional remuneration and payment terms;
  • the duration of the working day or week.

Contracts of employment may also specify other conditions relating to the provision of labour that are not covered by applicable legislative provisions, or any conditions that are more favourable to the employee than those set out in the collective labour agreement.

Contracts of employment may be open-ended, for a fixed term, or for a probation period:

Fixed-term contracts are for:

  • a set period, which cannot be no longer than 3 years;
  • until the completion of a certain job;
  • to fill in for an employee on leave due to any of the circumstances detailed in the Labour Code (KT).

A fixed-term contract of employment becomes open-ended if the employee continually works for 5 or more working days after the end of the agreed period, without the employer objecting in writing, and provided that the position is vacant.

Contracts of employment with probation periods

If a job requires that the employee's competence to do the job be checked, the final acceptance of the employee's employment may be preceded by a contract with a probation period of up to 6 months.

Employees may make a supplementary contract of employment with their employers to do work that is outside the range of their normal duties and outside contracted working time.

  • The working week is five days, with normal weekly working hours of up to 40 hours.
  • The normal number of hours in a working day is up to 8 hours.
  • Minimum paid leave – 20 days a year.
  • Minimum pension age – 63 years and 4 months (men), and 60 years and 4 months (women).
  • minimum wage – BGN 290 a month.

The authority responsible for ensuring the legality of employment relations is the Central Labour Inspectorate.

Employees can hold general meetings to elect people to represent their common interests on labour and social security issues before their employers or government agencies. Representatives must be elected with a two-thirds majority of its members at a general meeting.

Employers are required to provide healthy and safe working conditions, ensuring that any hazards to the life and health of employees be removed, restricted or reduced.

All employees must undergo mandatory preliminary and regular medical check-ups. The frequency of these check-ups depends on the type of job, the working conditions and the ages of the employees, and are determined by order of the Minister of Health.

Special protection for minors

The minimum working age is 16 (under certain legal conditions, this can also be younger than 16). Minors may not be employed in work that is heavy, dangerous or harmful to their health or their physical, mental and moral development. Minors may only be employed after undergoing strict preliminary medical examinations and having obtained a medical report stating their fitness for the work in question, and with a permit from the labour inspectorate for each particular case.

The conditions and procedures for issuing permits are governed by a regulation of the Minister of Labour and Social Policy and the Minister of Health.

The working times for employees aged under 18 is 35 hours a week and 7 hours a day within a five-day working week. They are entitled to minimum paid annual leave of no less than 26 working days, including the calendar year in which they turn 18.

Medical examinations

All employees are subject to mandatory preliminary health checks:

  • before starting a job (when first starting work, or after a long period - of more than 3 months - out of work)
  • when changing to a different job that involves risks to their life or health.

All employees are also subject to regular health checks, which are to be provided at the employer's expense. The nature and frequency of these checks depend on the working conditions and any hazards and risks identified during risk assessments carried out at the site.

Employing foreigners

Citizens of EU Member States may work in Bulgaria without prior approval.

Non-EU nationals, must first get a work permit from the National Employment Agency.

There are minimum social rules to follow, especially about non-discrimination, gender equality and health and safety.

Administrative procedures

Starting and terminating employment relations

Employment commences after having made a written contract of employment. There are no pro-forma models or templates for contracts of employment. Within three days of having made or amending a contract of employment, and within seven days of its termination, the employer or the employer's authorised representative must notify of this to the relevant regional directorate of the National Revenue Agency. A regulation issued by the Minister of Labour and Social Policy sets the contents and procedures for this notification.

Employees must start work within one week of receipt of the documents referred to in Paragraph 1, unless the parties have agreed to a different time frame. The obligations arising under the contract of employment become effective when the employee starts work, which must be confirmed in writing.

The Labour Code (KT) sets out the conditions under which employers or employees may terminate contracts of employment, with or without notice. A contract may not be terminated if the employee is on sick or maternity leave, or is pregnant.

