Οn 19 June 2021, the Law 4808/2021 (Government Gazette A 101, 19.06.2021) was published, introducing several important Greek labour legislation reform. The new provisions are effective immediately, unless the legislation states otherwise. The main provisions of the new Law are as follows.
Companies employing more than 20 persons, within three months of publication of the Law, shall adopt a policy to prevent and combat violence and harassment in the workplace, in which the zero tolerance of these forms of behaviour shall be stated and the rights and obligations of employees and employers to prevent and deal with such incidents or behaviours shall be identified. Similarly, within the same timeframe, companies employing more than 20 persons shall adopt a policy concerning the management of internal complaints on incidents of violence and harassment.
It establishes a new Independent Administrative Authority for the Labour Inspectorate, which will replace the Labour Inspectorate Body, with functional independence, administrative and financial autonomy, with the aim of ensuring the application of employment legislation.
It establishes a digital employment card to record employees’ actual working time, expected to be implemented within the first semester of 2022, and upgrades the ERGANI information system (ERGANI II).
The Law abolishes the distinction between white-collar and blue-collar employees as from 1 January 2022 regarding the calculation of severance pay.
It introduces a compulsory break after four consecutive hours of work, which should be neither shorter than 15 minutes nor longer than 30 minutes.
The Law grants employees and/or employers the right to request (in a court of law) the payment of additional compensation in lieu of reinstatement in case of invalid dismissal. The amount of the additional compensation may neither be less than regular pay corresponding to three months of employment nor more than twice the statutory compensation in the event of dismissal.
The Directive (EU) 2019/1158 concerning the balance between professional and private life for parents and carers is incorporated and key provisions (directly from the publication of the Law) are introduced.
The Law covers protection against dismissals as follows:
Annual leave may be taken for every year until completion of the first quarter of the following calendar year (and not until the 31st of December of each calendar year in the version in force until now).
The Law allows the employer not to accept any work from the employee during the notice period in case of termination of the employment. In such case, the employee has the right to work for another employer during the notice period.
It increases permitted overtime from two to three hours per day and from 120 to 150 hours per year for all sectors of the economy. In addition, the annual overtime limit may be increased with authorisation from the competent department of the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.
It requires compensation in cases of illegal overtime equal to the employee’s paid hourly wage increased by 120% (instead of 80% as was in force up to now).
The Law allows individual employees and their respective employers to agree to implement a working time arrangement.
It introduces new rules regarding telework, telework costs, fee for the use of the employee's home, the right to disconnect and in respect of the employee's private life and personal data.
It expands the number of sectors that may operate on Sundays.
Lastly, the Law introduces extensive arrangements concerning the organisation, action and operation of legally registered trade unions.
The following measures have been taken temporally by the Greek government since March 2021 to cope with the COVID-19 crisis:
Law 4808/2021 provides, as a permanent measure, that the employer may unilaterally impose telework only for reasons of protection of public health, while the employee may unilaterally opt for telework, at his or her request, in the event of a documented risk to his or her health that shall be avoided if he or she provides his or her work through telework instead of at the employer’s premises, with such arrangement to continue for as long as this risk lasts. In case the employer disagrees, the employee can request the resolution of the dispute by the Labour Inspectorate.
The main employee classification in Greece is related to the nature of the work provided. "Blue-collar" employees are considered to be those who perform manual work, with duties that do not require special educational qualifications; "white-collar" employees are considered to be those who provide mainly professional/intellectual work, who are eligible to take initiatives in their work and whose duties require specific skills and qualifications, depending on the job position. Furthermore, a white-collar employee is paid with a monthly salary, whereas a blue-collar worker is paid with a daily/hourly wage. The aforementioned distinction traditionally resulted in unequal treatment. The recent Labour Law 4808/2021 aims at reducing inequalities by providing the same legal treatment to both white-collar and blue-collar workers.
Another employee distinction relates to the managerial duties of an employee. Executive employees usually occupy senior positions in the employee hierarchy, performing tasks that are crucial for the course of business, freely engaged in the decision-making process, thus contributing decisively to business policy. Their power to decide upon recruitments and dismissals at their own discretion, make significant corporate decisions and generally to exercise employer rights vis-à-vis other employees are also indicative of their status within the corporation. However, due to their status, they are excluded from the special protection afforded to other employees regarding working time limits and undertaking work on Sundays and at night, while remaining liable for any violation of labour law against third parties. Executive employees have special employment contracts, which usually include non-competition clauses, and usually receive a considerably higher remuneration than the rest of the employees.
Pursuant to Law 4808/2021, the employer shall be obliged to declare on the ERGANI system the acquisition and loss of the status of the person who holds a position of supervision or management or trust in the company, pending the issuance of a ministerial decision that will set out the elements determining whether the employee fulfils the above qualities or not.
Employment contracts may be concluded for a fixed or indefinite term. A contract is deemed to be of indefinite time when neither of the parties have agreed on a certain duration, nor is its duration inferred from the type and purpose of the work; on the contrary, a fixed-term contract expires upon the lapse of its contractual term or when the contractual work agreed upon is completed. The aforementioned classification is of high importance under Greek employment law, as it affects the termination requirements and conditions.
