Coalition parties agree rules for short-time working scheme

Photo: Ladislav Bába / Czech Radio

The parties in the coalition government have agreed on rules for introducing kurzarbeit, or short-time working. Under their proposals, the government would only pay part of workers’ salaries in the event of a major threat to the Czech economy.

Under the system agreed by the governing parties, employees would get 70 percent of their net salaries – though not exceeding the national average wage – for hours not worked.

During that time their employer would pay social security contributions on 70 percent of gross earnings, while health insurance would be paid on the basis of their entire current salary, the Ministry of Finance said on its website.

The minister of labor and social affairs, Jana Maláčová of junior partners the Social Democrats, said that she hoped the cabinet would approve kurzarbeit when it sits to discuss the matter on Friday.

Jana Maláčová,  photo: Michaela Danelová / Czech Radio

She said accord had been reached during a video conference with the minister of finance, Alena Schillerová, appointed by government leaders ANO. However, Ms. Maláčová refused to reveal the parameters of the agreement.

For her part, Ms. Schillerová said she believed a compromise acceptable to all sides had been reached and that the aim was to discuss the matter as quickly as possible.

The measure should be in place from November and would follow on from Antivirus, a temporary programme aimed at helping Czech firms keep their heads above water during the crisis.

Last week the governing parties agreed that short-time working should be activated by a government solely in response to a serious threat to the economy or industry. These include epidemics, cyberattacks and natural disasters.

Under the proposals, workers could stay at home for one to four days a week, for up to a year. They would receive 70 percent of their net salaries from the state, but this could not be higher than the national average wage.

Their employer would pay social security contributions for hours not worked from 70 percent of gross pay. Health insurance would be paid from regular full salaries.

Both unions and employers are against the proposals, for different reasons.

The unions have demanded greater financial input from the state. For their part, employers are unhappy about the idea of paying social security contributions for time not worked. