The Hungarian Government has decided to implement stricter lockdown rules, which apply from 8 March 2021. The most important changes, contained in Government Decree No. 104/2021. (III. 5.) (the ‘ Decree’) are summarised below.
In public and in public places, everyone must wear a mask, except for minors under the age of six. Further everyone shall keep a social distance of 1.5 metres from others, and shall limit contact to the smallest possible number of people, except for those living in a common household.
In total 30 categories of retail stores and service providers are allowed to remain open between 8 and 22 March 2021 (an additional provision for was made for flower shops to open on Women’s Day on 8 March 2021). All other retail stores and service providers must be closed.
The above rules do not apply to publicly funded healthcare providers and wholesalers (under s 2(18) of Act CLXIV of 2005 on commerce).
The Government is asking, but not compelling, employers to apply home office work for employees (‘Home Office’). Although, the Labour Code does not regulate Home Office, from our point of view, this phrase used by the Decree includes all types of remote work.
This means that, where an employer is able to ensure a healthy and safe working environment for workers at their contractual workplace, working at the employer’s premises is still possible and lawful.
Further, employers who wish to introduce or maintain Home Office still have the option to derogate from the statutory provisions on remote work until 23 May 2021, based on an agreement concluded with employees. Until 23 May 2021, the strict occupational health and safety rules of remote work do not apply either, and employees may choose their place of work in accordance with the employer’s guidance on healthy and safe working conditions.
The Government has made it mandatory for individuals employed in the public administration to work from home, using their own devices.
Kindergartens and schools are closed until 7 April. From an employment law perspective, this means that if supervision of children is not managed by educational establishments and parents cannot work, this is considered as a ‘family reason’ deserving special consideration under s55(1)(k) of the Hungarian Labour Code and the period of the employees’ absence will be deemed to be certified, but unpaid.
We note, that for the period when schools and kindergartens are closed, employers may choose to conclude an agreement with employees on a holiday schedule. The parties may also agree that this period is totally or partially paid by the employer.
It is possible the rules in connection with education may be extended to the period following 7 April 2021.
The Government has also introduced economic protection arrangements related to the stricter lockdown rules described above (in Government Decree No. 105/2021(III.5.)). Of these it is worth highlighting that undertakings whose primary activity is in a sector affected by the current closures can also apply for the sectorial wage subsidies for March 2021. They are also not obliged to pay social contribution tax on salaries paid to their employees for March.
The wage subsidy is 50% of the employee’s gross salary, and the eligibility criteria is that the employee’s salary must be paid for the period affected by the closure and that the employment relationship must be maintained (that is, it cannot be terminated either with notice or by mutual agreement until 30 April 2021.