Indefinite contracts are terminated via a unilateral direct declaration of intent (termination), which can be initiated by either party, but when originated from the employer’s side is subject to a number of restrictions and formalities. Under Greek law, the first 12 months of employment are considered as a probationary period for employees with indefinite duration contracts, during which the employer may terminate them without any prior notice and without any severance payment, unless otherwise agreed by the parties.
In case of fixed-term contracts, their contractually agreed expiration date results in their termination. However, they may be exceptionally terminated for a serious cause, without any prior notice nor severance. If such cause cannot be proved, the employer is obliged to pay to the employee all due salaries until the agreed expiration date. Furthermore, specific requirements exist for the renewals of fixed-term contracts, as the renewal needs to be in writing, otherwise it is deemed to be a permanent one. A fixed-term contract can be renewed no more than three consecutive times during a total period of three years and cannot exceed a maximum duration of three years. A break of more than 45 calendar days is required in order to avoid the characterisation of consecutive fixed-term contracts as contracts of indefinite duration. In general, Greek law impedes employers from entering into successive fixed-term contracts with employees when no justified reason exists.
Employment contracts may be agreed orally, or in writing upon parties’ agreement or special law provisions (eg, in case of fixed-term or part-time employment contracts). Pursuant to Law 4808/2021, the conclusion of an employment contract through the ERGANI system replaces the written form.
Notification of Employment Terms
The employer is obliged to notify the employee in writing within two months, as of the commencement of the employment relationship, about the main employment terms and conditions (Presidential Decree 156/1994). The minimum and necessary content of this information is:
Additionally to the obligations of P.D. 156/1994, special provisions and deadlines are set in case of commencement of telework by virtue of Law 4808/2021. In particular, the employer is obliged to inform the employee in any appropriate way, including by email, the working conditions that differ due to teleworking, which include at least the following:
Aspects of the above that do not relate individually to the employee can also be disclosed through posting on the internal computer network (intranet) of the company or by a relevant business policy. The teleworking agreement does not affect the employment status and type of employment contract of the employee but only changes the way in which the work is performed.
Both the employment contract and the employment announcement must be uploaded to the ERGANI II system, pursuant to the above law.
Statutory Working Hours and Relevant Provisions
The statutory working time of a full-time employee is 40 hours per week allocated in a five or six-day work schedule. In case of a five-day schedule, daily work is eight hours per day; in case of a six-day schedule, daily work is six hours and 40 minutes per day.
Article 41 of Law 1892/1990, as amended and in force, provides for shorter daily and weekly working hours in case of full-time work. In the context of a working time arrangement provided for under the above article, a four-day working week may also constitute full-time employment, upon specific agreement between the employer and employee. Such employment arrangement must be agreed in writing between the parties, upon an employee’s request. The application of shorter daily and weekly working hours for full-time work is possible by way of a collective labour agreement, an arbitral award or individual employment agreements. Termination of the employment by the employer due to the fact that the employee did not submit a request for such an arrangement is invalid.
When the continuous working day lasts for more than four hours, a break of at least 15 minutes and a maximum of 30 minutes is provided for, which does not constitute working time.
Full-time employees who are employed with a daily working schedule which is split for all or some days of the week shall be entitled to a rest of at least three hours between the two parts of their daily work schedule.
A part-time employment contract should be concluded in writing and notified to the labour authorities through the ERGANI platform.
Part-time employees enjoy the same employment rights as full-time employees. Part-time employees can provide additional work by exception if they agree, provided that their working schedule is not continuous to the working schedule of the same day and provided that the conditions of daily rest are respected. Every hour of additional work in the event of part-time employment is compensated at the agreed hourly rate increased by 12%.
Up to one additional hour of work each day (nine hours per day in case of five working days or eight hours per day in case of six working days per week), requires (i) the prior notification of any overwork to the Ministry of Labour through the ERGANI platform before its realisation through the submission of the new E8 form, and (ii) it is compensated at the agreed hourly rate increased by 20%. On the contrary, working more than 45 hours for a five-day working week and more than 48 hours for six-day working week is considered overtime, which is analysed below.
The following applies to overtime:
Statutory Minimum Salary
The statutory minimum salary for white-collar workers and the statutory minimum wage for blue-collar workers across the country, without any age discrimination, is currently set at EUR650.00 per month and EUR29.04 per day respectively; forthcoming changes with regard to a 2% increase in the minimum wage from 1 January 2022 have been announced by the Greek state.
The exact salary amount may be determined by individual or collective agreements, but it is not permissible to set a regular monthly salary or full-time salary below the legally defined minimum wage and salary.
Greek law provides for a Christmas, an Easter and a vacation bonus. The employees are entitled to receive 12 monthly salaries per year, plus (i) one monthly salary as a Christmas bonus, (ii) a monthly salary as an Easter bonus and (iii) half a monthly salary as a vacation bonus. This amounts, in total, to 14 monthly salaries per year. An employee is entitled to receive 100% of the Christmas bonus if he or she has worked continuously from May 1st to December 31st, and 100% of the Easter bonus if he or she has worked continuously from January 1st to April 30th. If the employee has worked fewer days within the above reference periods, then he or she is entitled to receive the respective proportion of same.
