Employment and labour relations in Bulgaria traditionally have been dominated by the central government, with the rights and obligations of individual employees, organised labour, and management established by statute.

During the 1990s, a number of changes in Bulgarian labour law occurred in the following areas:

  • regulation of unemployment benefits

  • settlement of collective labour disputes

  • amendments to the 1986 Labour Code.

Labour Code amendments adopted during the 1990s introduced new concepts and substantially changed the nature of Bulgarian labour law, reflecting the ongoing transition to a more democratic and decentralised social system and market economy.

With these amendments, labour law in the 1990s was characterised as a mixture of traditional conservative norms, combined with a modest attempt to free the system from the existing bureaucracy and centralised governmental control.

To this extent, the labour law permits freedom of contract. However, despite the democratic trend reflected in the latest amendments to the Labour Code, there remain certain imperative legal norms that are not subject to negotiation by the parties in either individual or collective labour contracts.

In the period between 2001 and 2012, various labour law amendments were introduced. Certain legislative pieces were replaced, and new legislative Acts were adopted. These amendments were initiated so as to further develop and regularly accomplish the required harmonisation of Bulgarian labour legislation with the cumulative body of EU law.

The thrust of these changes has been the development of a more precise legal framework and a stricter regulatory policy in areas such as:

  • individual employment relationships

  • collective bargaining

  • encouragement of employment

  • anti-discrimination

  • social and health security

  • guaranteeing employee payments in case of bankruptcy of the employer

  • healthy and safe working conditions

  • information and consultations with employees

  • family allowances

  • social assistance.

In addition to the Constitution, Bulgarian labour law is currently contained in a variety of normative Acts issued by different State institutions and agencies. These Acts can be categorised as follows:

  • Laws of the National Assembly (the legislative body)

  • Decrees adopted by the former State Council (which controlled until April 1990)

  • Regulations and Ordinances promulgated by the Council of Ministers

  • Instructions issued by the Council of Ministers.

Fundamental pieces of legislation that regulate labour law relations at a national level include the following:

  • Labour Code

  • Law on the Settlement of Collective Labour Disputes

  • Law on Safe and Healthy Working Conditions

  • Law on Encouragement of Employment

  • Law on Protection Against Discrimination

  • Law on the Guaranteed Payment of Employees in Case of Employer Bankruptcy

  • Law on Diplomacy.

The first statute enacted in Bulgaria aimed to protect children and women in the workplace was adopted in 1905. The statute regulated the minimum working age, working hours, holidays and maternity leave.

In 1917, the Law on Health and Safety at Work was adopted, replacing the previous female and child labour law, as well as the Law on the Labour Inspectorate.

The Labour Code regulates all matters relating to the general working conditions and also to the individual employment contracts as well as the collective labour relations.

Labour Code amendments adopted during the 1990s introduced new concepts and substantially changed the nature of Bulgarian labour law, reflecting the ongoing transition to a more democratic and decentralised social system and market economy. 

The Labour Code is the principal piece of legislation that codifies the main aspects of employment law, and it is classified into chapters that deal with the following matters.

  • Associations of workers and employees.

  • Legal bases for the establishment of the employment relationship.

  • Financial liability of the employer.

  • Special protections for certain categories of employees and workers.

  • Supervisory measures for compliance with the employment legislation and administrative liability.

Employment law provisions are also contained in a large number of regulations that are issued by the Council of Ministers and other authorities.

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