The implementation of a four-day working week has been in an increasing trend in the developed European countries.
Serbia is not lagging behind. A small number of companies has started this scheme of reducing the number of hours of worktime per week in search of happier, healthier and more engaged staff. Various researches done throughout pilot projects allow employers to make decisions based on measurable data, taking into account positive and negative effects of the long-term implementation.
The emphasis of the four-day working week is on a better balance between private and business life, which would lead to greater employee motivation, higher quality of provided services, agility, mental health of employees and their responsibility, as well as better performance.
A five-day working week in Serbia is a matter of tradition and the current Labor Law was written keeping that principle in mind. We will therefore analyze the new work model through current regulations.
COMPLIANCE WITH LABOR LAW
Article 51 of the Labor Law, which concerns and defines full-time employment, stipulates that the full-time work consists of 40 work hours per week, and that is also possible to determine by a General Act that it is shorter than 40, but not shorter than 36 hours.
Four-day week feasible through 2 models
Observing the phenomenon of a four-day working week through the current labor legislation, the conclusion is that it stands in harmony with the Labor Law and that therefore it is possible to implement the concept following 2 models.
1. Full-time - A four day working week model with worktime of 9-10 hours would represent a full-time employment relationship.
2. Part-time - If the eight-hour worktime model is implemented, a four-day working week would represent 32 work hours, which modifies the regular working relationship. In this case, it would no longer be a full-time employment relationship, but a part-time employment relationship.
The possibility of choice is provided by the Labor Law in Article 55, which prescribes that a working week as a rule lasts for 5 working days, whereas the work day usually lasts for 8 hours, and that the schedule of the working week is as a rule determined by the employer. “As a rule” is the legal wording for allowing deviations from the same rule. An example can be found in the Paragraph 3 of the same Article stating that the schedule of worktime is determined by the employer.
The Labor Law has actually provided a certain framework when it comes to the worktime, yet in accordance with the current global practice where a business week, as per some unwritten rule, lasts for 5 days, Monday to Friday, 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week.
An important question arises as to which of the two models employers will choose, given that each model brings different consequences.
In case of a four-day working week with a daily worktime of 9 to 10 hours, the employment contract can survive in its original form and full scope. Employers should further investigate the scope and type of impact that such decision would make on an employee’s productivity.
In case the employer decides to apply the four-day working week model without increasing hours of worktime on a daily basis, ie the 8x4 model, certain changes in the employment contract would have to be made. According to the law in force, the employee would fall under the regime of part-time work, which opens the possibility for the employee to conclude a temporary contract with another employer, as provided in the Labor Law, Article 197.
This model would open the question of salary payment to the employee, since, according to the current legislation, the worktime is one of the elements for payment calculation.
In summary, according to the Labor Law in Serbia, a four-day working week is possible and enforceable. However, this practice opens some issues to be discussed. We can expect that the majority of employers will wait for the results of the research on its impact on employee productivity and the comments of employers, as well as the law experts that will have the task of answering questions about legal aspects and propose valuable amendments to the law.
Nikola Komnenović, Partner
Branka Dželajlija, Senior Associate
Aleksandra Mrdović, Junior Associate
*The information in this document does not represent legal advice and is provided for general informational purposes only.
**Partner, Senior Associate, Associate and/or Junior Associate refers to Independent Attorney at Law in cooperation with IVVK Lawyers.