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Lithuanian Supreme Court on requirement of employee’s consent to amendments to employment contract

The Supreme Court of Lithuania issues its interpretation of Article 45 of the Labour Code (LC).

Article 45(1) LC regulates when the written consent of the employee is required for changes to the terms and conditions of employment. Consent is required when the employer changes or adds to the essential terms of an employment contract, changes the working time arrangements or intends to transfer the employee to another place of work on the employer’s initiative. Terms of employment not mentioned in Article 45(1) LC may be changed by the employer’s decision if the rules governing them change or in cases of economic, organizational or industrial necessity. The employee must be informed about changes to these terms within a reasonable time.

In a case currently before the Lithuanian Supreme Court, the question is whether the employer had in fact changed an essential condition of the employment contract, namely the place of work. This was accompanied by the question whether written employee consent was required for transfer of an employee to another department and whether, because the employee’s consent was lacking, the employee was lawfully dismissed in line with Art. 57 para. 1 no. 3 LC, which states that the worker may be duly dismissed if refusing to work with changed necessary or additional conditions of the employment contract or to change the nature of the working time regime or the workplace.

In this case the employee was of the opinion that her dismissal was unjustified. Her job function had remained the same. Since only the workplace and the type of work organization changed, written consent of the employee was not required.
The Court of Cassation clarified the concepts of ‘place of employment’, ‘place of work’ and ‘locality’ and referred the case back to the Court of Appeal for fresh examination.

Thus, the term ‘locality’ is more general, whereas the terms ‘place of work’ and ‘place of employment’ are more restricted and refer to the address where the employee performs their duties or exercises their functions for a given period (day, week, month), in accordance with the employer’s instructions.

Relocation of an employee under Article 45(1) LC means that the employee is offered a change in the terms and conditions of employment such that the place(s) where they perform the functions of their job (the place(s) of work) for the duration of the employment contract, either for an indefinite period or for the remainder of the employment contract, is (are) at a location which is not as originally agreed upon in the contract, and is significantly distant from the original location, or where performing the functions of the job in the new location, even if not significantly distant, would be personally prejudicial to the employee.

The Supreme Court concluded that the case had been heard without sufficient evidence and referred the part of the case concerning the change of working conditions and the legality of the dismissal back to the Court of Appeal for a new hearing.

Source: 
Judgment of the Lithuanian Supreme Court of 16 June 2021 in civil case No e3K-3-150-313/2021

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