These are benefits granted to employees at their employer’s discretion, namely without any legal or contractual obligation. Therefore, the employer can revoke them at any time, as long as such reservations have been made from his or her part. Otherwise, there is high possibility of becoming the subject of a binding tacit agreement due to their continuous and constant granting.
Due to the financial crisis since 2010 and the implementation of the Midterm Fiscal Strategy Framework in Greece, substantial restrictions on salaries and on any kind of remuneration and level of compensations (especially for public undertakings) have been introduced by the government through a wide range of legislation.
The Greek government, taking into account the development of the Greek economy during the years of economic crisis, has from time to time taken measures aiming to improve the working conditions of employees. Indicatively, in 2019, the Greek government proceeded to increase the statutory minimum salary by 11% (from EUR586.08 per month to EUR650.00 per month). Recently, an additional increase in the statutory minimum salary has been announced by the Greek government with the aim of financially supporting the workforce.
All employees are entitled to annual leave. The employer is obliged to grant a fixed number of annual vacation days with pay to his or her employees, depending on their years of service with the company or previous service.
Employees having a minimum of 12 years of working experience, or who have been working for at least ten years with the same employer, are entitled to 25 vacation days if they have a five-day working week and 30 days if they have a six-day working week.
The time of its granting is agreed between the employer and employee, with the first being obliged – upon the employee’s request – to grant it within a period of two months. Nevertheless, at least half of the personnel must receive their annual leave between the 1st of May and the 30th of September. Lastly, pursuant to the new governing Law 4808/2021, the entitled annual leave per year ought to be granted within the first quarter of the following calendar year; if not, the claim for leave converts into a monetary one.
The above financial benefits are paid in advance; if the employer refuses to grant his or her employee their annual days of leave, he or she is liable for compensation for such ungranted days of annual leave with a 100% increase.
If the employee has been employed by the company for at least one year, and under the condition that he or she has already worked for ten days for the employer, he or she is entitled to be remunerated for a maximum of one month of absence due to sickness. After the lapse of this period, the employer has no obligation to pay the employee any salary for the rest of his or her absence due to his or her sickness. If the employee has been employed by the company for less than a year, he or she is entitled to be remunerated for a maximum of half a month of his or her absence. The total amount payable by the employer is reduced by the relevant amount paid by the Social Security Fund.
Leaves on work-life balance are provided by Greek Law 4808/2021, which transposed the Directive 2019/1158 (EU) on work-life balance for parents and carers, as follows.
Each working father is entitled to paid leave of 14 days on the occasion of the birth of his child. The leave may be granted partly before or in full only after the child’s birth and is of a mandatory nature. Furthermore, its granting is irrespective of the employee’s marital or family status, as well as the length of his service. This right extends to cases of adoption or foster care of children until the age of eight.
Each working parent has an individual right to parental leave of four months for the upbringing of his or her child until the completion of the eighth year of its life. The leave may be granted partly or in full, under the condition that the employee has been occupied by the same employer for at least one year. The employee-parent is entitled to the respective allowance, subsidised by the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED) for the first two months; or the non-subsidised remaining time, the parent may address the matter with his or her employer or insurance body. The parental leave must be announced to the ERGANI system.
Each employee who has fulfilled six months of occupation is entitled carers’ leave of five days per year, in order to provide personal care or support to someone who is in need of significant care or support due to a serious medical issue, as stated by the medical report.
Female employees are entitled to 17 weeks of maternity leave, which is granted in two stages, commencing eight weeks before the expected date of confinement and ending nine weeks after the delivery.
Additionally, upon the parties’ agreement, the following arrangements can be concluded. The employee may request to work two hours less per day for the first 12 months and then one hour less per day for the following six months. Alternatively, the employee may convert the reduced working hours to a continuous paid leave instead.
Female employees who had a baby through a surrogacy arrangement or adopted a child up to the age of eight also fall within the scope of the above.
Special Maternity Protection Leave
Upon the expiration of the standard maternity leave, new mothers are entitled to special maternity protection leave of six-month duration. During that period, the employer is not bound to pay any salary to the employee, since it is a benefit provided by the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation. The allowance granted by OAED equals the statutory minimum salary. If the employee does not wish to use the entirety of this leave, the rest of the days or months cannot be transferred to another time period. Law 4808/2021 extends the range of these provisions to all female employees who had a baby through a surrogacy arrangement or adopted a child up to the age of eight.
Pre-natal check-up leave without any pay cut is subject to the employer’s approval.
Other Parental Leave
Working parents (either one of them but not jointly) are entitled to childcare leave for the period of 30 months after the expiration of maternity leave or special maternity protection leave or the above-mentioned parental leave as reduced working hours.
Employees with children up to 18 years of age who are students may take the day off or be absent for a few hours upon employer’s approval, in order to visit their children’s school to be informed for their children’s performance. The leave is paid by the employer and amounts to four working days per year.
