Employment Relationships and Natural Disasters

Employment Relationships and Natural Disasters

Author: Gregor Novljan

Last weekend, a powerful weather storm struck Slovenia, leaving behind floods of significant proportions, which caused the destruction of numerous homes, infrastructure, business premises, and other property.

The process of mitigating the flood-related damages will impact the availability of a larger number of people over a certain period. From a labour law perspective, this usually manifests as disruptions in the work process and, not least, as an objective inability to perform work in cases where the employer’s business premises are damaged.

We have prepared a brief overview of labour law provisions, in accordance with the Employment Relationships Act, that are applicable in cases of natural disasters.

Regarding work organization, temporary changes to the type of work and the location of work are possible (work from home is also possible). The employment contract’s type and/or place of work can be temporarily altered without the employee’s consent, but only for the duration of the exceptional circumstances. Additionally, the employees may also be required to work beyond their regular hours or undertake specific tasks related to mitigating or preventing the consequences of the disaster. All of this is done with the aim of safeguarding the health and lives of people, property, and ensuring the continuity of the work process.

When dealing with absence from work, both the employee and the employer have various options, such as

  • utilizing annual leave (employees can use one day of annual leave at their discretion, but they must inform the employer at least three days in advance) or collective leave,
  • absence due to force majeure (employees are entitled to receive half of their regular pay, but no less than 70% of the minimum wage),
  • paid absence due to personal circumstances on the employee’s side (if employees are affected by a serious accident, they are entitled to paid leave for at least one working day), and
  • absence without pay (by agreement with the employer).

When the employer is temporarily unable to provide work for the employees, the employees can be assigned to wait for work. In such cases, they are entitled to a wage allowance equivalent to 80% of their average salary received in last three months, with a maximum duration of six months per calendar year.

Sectoral collective agreements can also specify additional options.

It is important that both employees and employers are familiar with their legal options during this challenging time. The most suitable option for them, however, depends on their specific needs and capabilities.