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

Factsheet for measure HU-2020-17/722 Updated – measures in Hungary

Working time banking period raised in the pandemic situation

Munkaidőkeret hosszabbítása a veszélyhelyzetben

Country Hungary , applies nationwide
Time period Temporary, 25 April 2020 – 18 June 2022
Context COVID-19
Type Legislations or other statutory regulations
Category Employment protection and retention
– Working time and working time flexibility
Author Nóra Krokovay (KOPINT-Tárki) and Eurofound
Measure added 17 April 2020 (updated 15 June 2022)
Related ERM support instrument

Background information

Under the government decree 104/2020 which contains details on decree 47/2020 laying out the main economic COVID-19 defence measures, employers can raise the period of allocated cumulative working time (working time banking) to 24 months during the period of the COVID emergency. The measure was designed to make working arrangements more flexible for the employer to help protect jobs in companies where business has shut down or work reduced due to the pandemic.

Content of measure

The new measure states that the rules of the Labour Code capping the working time banking period at 4 months (or 6 months in some professions) will now not apply. The Labour Code (modified in late 2018) earlier allowed the working time banking frame to be raised to 36 months only by collective agreement. Now employers can use this method of working time arrangement for up to 24 months without signing/modifying a collective agreement. This means that an employer who is unable to give work to the employee during the pandemic period will continue to pay full wages, but can order extended working hours to make up for the loss when business returns to normal.

Updates

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

15 December 2021

Under govt decree 705/2021 and the amended decree 283/2020 the state of pandemic emergency has been extended until 18 June 2022.

30 September 2021

The state of danger has been extended several times, the latest end-date under Act 102/2021 is 1 January 2022. Government decree 104/2020 which allows working time banking periods to be raised to up to 24 months is in effect as a COVID-19 flexibility measure until the end of the state of danger.

In October 2021 the Vasas Trade Union protested against practices by employers in the automotive, machinery and electronics industries to demand that employees pay back wages paid to them for working time deferred due to the pandemic, but which they had not worked (within the two-year frame). The trade union says this practice is illegal and shows the failure of the temporary legislation. More than 10,000 workers may be affected, according to Vasas.

Use of measure

There are about 50 companies known to have taken advantage of this measure and extended working time banking due to COVID-19 in the first phase. These include 42 electronics, metal, machinery and car manufacturers. The Vasas union noted that this means in some places when business returns to normal after the pandemic slowdown, working time could grow to 10-12 hours a day, with no paid overtime and workers could only have on Sunday off in a month. Vasas was only able to be involved in negotiations about working time banking changes at one company, as trade union involvement, by the new law, is not compulsory. The trade union VDSZ said the measure was used mainly by the auto industry. They were involved in talks at 6 companies.

Target groups

Workers Businesses Citizens
Employees in standard employment
Does not apply to businesses Does not apply to citizens

Actors and funding

Actors Funding
National government
Trade unions
Company / Companies
Companies

Social partners

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

Trade unions Employers' organisations
Role No involvement Informed
Form Not applicable Not applicable

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

  • No involvement
  • Main level of involvement: Peak or cross-sectoral level

Involvement

Employers' organisation MGYOSZ was part of the COVID defence action group (financial section) where it had the opportunity to put forward proposals for COVID defense measures, however, the nature of these consultations did not feel genuine, according to interviews with partners.

The Permanent Consultation Forum of the Private Sector and the Government (VKF) meets regularly with employer and employee representatives both present, as well as the government, but trade unions also reported that no genuine consultation takes place there, only information is exchanged. At its meeting on 3 December 2020, the employer side urged the extension of working time banking regulations for 2021, which the employees side (MASZSZ, LIGA and Munkástanácsok) protested.

Views and reactions

Trade unions widely protested this measure, saying that it could “tie” the employee to the company for two years, if work not available now would have to be made up for in coming years. The MASZSZ union confederation recommended using the working time banking system until 31 December 2020 only, but this was not granted. Act 58/2020, which governs the duration of the measure, has been extended until July 2021. The union said the measure would not prevent any job cuts. A MASZSZ official called it an “extension of the ‘slave laws’ adopted last year” by tying the employee to the employer, which they believe is against EU norms. The Vasas trade union said the government had put the burdens of COVID-19 entirely on the employee side. MGYOSZ, a large EO, said the measure is likely to have only helped some companies and its real contribution to job retention is unknown.

Trade unions have vowed to challenge the measure before the European courts. The new provisions of Act 58/2020, in which the government extended certain measures until Dec 31 2020 as a new 'state of pandemic emergency', states in that a government office (of Békés county in south-east Hungary) would decide on requests by employers to use the 24-month working time banking without trade union involvement. VDSZ and other unions questioned the competence of such a small regional authority on such matters, and also criticised the government for going back on its earlier plans to give ministerial powers to make those decisions.

Sources

  • 18 March 2020: Government decree 47/2020 (EN)
  • 26 March 2020: Trade unions: New draft is like 'slave law 2.0' for workers
  • 14 April 2020: Emergency state: deviating from Labour Code (ado.hu)
  • 15 April 2020: MASZSZ: The government is crushing the 200-year-old achievements of unions
  • 25 April 2020: Government decree 104/2020
  • 18 June 2020: VDSZ: Regional government office to decide on working time banking
  • 02 July 2020: Unions: Slave law seen as magic but will have dire consequences
  • 04 December 2020: MSZSZ: 'Slave law' again on agenda for covid 2nd wave (a-munkáltatók újra a nagypénteki rabszolgatörvény bevezetéséért lobbiznak a szakszervezetek tiltakoznak (szakszervezetek.hu)
  • 14 April 2021: Act 58 of 2020 on temporary measures in a pandemic emergency (njt.hu)
  • 12 October 2021: Companies make workers pay back wages due to covid shortage (hungarytoday.hu)

Citation

Eurofound (2020), Working time banking period raised in the pandemic situation, measure HU-2020-17/722 (measures in Hungary), EU PolicyWatch, Dublin, https://static.eurofound.europa.eu/covid19db/cases/HU-2020-17_722.html

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