In the event of their child’s illness, each employee is entitled to an unpaid leave of six working days subject to prior approval in order to address their children’s needs. The amount of leave days increases to eight when a parent has two children and to 14 days for more than two children.
Working parents with children up to 18 years of age who suffer more severe diseases requiring blood transfusion or dialysis, a neoplastic disease, or a disease that requires a transplant are granted a leave of ten working days per year.
Working parents are entitled to a special parental unpaid leave, in case of hospitalisation of the child, regardless of his or her age, due to illness or accident that necessitates the immediate presence of the employee, for as long as the treatment lasts but not exceeding 30 working days per year.
Working parents, who have suffered the loss of their partner, and unmarried parents who have the sole custody of their child, are granted leave of six working days per year, with remuneration, in addition to that entitled by other provisions. A young parent with three children or more is entitled to a leave of eight working days per year.
Leave for Reasons of Force Majeure
Up to two times per year and up to one working day at a time, the working parent or carer is entitled to time off from work, with full pay, for reasons of force majeure related to urgent family matters in case of illness or accident, which necessitates the immediate presence of the employee
In case of marriage or civil partnership the employee is entitled to paid leave of six working days (in a six-day working system) or five working days (in a five-day working system).
Trade Union Officials’ Leave
Trade union officials are entitled to specific leave, depending on their capacity in the trade union and the number of the union’s members.
Death of Close Relative Leave
In case of the death of a close relative (ie, husband or wife, child, parents or siblings), the employee is entitled to a special paid leave of two days).
Employees who attend a public school or university are entitled to a special leave of up to 30 days per year to focus on their exams. During that period the employee is paid by the Greek Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED).
For postgraduate students, the study leave amounts to ten days per year and is considered as unpaid leave while under-aged students (those who have not yet turned 18) attending school, college or university who are also working are entitled to at least 14 days’ leave (taken in one continuous block or separately) in order to sit for examinations. Responsibility for payment is not borne by the employer but is covered by the OAED.
All employees are entitled to election leave with pay, for all the necessary transportations to be made in order to exercise their electoral rights, depending on the distance travelled. The exact number of leave days is determined by a Ministerial Decree.
Confidentiality – Non-disparagement Obligations
The employee is obliged to abstain from any act which entails the risk of information leakage. Each piece of information that includes business secrets must be treated with confidentiality. In order to avoid any misinterpretations, the parties may contractually agree on the context and extent of this obligation (confidentiality clauses). Furthermore, the employee is obliged to refrain from statements or disparaging declarations that may damage the reputation or credibility of his or her employer. It is common practice for relevant clauses to be included to the employment contracts.
As a general rule, the employee is deemed fully liable for damages that he or she intentionally caused to the employer; however, in cases of negligence, the latter may not be held liable by the court. Furthermore, the judging court may allocate the damages between the parties.
During the employment relationship, the employee is obliged to abstain from activities or actions that are competitive to his or her employer’s undertaking. This is a consequent obligation which derives from the general principle of good faith (Article 288 GCC) and, therefore, there is no need for it to have been explicitly agreed.
Non-compete clauses usually aim at the protection of reasonable professional interests of the employer. However, non-compete clauses addressed to employees with specific professional expertise, could be, in effect, equivalent to prohibition of professional practice.
No specific legal framework exists for non-compete/non-solicitation restrictions. Therefore, the employee’s protection against non-compete clauses is granted by the general provisions of the Greek Civil Code setting limits on the private autonomy (Article 178, 179 GCC). Greek courts have ruled that in order for a non-compete/non-solicitation clause to be reasonable, the following requirements must be met:
The relevant assessment shall be made in concreto, by taking into consideration, inter alia, the age of the employee, the amount of the consideration, the position of the employee in the undertaking, etc.
Non-solicitation clauses are treated in the same way as non-competition clauses. (Please refer to 3.1 Non-competition Clauses).
In Greece, privacy is a constitutional right (Article 9, 9A GC) that all citizens enjoy. Employees have the right to privacy everywhere, including in the workplace. However, such right is not absolute and has to be balanced with the employer’s right to ensure the effective operation of his or her business. The aforementioned right is safeguarded by Greek Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights (Article 8). With regard to electronic communications (emails, internet, location data, etc), Greek privacy and data protection legislation consists notably of Law 3471/2006 “on the protection of personal data and privacy in the electronic communications’ sector”, which transposed (EU) Directive 2002/58/EC into Greek legislation.
Law 2472/1997, which implemented the Directive 95/46/EC, was the first Greek law for the protection of individuals from the processing of personal data. By this law, the Hellenic Data Protection Authority was established.
In 2016, the General Data Protection Regulation (Regulation (EU) 2016/679) (GDPR) entered into force and, following a two-year transition period, became directly applicable law in all member states of the European Union on 25 May 2018, including Greece, without requiring implementation by EU member states through national law. Following the GDPR, on 28 August 2019 the Greek Law 4624/2019 entered into force. That Law abolished the previous legal framework of Law 2472/1997, except for specific provisions. It regulates the operation of the Hellenic Data Protection Authority, introduces GDPR supplementary rules and transposes the Law Enforcement Directive into Greek Law.
