Q&A on the amendments to the labor code

No, it’s not a “slave law”.

In all the news coverage of the recent demonstrations in Budapest, we’ve heard a lot of references to the amendments to the labor code passed last week by the Hungarian Parliament.

Those amendments affect the amount of overtime that an employer may ask an employee to work. We’ve seen a lot of misinformation out there, so here’s a short Q & A to set the record straight.

Q: Is it true that the new Hungarian law raises the limit on overtime to a level higher than in any other European country?

A: No. In fact, EU rules allow up to 416 hours of overtime in a year, more than the 400 hours allowed in the new Hungarian regulation.

Q: Is it true that payment for overtime work can be settled after three years?

A: That’s false. Overtime should still be paid on a monthly basis.

Q: Are employees forced to work hundreds of hours of overtime?

A: No, the employee still has to agree to any overtime hours. The new regulations simply allow the employee to work more overtime hours in a year. The previous rules put a low ceiling on the total amount of overtime allowed, so even if someone wanted to work more and collect more overtime pay, he or she could not.

Q: Do the new rules force a 6-day work week?

A: No, they do not. The work week remains a five-day week.

Q: Is it true that the new laws limit the rights of labor unions?

A: No, that’s false. The unions have complained because the employer can agree directly with the employee without the union. But the rights of labor unions remain unchanged.

The new rules were set up mainly to help workers in small and medium-sized enterprises, as Prime Minister Orbán said, because as things stand now, they cannot work more even if they want to because of "stupid bureaucratic obstacles".

“The labor code amendments may not be in the interest of labor unions,” the prime minister said, “but it is the interest of the workers and the government are on the side of the workers.”