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COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch

Database of national-level responses

Eurofound's COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch collates information on the responses of government and social partners to the crisis, as well as gathering examples of company practices aimed at mitigating the social and economic impacts.

Factsheet for case BG-2020-15/496 Updated – measures in Bulgaria

COVID-19: Unemployed can take seasonal work in agriculture without loss of benefits

КОВИД - 19: Допълнително подпомагане на безработните и аграрния сектор

Country Bulgaria , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 05 April 2020 – 31 October 2020
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Income protection beyond short-time work
– Income support for unemployed
Author Tsetomila Sabcheva and Luboslav Kostov (Citub) and Eurofound
Case created 12 April 2020 (updated 23 September 2020)

Background information

A new opportunity for registered unemployed individuals to sign temporary labour contracts with agriculture producers without losing their unemployment benefits has been approved by the Bulgarian government. The new amendment gives a legal right to an unemployed person to receive unemployment benefits from the state and at the same time work at a rural stop and take a salary from there.

According to unofficial information, the Ministry of Agriculture is also discussing the possibility of workers in enterprises that have been introduced to reduced working hours due to the coronavirus crisis and are being compensated under the 60/40 scheme , to be able to start additional work in agriculture.

Content of measure

People receiving unemployment or social assistance benefits can earn additional income from seasonal work in agriculture without losing their entitlement to state support. Those who are currently on unpaid leave can also sign a second employment contract without permission from their primary employer. These are the two approved measures that, at the threshold of the active season in agriculture, should divert employees to this sector.

Amendments to the Emergency Legislation adopted in April 2020 introduce the possibility for farmers to conclude temporary employment contracts similar to one-day contracts to hire employees for activities such as harvesting. The key change in this case is that the conclusion of such contracts would not affect the receipt of unemployment benefits or social benefits by employees, which in previous years was a serious obstacle to securing seasonal workers on the field.

Currently, there is also no limit to the length of time that employees can work under the second employment contract while on unpaid leave.

Updates

The following updates to this measure have been made after it came into effect.

22 September 2020

During the months of the emergency situation due to the coronavirus in the period from 13 March to 13 May 2020, two types of extended one-day contracts were applied in agriculture, which were regulated by the Law on Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency.

In May 2020, the parliament amended the Health Act, allowing relaxed conditions of temporary employment contracts in agriculture in association with the coronavirus crisis to be prolonged until 31 October 2020.

The seasonal agricultural workers, that are also registered at the labour agency, will also be entitled to heating allowances if they meet all other conditions and requirements for receiving them.

The Act also states that the employment contract for seasonal employment has a normal working time for the day up to eight hours, and the parties may arrange work for four or six hours. Seasonal contracts can last up to 120 days.

Use of measure

The Bulgarian employment agency, operating for the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, estimated that of nearly 100,000 unemployed registered at the labour offices in the country since 13 March 2020 (date of introducing COVID-19 measures), 1,637 people have expressed interest in working in agriculture. They account for 1.6% of the unemployed force. In April 2020, 97 employers announced 1,304 open vacancies for agricultural workers.

Between January 2020 and June 2020, more than 73,000 one-day contracts have been registered with 564 farmers, who grow mainly vines, apples and lavender. Another 66 farmers have applied for 2,500 contracts for more than one day for 29,500 man-days to work, mainly for harvesting the rose.

To support the contracting, the employment agency, issued an online contracting portal.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Unemployed
Sector specific set of companies
Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Social partners jointly
Employer
National funds
Regional funds

Social partners

Social partners' role in designing the measure and form of involvement:

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role Consulted Unknown
Form Unknown Not applicable

Social partners' role in the implementation, monitoring and assessment phase:

  • Unknown
  • Main level of involvement: Unknown

Involvement

The measure was thoroughly consulted with the representatives of the workers in the agriculture sector in Bulgaria.

Views and reactions

Representatives of the agricultural sector hope that this measure will support the employment in the sector, as it is usually hard to find seasonal workers.

Sectors and occupations

    • Economic area Sector (NACE level 2)
      A - Agriculture, Forestry And Fishing A1 Crop and animal production, hunting and related service activities
      A2 Forestry and logging
      A3 Fishing and aquaculture
    • Occupation (ISCO level 2)
      Agricultural, forestry and fishery labourers

Sources

  • 06 April 2020: Закон за изменение и допълнение на Закона за мерките и действията по време на извънредното положение, обявено с решение на Народното събрание от 13 март 2020 г (parliament.bg)
  • 07 April 2020: Земеделците ще могат да наемат безработни при облекчени услови (www.capital.bg)
  • 15 April 2020: Farmers can conclude short-term seasonal farm work for more than a day (www.gli.government.bg)
  • 27 April 2020: Seasonal workers: What is the interest in our country? (agri.bg)
  • 21 May 2020: Seasonal contracts: Is it easy to hire the unemployed? (agri.bg)
  • 26 May 2020: Harvest 2020: Seasonal contracts up to 120 days are now applied online (agri.bg)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), COVID-19: Unemployed can take seasonal work in agriculture without loss of benefits, case BG-2020-15/496 (measures in Bulgaria), COVID-19 EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, http://eurofound.link/covid19eupolicywatch

Disclaimer: This information has not been subject to the full Eurofound evaluation, editorial and publication process. All information is preliminary and subject to change.