Article 27 of this Law contains specific provisions regarding processing of personal data (including sensitive data) in the workplace, which should only be made for purposes related to the employment relationship and under specific conditions. Employers should ensure compliance with the general principles for the processing of personal data set out in the GDPR. The above apply to all employees regardless of the specific kind of employment relationship or contract οr service contract in the public and private sector and of the validity of the contract, as well as to job applicants and to former employees.
In order to control the labour market, restrictions are in place when it comes to the employment of foreign workers. Under Greek law there are different provisions and restrictions applicable, depending on whether a foreign national qualifies as an EU or European Economic Area (EEA) citizen or a non-EU/EEA citizen. In particular, no visa or other equivalent documentation is required for EU and EEA citizens – a valid identity card or EU citizen passport suffices and means they can freely reside and work in Greece. They have the right to free movement and access to work for up to three months. In case of surpassing the above-mentioned period, an EU national registration certificate of indefinite period of time is required to be issued by the police department of their residence.
On the contrary, non-EU/EEA citizens are subject to more restrictions in order to enter the country for work. In particular, they must be provided with a visa before travelling to Greece by the Greek Embassy or Greek Consulate of the country of their residence. The duration of a visa is three months. Within that period, the non-EU/EEA citizen must submit, to the competent authority (the competent Decentralised Administration and/or the Ministry of Immigration and Asylum), all required documentation for the issuance of the relevant residence permit with employment rights (if this is necessary, which will depend on the type of visa in question). Given that the employment of non-EU nationals in Greece is heavily regulated, only certain types of visa and/or residence permit provide employment rights.
Visa (Type D)
The main type of residential work permit for non-EU/EEA citizens is the one for dependent employment. Under Greek Law, within the last quarter of every year, a joint ministerial decision is issued regarding the maximum number of jobs for salaried employment by region and specialty jobs addressing the employment needs in Greek territory. On that note, employers interested in occupying non-EU nationals should apply to the Decentralised Administration of their place of residence by co-submitting a valid work contract, on which it is clearly stated the monthly remuneration of the person to be employed and a tax certificate where it is evidenced that the employer can actually pay this remuneration.
The General Secretary of the competent Decentralised Administration issues an act approving the employment of the third-county national only if the specialty of employment is included in the above joint decision and there are still vacancies. The relevant approval act is forwarded, together with the employment contract signed by the employer, to the competent Greek consular authority.
The competent Greek consular authority summons the interested non-EU nationals, for whom the act of approval has been issued for entering into Greece in order to provide dependent employment. Applicants must appear in person in order to sign the relevant employment contract and be granted a visa.
Special Purpose Residence Permit
Upon the obtainment of a visa, a special residence permit may be granted to non-EU citizens who wish to be employed in Greece, pursuant to special legislation, interstate agreements or for the serving of public interest, culture, sports and national economy. In the scope of this category fall members of a board of directors, shareholders, managers, legal representatives and senior executives operating in Greece.
The blue card is granted to non-EU nationals who enter Greece for the purposes of highly qualified employment.
Intracompany Transfer Permit
Α special permit (visa) is granted to non-EU citizens in order to be employed in an entity based in Greece under the condition that the latter belong in the same group of companies with the (former) employing entity located in a third country. This group of employees shall act as executives, as a qualified employee or as a trainee.
Trade unions aim at safeguarding and promoting the employees’ interests of a labour, economic, insurance, social and syndicalist nature, while it is forbidden by law to exercise gainful activity. Two of their most important functions are the conclusion of Collective Labour Agreements and the declaration of strike action (ie, withdrawal of labour). The employees’ trade unions are composed by employees working in the same economic sector or to the same employer in a relationship of dependent employment. These organisations are governed by the provisions of Law 1264/1982, as amended and in force by virtue of Law 4808/2021 and complementary with the provisions of Civil Code.
Trade unions are entitled to independently form their constitutions and organise accordingly their operation, as well as to delegate freely their representative bodies. The employer may not prevent the free exercise of employees’ right to establish and participate in a trade union. Both the employer and the state ought to abstain from any act obstructing the trade union activity.
The trade unions are classified into three levels in Greece: first-level trade unions, which are established by employees of a business sector, a profession or a company; second-level trade unions (federations or labour centres); and third-level trade unions (confederations), which are established by unions of federations and labour centres. The General Confederation of Greek Workers (GSEE) is set by law as the third-level trade union in Greece for private sector employees. The Civil Servants’ Confederation (ADEDY) is another confederation, representing public sector employees.
Apart from the aforementioned trade unions, according to the Law 1767/1988 as in force, under which the No 135 International Labour Agreement was ratified, there is also another institution for representing the employees in the undertakings. Pursuant to the above law, the constitution and operation of the Works Councils is established, namely freely elected representatives directly designated by the undertaking’s employees.
The operation of Works Councils is both participative and consultative. It aims at informing and updating the employer on issues of employment relations and work organisation, as well as on the improvement of working conditions in relation to the development of the undertaking. The Works Council’s operation does not negate the purpose, means and rights of trade unions. Any agreements between the employer and Works Councils do not prevent trade unions from seeking more favourable arrangements for the employees via collective agreements.
