Greek labour law in a nutshell

Greek labor law is quite intricate and extensive, as it is based on a broad variety of sources, including national and international laws, Collective Labour Agreements, working practices and customs, law precedents and individual contracts. Moreover, a lot of controversial changes have been enacted lately as a consequence of the increased pressure upon Greece for reforms. A synopsis of such law is set forth below with a purpose to offering a very short and elementary introduction. The information below refers generally to dependent employment relationships, taking note however that special rules may apply to certain types of dependent work (e.g. sailors).

The employment contract

As a general rule the employment contracts are either fixed-term or open-ended. A fixed-term contract may be entered into for a reason and may be renewed as many times as needed, if such reason continues to exist. Otherwise, if there is no reason justifying the renewals of a fixed-term contract, it might be deemed as open-ended. Contracts of part-time employment or by rotation are also allowed by the law provided that the Labour Inspectorate is timely notified.

In principle, employment contracts are not required to be in writing except for part-time contracts and for the renewals of fixed-term contracts. However, the employer is obliged to deliver to the employee within two months as of the start of the employment a notice in which the main terms of the employment are laid down.

Recruitment formalities

The employer should notify the Manpower Agency of Greece (OAED) of the new recruitment within 8 days, the Labour Inspectorate within 15 days and register the employee immediately in the books of the Social Security Fund (usually IKA). Both, the employer and employee should have been fully registered in the records of Social Security Fund. The employer should keep submitting periodically information about the staff he employs by electronic means to the competent authorities (Social Security Funds etc.)

Under-age employees

With some limited exceptions, the rule is that an employee can not be less than 15 years’ old, considering that adulthood is set at 18 years. For the employment of a young worker (over 15 year’s old) there are special formalities as it is the issue of special book, the notification of the Labour Inspectorate about the nature of the work that will be assigned to the under-age employee, the carrying out of medical examinations etc.

Working time

As a rule, the law provides for maximum time work, 8 hours per day. However, by virtue of a National Collective Employment Agreement, the total weekly hours have been reduced to 40 and the working days to 5 per week.

Exceptions:

a) a 9 hour working day is permitted, where the total working time for the week does not exceed 40 hours.

b) over the course of a 6-month period, work can be increased by 2 hours a day (i.e. up to 10 hours) with a corresponding reduction in the working time each day by 2 hours during the next 6-month period (i.e. up to 6 hours). Instead of reduced employment, it is possible for rest days to be offered.

c) It is also possible to increase the work by up to 256 hours within a period of 8 calendar months, with a corresponding period of an accordingly reduced employment during the remaining months of the same calendar year.

Salary

The current National Collective Labour Agreement stipulates as minimum monthly salary for a worker that is over 25 years’ old without some specific expertise, the amount of € 586. The minimum salaries stipulated in the Collective Agreements for the specific sectors prevail over any individual agreement for a smaller salary.

If nothing different has been agreed between employer and employee, the usual practice is that the monthly salary is paid at the last day of the calendar month in the course of which the work has been offered.

Work from 41 to 48 hours per week is called extra-work (or overwork) and it is rewarded by an increase of the hourly wage at 20%. Work over 48 hours per week is called overtime and can not be more than 4 additional hours per day (12 hours per day in total). Overtime work is rewarded by an increase of the hourly wage at 40% up to 120 hours per year (maximum lawful number) and at 60% if it is more than that, upon permission of the authorities. In case of overtime work, the employer is obliged to follow strict formalities as it is the notification of the Labour Inspectorate and Ministry of Employment within the first 15 days of the next month and filling in a special book showing overtime work per employee. Overtime work that exceeds the lawful limits or for which the required formalities have not been kept are illegal and among others they are remunerated by an increase of the hourly wage at 80%.

Work on Sundays and Bank Holidays entitled to an extra charge of 75% of the hourly wage and work at night, to an extra charge of 25%.

Daily, Weekly and Yearly rest

As a general rule, the law provides that for work exceeding 6 hours per day, the employee is entitled to a break of 15 minutes which is not included in the working time and is not compensated. However, there are Collective Labour Agreements which provide otherwise for specific sectors.

Every week the employee should take a rest of at least 24 hours, which in principle should include Sunday.

The employee that has completed 12 months at work, is entitled to 20 working days of holidays per year, that may increase to 25 days, depending on the total years of work under the same employer.

The following days are national holidays: 25 March, 28 October, Easter Monday, 15 August, 25 & 26 December, 1 May, 6 January, Pure Monday, Monday Celebrating the Holy Spirit (the last two are not fixed on the same date of each year) and for retail outlets, Holy Friday up to 13:00 hours.

Other financial obligations

The employer is burdened with a financial participation in the Social Security Fund for each employee which is calculated on the basis of the salary paid.

In addition to the payment of the salary, the employer should pay allowances for summer holidays, Christmas and Easter that roughly may amount to the total of 2 monthly salaries.

Travelling allowances are equal to 1/25 of the monthly salary for each day, plus of course the out of pocket expenses of the employee.

Sickness

Sickness should be evidenced by a certificate from a doctor.

If the employee has been at the work for up to 4 years, he can be absent due to sickness for up to 1 month, for a working time of up to 10 years, the absence can last up to 3 months, for working time of up to 15 years, the absence can last up to 4 months and for a working time over 15 years, the absence can last up to 6 months. Violation of the said time limits may be considered as a tacit rescission of the contract. The employee can claim half of his pay for the first three days and full pay for 15 days for the first year in employment or 30 days for any year thereafter, less the amount which the employee received from his social security provider.

