Terms of employment
EU rules lay down your obligations with regards to information you have to give to your staff as regards employment contracts.
In some EU countries the rules below may not apply to employees working maximum 1 month for you or to employees working fewer than 8 hours per week.
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You must provide at least the following information to employees when they first come to work for you:
- parties of the employment contract
- place of work - if there is no fixed place of work, you should highlight that the employee will work in various locations and say where your business is registered
- title, grade, category of the work or brief specification/description
- start date
- expected duration of the employment relationship, if the contract is temporary
- number of paid annual holidays
- length of notice periods for you and the employee if one of you terminates the contract
- initial basic salary, any other components of remuneration, frequency of payment
- length of the normal working day or working week
- rules of any collective agreements governing the employee's conditions of work, if appropriate.
For annual holidays, length of notice periods, working time and remuneration, it is enough to refer employees to any relevant laws and administrative provisions.
If your employees will be required to work in a different country (see ‘Posting of workers'), you must also inform them in advance of the following:
- duration of the employment abroad
- currency to be used for payment of their salary
- any allowances they will be eligible for while abroad
- conditions regarding their return.
Providing information - by when and how?
You must give the information above to new employees in writing no later than 2 months after they begin working for you.
The information can take the form of:
- a written employment contract
- a letter of commitment
- one or more written documents containing the information above.
Modification of employment relationships
You must inform employees in writing of any change to their work contracts no later than 1 month after the date the change takes effect. If the change is necessary because of a change in laws or administrative provisions, there is no need for a written document modifying the original contract.
Informing and consulting your staff
If your company has over 50 employees (or 20 if it is a unit of a larger business), you are legally obliged to inform them about:
- recent and probable future developments in company activities and economic situation
- employment situation
- likely substantial changes to the way work is organised or in contractual relations.
You must also make sure you give the information in time for employee representatives to prepare for official consultation with you on the related issues.
Employee representatives (or any experts assisting them) are prohibited by law from divulging to staff any information you give them in confidence.
How long can your staff work?
If you employ staff, you need to know the basic rules about working hours. These rules cover minimum periods of daily and weekly rest, as well as annual leave and maximum weekly working time. EU countries also have the option to apply rules that are more favourable.
Maximum weekly working time, weekly and daily rest
As an employer, you must ensure that the average weekly working time for your staff - including overtime - does not exceed 48 hours. Your employees must rest for at least 11 consecutive hours daily. On top of it, in any 7 days you must also give your staff at least 24 hours of uninterrupted rest.
Breaks, annual leave
If your staff works more than 6 hours a day, you must ensure that they get a break (of a duration specified in collective agreements or by national law).
Beyond the daily and weekly rest periods each worker is entitled to at least 4 weeks of paid holidays every year. You cannot replace these holidays by a payment, unless the employment relationship has ended before the staff member has taken all their annual leave.
Night work is at least a 7-hour shift, at least 3 hours of which must be between midnight and 5.00 am.
Night workers may not work more than 8 hours per 24 hours on average. If the work involves special hazards or heavy physical or mental strain, the daily limit of 8 hours may not be exceeded.
Night workers are entitled to a free health assessment before they start the night work and are entitled to a free, regular health check afterwards (that must respect medical confidentiality). If your night workers suffer from health problems related to the fact that they work nights, they must be transferred to day work whenever possible.
When working hours are not measured or predetermined, as in the case of managing executives or family workers, the working time obligations may not apply.
Further exemptions from the rules are possible in the following fields:
- security and surveillance
- industries where work cannot be interrupted for technical reasons
- rail transport
Mobile workers are staff members operating transport services for passengers or goods by road, rail, air or waterway. Their working time is regulated differently.
- Working time for mobile road transport activities (EU directive)
- Working hours in civil aviation (EU directive)
- Working hours in the railways sector (EU directive)
- Working hours for seafarers (EU directive)
Employing young people
If you would like to employ young people, the minimum employment age is 15 (higher where compulsory full-time schooling continues after age 15).
Young people under 15 years may be employed in cultural, artistic, sports or advertising activities with prior authorisation from the competent authority.
Children who are at least 14 (but not yet 15) can also work as part of a work/training scheme or a work-experience scheme. Children who are at least 14 (in certain cases 13) can also perform light work. The rules on working time, night work, and rest are quite strict for young people. The EU countries can set stricter rules than the minimum requirements.
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