Collective labour agreements in Greece are distinguished as follows.
A collective labour agreement may include various provisions regarding minimum salaries and benefits, as well as provisions governing the entire spectrum of the employment relationship (eg, employees’ leaves).
Organisation for Mediation and Arbitration (OMED)
Mediation is the act of collective bargaining conducted by a mediator, which aims at facilitating the parties to sign a Collective Labour Agreement (CLA).
Arbitration is the process of resolving collective labour disputes by the decision of either an arbitrator or a three-member Arbitration Committee, or a five-member Arbitration Committee (if an appeal is filed), provided that the parties have not concluded a CLA at the mediation level.
The Arbitral Decision substitutes the lack of parties’ agreement. Therefore, it is assimilated to a CLA and is binding for the parties involved in the relevant process. The content of the arbitral decision is absolutely identical to the CLA’s one.
Under Greek Law, it is of great importance to distinguish between a termination for convenience and a termination for good cause, as it determines the degree of dependence on the motivation as a pre-condition for the validity of the termination. In principle, terminations for convenience do not require a specific reason. However, in the interest of limiting the abusive exercise of a right, Greek case law has set out a number of substantial restrictions with their common denominator being the existence of a justified cause, which is always judged objectively. On the contrary, the validity of the termination for cause requires the existence of a material ground.
Any incidents deemed as motivation for termination must have occurred prior to the exercise of the respective right. Subsequent events are not taken into account, but may give ground to a new termination. Furthermore, the knowledge of these incidents by the complainant is not required. In case of a trial for the validity of the termination, the complainant may also refer to facts that came to his or her knowledge at a later time.
The procedure to be followed varies depending on whether it is a termination for convenience (justified cause) or for cause (serious cause). In the first case, the following prerequisites must be met:
In the second case, severance is not required.
There is a special legal framework governing collective redundancies, which applies if both qualitative and non-quantitative criteria are met, pursuant to Greek Law 1387/1983, as amended and in force. The ratio of redundancies should be within the sphere of the employer, while the number of redundancies should not exceed six employees per month in companies occupying 20 to 150 people or 5% of the staff, up to 30 employees per month in companies with more than 150 employees.
Specific information and consultation requirements exist for collective dismissals and notifications to Supreme Labour Council (SLC). In general, the procedure is very strict. If the employer fails to fully comply with its statutory obligations, the terminations may be considered null and void.
The employer may opt to terminate the employee either with or without prior notice. The employer’s notice period in the case of an employee’s termination is specifically provided by law and according to Law 4808/2021 is also provided for blue-collar workers. The notice periods vary depending on the employee's years of service with the company.
Notice periods are as follows:
The date of termination is considered the date of granting of the notice and the payment of the statutory severance must take place upon the expiration of the notice. In the case of a termination with the statutory notice, the statutory severance requirement is reduced to 50%.
According to Law 4808/2021, in case of termination with prior notice, the employer may exempt the employee from the obligation to provide its work, in part or in full. In this case, the employee's salary is paid in full until the expiration of the notice period and the employer does not become overdue in accepting the job. At the same time, the employee has the right to embark on a job with a different employer, without this affecting the results of the termination and the amount of compensation to be paid.
Under the current legal framework, the existence of a serious cause, although not required for the termination of employment contracts of indefinite-term, is a mandatory condition of validity for the termination of fixed-term contracts before their expiry date (extraordinary termination). The content of the serious cause arises by case law.
Moreover, even in case of indefinite-term contracts, where the termination is a unilateral, non-causative legal act, the employer should be able to rebut the employee’s allegations in the case of any potential litigation. Additionally, in the case of dismissal for performance or behaviour reasons, the granting of previous warnings to the employee is advisable, so as the employer be able to prove that the decision for termination was the ultima ratio.
In case of collective redundancies, the employer is obliged to prove in case of a litigation that the selection criteria provided by law (Law 1387/1983) where followed and it was the ultima ratio as they were no redeployment possibilities.
The employment contract is terminated upon receipt of the notice by the other party. The statutory termination form (the E6 form) must be signed by both parties otherwise the employer must serve it at the employee’s residence through a court bailiff. The above document must be uploaded through the electronic platform of the Ministry of Labour, the ERGANI system, within four working days from the termination of the contract.
The consequence of a (valid) termination for breaching any contractual term is the obligation of the violator to compensate the other party, while if the serious cause is due to a change in the personal or property relations of the employer, the court may award reasonable compensation to the employee.
The employment contract, regardless of whether it is of definite or indefinite term, may be terminated by way of a new opposite agreement. In order for a company to avoid litigation risks, it may conclude with its employee a separation agreement, which will include specific waivers regarding the validity of the termination, as well as the non-existence of any claim against the company. The agreement must reflect the true will of the parties, being free of any defects. In practice, the two parties mutually waive any claims arising from the employment contract and agree to a "generous" compensation package, usually as a motivation for the employee to accept such an agreement upon offer of the company. Such agreements are mostly take place in case of redundancies, as well as in terminations of executives of a company.
