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Stricter work safety rules

Hungary: Work safety representatives must be elected in companies with more than 20 employees

The new regulation imposes a significant extra burden on companies. From now on, work safety representatives must be elected at companies employing more than 20 people. Previously this was mandatory only for companies with over 50 employees. Although this function has existed since 2004, many employers still do not have work safety representatives. Organizing elections and providing the conditions is the employer’s obligation. This may result in a serious fine when not fulfilled.

Although the election is an individual right of employees, the law requires employers to organize elections. According to an interpretation supported by the Supreme Court, an employer cannot argue that it only has this obligation if employees intend to make use of their right, i.e. if they initiate an election. Only an employee can be elected as a representative: an external work safety expert cannot fill this position. Representatives can be elected for a five-year term, without extra payment, but are entitled to paid time off (10% of their monthly working time) and to protection against dismissal. Representatives’ activity is complex and includes examining the condition of workplaces and equipment, information gathering, counseling and providing opinions enabling and maintaining working conditions that are safe and non-harmful to health. At the same time, representatives can also provide their opinion on the appointment, employment and activity of persons participating in work safety tasks. Representatives’ consent is also to be obtained to issue internal work safety regulations.

If there is no work safety representative at a given employer, elections must be held before the end of this year. The employer must inform employees about the conditions and procedure for elections. Rules of the Labor Code regarding works councils and works representatives are applicable for the election and activity of representatives.  Employers should also examine whether they have an independent branch or department where a work safety representative should be elected once the conditions set by regulation are fulfilled.

If election of a representative is successful, a so called work safety committee based on equal representation of employees and employers needs to be set up additionally.

Furthermore, employers must ensure that representatives participate in a 16-hour training course within one year following their election and annually thereafter by 8 hours additional training.

Source: Act Nr. XCIII from 1993 on work safety, as amended from 08.07.2016