Maternity leave

Female employees are entitled to 17 weeks of maternity leave which is broken down to 8 weeks before the expected date of childbirth and 9 weeks thereafter.

A working mother is entitled for a period of 30 months as of the end of maternity leave, either to come to work 1 hour later or depart 1 hour earlier each day. Alternatively, she can agree with the employer to work for 2 hours less per day for the first 12 months and 1 hour less for the next 6 months. Alternatively, and subject to the consent of the employer, she can receive an approximately 3 months continuous paid leave. New mothers that are insured with the Social Security Fund may also obtain a special leave for the protection of the child which is paid by the said Fund.

New fathers are entitled to 2 days special paid leave for each child. They can also make use of the reduced working schedule of the mothers if the latter do not make use of it.

Internal rules & Disciplinary framework

A company can establish internal rules regulating several matters of day to day operation.

Disciplinary penalties can be imposed if there are relevant provisions in the internal rules of the company setting out the wrongdoings and the respective penalties (the most severe can be 10 days of suspension) and such rules have been laid down by taking into account the views of trade unions or working councils and have been approved by the Labour Inspectorate.

Warnings can be handed over to the employee and if it is expected that may be used in any future proceedings or are of importance consequence, it is advisable to be served through a Court Bailiff so as to ensure that the delivery can not be disputed.

Health & Safety

There is naturally extensive legislation as regards the protection of employees and/or consumers depending on the risk involved by the specific work activity. Even in enterprises of lower risk (e.g. retail shops) there is an obligation to employ a Safety Technician (such duties can be performed by an employee properly trained) who will check and advise the employer with regard to safety issues while if the business employs over 50 employees, it may need to appoint a Labour Doctor. Besides, the premises of the business may need to be certified for hygiene and disinfection and the authorities may survey the same at will. There are legal requirements for medical check ups of employees but only for business that are engaged in food and beverage activities or other specialized sectors (medical staff or employees engaged in heavy blue-collar work, sailors etc.)

Suspension

Business or undertakings that have suffered a reduction of their activity, can place a number of their employees on suspension for a time period that can not exceed 3 months. The same employee can not be suspended again for the next 3 ensuing months. The employer should notify accordingly the Labour Inspectorate, the Social Security Fund and the Manpower Agency of Greece (OAED). During suspension, the employee receives the half of his average earnings.

Termination of employment contract

The parties are free to terminate their contract without or under any terms and conditions they wish.

In a fixed term contract, either party can terminate prematurely the contract for a serious cause by giving a relevant written notice to the other party. The cause may be a serious misconduct or breach of a material obligation by the other party or even other objective reason for which no party is liable. Whether the cause justifies the termination is subject to the judgement of the Court and a compensation may be awarded to the innocent party for damages or losses depending on the cause.

In an open-ended contract, the first 12 months can be considered as a probation period in the sense that the employee can be dismissed freely without the need of previous notice or compensation from the employer. If the employment has lasted over 1 year, the employer can terminate it unconditionally only if has already pressed charges against the employee for a criminal offence which may be also a minor one if committed by the latter in the framework of the work.

Otherwise, the employer should offer a compensation that is calculated on the basis of the time that the employment has lasted and which may be reduced, if a prior notice is given to the employee. Indicatively for white-collar employees:

(a) In case of an employee that has worked for 1-4 years, the compensation without warning period is equal to 2 monthly earnings, for a working time period of 4-6 years the compensation is equal to 3 monthly earnings, for a working time period of 6-8 years, the compensation is equal to 4 monthly earnings and so on.

(b) In case of an employee that has worked for 1-2 years, the compensation amounts to 1 monthly earnings, if a notice has been given before 1 month, in case of an employee that has worked for 2-4 years, the compensation amounts to 1 monthly earnings, if a notice has been given before 2 months, in case of an employee that has worked for 4-5 years, the compensation amounts to 1 and ½ monthly earnings, if a notice has been given before 2 months and so on.

Collective redundancies

An employer that engages 20 to 150 employees can not dismiss more than 6 of them within a calendar semester while if he engages more than 150, he can dismiss up to 30 employees and up to 5% of the total staff.

Data protection

Restrictive covenants can be agreed that may include non-competition, non-solicitation and/or confidentiality clauses. Breach of the same may entitle the employer to damages or penalties if so has been agreed. The legitimacy of such clauses can only be determined ad hoc, taking into consideration several factors (time duration of restriction, extent of restriction, possible remuneration etc.).

On the other hand, the employee has the right of access to any personal information and documents held by the employer. Pre-employment checks with third parties are allowed with the consent of the prospective employee. The processing of data concerning the telephone or electronic communication of the employee is allowed to a minimum level and only if it is necessary for the smooth operation of the enterprise of the employer. Control of use of social media in or out the workplace can be allowed only if it is exceptionally necessitated by a superior interest of the employer and after the employee has been advised accordingly in advance.

Unions

There are first, second and third degree trade unions and they are regulated by law 1264/1982. First degree trade unions are made up by employees of the same company or same occupation or industry. Second degree trade unions (Federations) are made up by the ones of first degree and third degree trade unions (Confederations) are made by the ones of second degree. They are entitled to negotiate Collective Employment Agreements, declare strikes, request information from employers and consult with them about several significant labour issues etc. Members of the administration of trade unions enjoy a number of privileges as it is, additional leave and increased protection against dismissal. If there is no trade union in the sector, 20 at least employees can establish a working council but if there is a trade union, 50 of them are required to establish such council.  

By Kostas Spaidiotis

The present article should not be regarded as a substitute for professional advice and the author will not accept any liability for any information provided or views expressed.