The termination agreements of the employment contract are equated with the resignation of the employee. Τherefore, the employer is duly obliged to notify the Ministry of Labour by uploading the E5 form, signed by both parties, in the ERGANI platform within four working days.
Under Greek law, certain categories of employees are shielded with increased protection against redundancies, which is justified by their status:
The contracts of the employees' representatives can be terminated in face of a significant cause, which falls into the scope of an a posteriori judicial judgment.
Fixed-Term Employment Contracts
Fixed-term employment contracts may be terminated before their expiration date due to serious cause (eg, breach by the employee or the employer of essential terms of the contract, improper and abusive behaviour of one party), without recovery.
The innovation on the part of the employer of a serious reason is also examined under Article 281 GCC, according to which exercising a right is prohibited in case it manifestly exceeds the limits imposed by good faith or morality or social and economic purpose of the right. Indicatively, the case law has considered as grounds of a wrongful dismissal claim:
In case of lack of a serious reason for the early termination of a fixed-term employment contract, the termination of such employment contract is considered null and void. Therefore, the employment contract is considered as not terminated and the employee still has right to salary as provided by the law. In general, an employee termination can be challenged by the employee within three months as of the termination date, claiming that it was illegal and abusive. Τhe employee may request to continue to provide his or her work to the employer until the expiration date of his or her employment contract and in case the employee refuses to accept the employee’s services, he or she owes the outstanding remuneration since the abusive termination of the employment contract (Articles 673, 656 GCC).
Employment Contract of Indefinite Term
The termination of indefinite-term employment contracts according to Greek law is a unilateral, non-causative legal act, except for those cases stipulated otherwise by law (eg, dismissal of employee representatives, for reasons of pregnancy or discrimination or in case of mothers who have recently given birth). A dismissal may be considered as unfair and void, even if the typical conditions for such dismissal have been met, in case of violation of Article 281 GCC. According to case law, a dismissal which is not justified by the well-meant interests of the employer is void.
An employee termination can be challenged by the employee within three months as of the termination date, claiming that it was illegal and abusive. However, the employee is entitled to claim an additional severance amount within six months as of the termination date, if he or she was not paid the correct severance amount. In case the court verdict is in favour of the employee, then the termination will be judged as null and void ex tunc and the employee should be reinstated in his or her previous position in the company. The employee shall continue to receive all his or her salary due as of the termination date and until a new valid termination takes place. The employee may also claim for moral damages. The employer should be able to prove before the courts that the reason of termination is solid, if challenged.
Additionally, by virtue of Law 4808/2021, an extension of the cases where the termination of an employment agreement can be considered as null and void is regulated. In particular, according to Article 66 of the above Law, the termination of an employment agreement is considered as null and void:
The burden of proof and the consequences of null and void terminations are as follows:
The above compensation might also be requested by the employee in the case of termination for one of the reasons under Article 66 above, instead of the recognition of the invalidity of the termination and the consequences of that recognition. It is noted that, in such cases, the action requesting such compensation must not include a request for recognition of the nullity of the termination, unless the two requests do not have the same factual or legal basis. Ιf both requests are accumulated in the same action/lawsuit, they are both rejected as inadmissible by the court.
The basic principle of equal treatment is regulated under Greek law and the Greek Constitution and is incorporated into Greek law according to the EU Directives. Any kind of direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, on medical grounds, sexual orientation in regard to employment and occupation is prohibited.
Discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation in regard to employment and occupation is prohibited by Law 4443/2016, which has incorporated Directives 2000/78/EC and 2000/43/EC. Discrimination between men and women is prohibited both within the above context and by specific legislation (Law 3896/2010), with special reference to discrimination against pregnant women. Different treatment due to parental leaves or child adoption is also expressly prohibited as a form of discrimination.
Additionally, “harassment” is considered as a discriminatory behaviour, including behaviour that violate the dignity of another person and create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. According to Article 3 of Law 3896/2010, “sexual harassment” in the workplace is considered as a type of gender discrimination and is therefore prohibited. It is defined by the law as “any type of unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical behaviour of sexual character, aiming at and resulting to the insult of an individual’s dignity, especially by developing an intimidating, humiliating or hostile environment”.
Such behaviour can be considered as an abusive exercise of the managerial right and therefore a unilateral detrimental change of the employee’s terms of employment which may lead to a wrongful dismissal claim. In such case, the employee may consider that the employment agreement has been terminated on behalf of the employer and leave, claiming for the payment of his or her statutory severance amount.
In case an employee suffering sexual harassment is terminated by the employer, the employee may contest the validity of termination filing a lawsuit within a period of three months and claim the termination to be considered null and void. In such case, the employee may claim all due salaries as of the termination date. In case such termination is judged by the courts as invalid, the employee is further entitled to file a new lawsuit against his or her employer, requesting salaries in arrears for the period following the date of the initial court decision.
The employee may also claim to be reinstated in the company in his or her previous position and under the same terms and conditions, as well as compensation for moral damages due to the infringement of his or her personality rights. Provided that the conditions of the defilement are fulfilled, the employee may also sue the accused for sexual harassment before the penal authorities.