Social security contributions

The National Revenue Agency provides e-services and has a record of written queries sent in by users.

Details about insured persons are submitted by the employer/insurer and self-insured persons.

The contribution amounts are paid into the state social security funds, and are set in the Social Security Code (KSO).

Income on which social security contributions are payable for state social security includes all remuneration, including additional and unpaid payments, and any other income from work. The State Social Security Budget Act (ZBDOO) sets:

  • the maximum monthly insurance contribution amount for the calendar year;
  • the minimum monthly insurance contribution amount in the calendar year for self-insured persons;
  • the main economic activities and professional qualification groups for which the minimum monthly insurance contribution amount applies, by activity and group, as well as the actual minimum insurance contribution amount for them.

Employee social security contributions are distributed among the insurers and the insured, as set out in the Social Security Code (KSO). Contributions to the Workplace Accident and Occupational Illness fund are payable by employers/insurers.

Refunding contributions to wages

Contributions can be refunded when the final insurable income and due social security contribution amounts have been determined. The final monthly social security contribution amount is determined based on the details declared in the annual tax return in accordance with the Personal Income Tax Act (ZDDFL). The final social security contribution amount is payable on the annual insurable income, which is calculated as the difference between the income declared and the total income on which contributions were paid.

Work permits for foreign citizens

Citizens of EU Member States may work in Bulgaria without prior approval.

Non-EU nationals, must first get a work permit from the National Employment Agency.

Maintaining records

When employees start employment, employers are required within 5 days to obtain an employment record book. Employees confirm the start of employment with a written declaration.

The employment record book must be retained by the employee, who is then required to provide it to the employer on request and whenever any change of circumstance needs to be entered.

Employers must keep accurate and timely records in employment record books of all details required and of any changes.

Employers must keep a Register of Issued Employment Record Books, as well as any standard forms needed to certify length of service and of insurable income for the National Social Security Institute.

Dismissals

The termination of contracts of employment is regulated by the Labour Code (KT). This is done by issuing an order terminating the contract of employment. Contracts of employment must be terminated in writing.

Contracts of employment shall be terminated:

  • with prior notice – within the prior notice period;
  • with prior notice – though not within the prior notice period;
  • without prior notice – from the time the written statement for terminating the contract is received.

The conditions and circumstances under which contracts of employment may be terminated without prior notice are set out in the Labour Code (KT).

The prior notice period for terminating open-ended contracts of employment is 30 days, unless the parties have agreed to a longer period, but no longer than 3 months. The notice period for terminating fixed-term contract of employment is also 3 months, but no more than the period remaining on the contract.

Unfair dismissal

To dismiss the following persons, employers require special permission from the labour inspectorate, issued on a case-by-case basis:

  • employees who are mothers of children up to 3 years of age;
  • reassigned employees;
  • employees suffering from an illness as set out in an order issued by the Bulgarian Minister of Health;
  • employees who have started making use of their authorised leave;
  • employees who have been selected as an employee representative, for the time they hold such a function;
  • employees who are members of special groups engaged in talks, of European Working Councils or representative bodies of European commercial company or cooperative, for the time they hold such a function.

Trade union leaders at enterprises, of regional, industrial or nationally elected trade union bodies, are also afforded protection under the Labour Code (KT) for as long as they occupy this trade union post and for 6 months after they resign from it.

Resources

EURES, the European job portal, offers employers information and support on recruiting across the EU. As well as assisting jobseekers, it helps entrepreneurs find workers from across the EU. In border regions, EURES provides information on cross-border commuting and helps workers and employers with problems that may arise.

Programmes

The National Employment Agency provides a wide range of employment and training programmes and measures aimed at various groups, depending on their requirements. You can obtain more from information at:

Help & advice

Help & advice

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The EU runs a network (Enterprise Europe Network) of local business organisations in most European countries that may be able to help you.

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