The recently regulated Greek Law 4808/2021 prohibits any form of violence or harassment (including sexual or gender-based violence and harassment) that takes place in the workplace or during any work-related travel or communication. Employers are obliged to assist in the prevention and elimination of work-related violence and harassment and they must assess psychosocial dangers (including danger of violence or harassment) and take measures for their prevention, control and elimination. Indicatively, in case of harassment or violence in the workplace, the employer must take all expedient measures to avoid the incident happening again, including change of position, working hours, place of work or termination of the employment relationship.
As provided by the above law, termination of the employment relationship in such cases is also strictly prohibited and is considered null and void. In such cases, the victim has the right to judicial protection and may also file a complaint to the Labour Inspectorate and Greek Ombudsman, as well as to the company. The employee may also stay away from work for a reasonable time, without loss of pay or any negative consequences, if he or she has a reasonable fear of serious danger to his or her life, health or safety, and is entitled to compensation covering their losses and moral damages.
Unions have the right, with the written consent of the employees, to file legal actions and lawsuits on their behalf before the courts and administrative authorities. Employers who breach the prohibition of violence and harassment in the workplace are subject to administrative fines. Noted that an independent department for the monitoring of violence and harassment at work in the Labour Inspectorate Body (SEPE) has been established.
Αpart from the cases of harassment as described above, any person who has suffered from discriminatory behaviour, in violation of the principle of equal treatment, is entitled to seek legal protection during or after the termination of the respective employment relationship. The employee may file a claim for damages against the employer due to the infringement of his or her personality rights in accordance with the general provisions of Greek Civil Code (Article 57, 58,914 GCC). Especially in the case of gender discrimination, the employee is entitled to compensation, which includes non-pecuniary damage and is not based in the general provisions of Greek Civil Code but also in a special provision of law (Article 23 of Law 3896/2010).
The burden of proof in the case of a discrimination claim lies with the respondent. The respondent is obliged to prove the non-existence of any discriminatory behaviour, provided that the claimant has presented valid evidence that leads to the presumption that discriminatory behaviour has taken place. This obligation does not apply in criminal cases.
Any employer, who violates the legal provisions regarding the principle of equal treatment, shall be punishable by imprisonment of six months to three years and with a fine of EUR1,000 to EUR5,000, and shall be also held liable towards the Labour Inspection Authority and shall face the administrative sanctions of Article 24 of Law 3996/2011, according to Article 11 of Law 4443/2016.
In Greece, there are no labour courts. Labour disputes are defined in Article 614 paragraph 3 of the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) and are subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of single-member courts (both first-instance and appeal). Competence depends on the place of residence of the defendant or the place of work of the employee (Article 621 CPC). According to Article 621 paragraph 3 CPC, labour action hearings (under specific grounds, including invalid termination contract, etc) before a first-instance court and appeals before a court of appeals are set within 60 days of filing. In case of postponement, the new hearing is set within 30 days and the court resolution must be published within a month of the above hearing.
Legal representation is mandatory before the courts that are competent for labour disputes. The parties must bring and take part in judicial proceedings with legal representation. Litigant parties are required to orally present their objections in brief and should ensure that these objections are registered in the minutes, otherwise they will not be considered valid. All legal means must also be made in writing and filed within the specific deadlines set by law.
Class actions are provided according to Greek labour legislation but they are not a common practice in Greece. However, there are cases where a business decision may affect a large number of employees (eg, in case of a transfer of business). More than one employees may sue or be sued when the rights or obligations derive only by the same legal cause (Article 621 paragraph 2 CPC). Representative unions can initiate class actions for the benefit of their members. Article 622 CPC enumerates specific rights for the recognised professional trade unions of employees or employers, recognised associations of them or chambers. In such cases, by filing a class action, the employees anticipate achieving better representation, a reduction in court fees and use the class action usually as a leverage on the courts in order for their requests to be satisfied.
In Greece individual labour law disputes are not subject to arbitration (Article 867 CPC). Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution option applicable mostly in cases of collective labour agreements, which can be followed at any stage of the negotiations following relevant agreement between the parties. However, according to Greek labour law and specifically Article 16 of Law 1876/1990, unilateral recourse to arbitration is allowed as a last resort, alternative and supplementary resolution measure for collective labour disputes, exclusively in the following cases:
The application for unilateral recourse to arbitration should include full justifications on the fulfilment of the above conditions. The respective arbitration decision should also be fully justified in order not to be considered as null and void.
The arbitral decision is treated as a collective bargaining agreement and takes effect on the day following the submission of the application for mediation (if it took place at an earlier stage as an alternative dispute resolution method), unless the parties agree otherwise. It may be appealed or, if not appealed, the parties may file a lawsuit on its validity before the court. Both actions suspend the validity of the contested arbitral decision (or CLA) until the issuance of a final court decision.
The awarding of attorneys’ fees to the employee is subject to the relevant request made by the latter in case of litigation. The prevailing party can be awarded attorney’s fees paid by the other party at the amount determined by the judge. In general, the courts have the discretion to determine the allocation of the attorneys’ fees between the litigant parties or even to offset such fees between them due to the complexity of the legal issues brought before the courts.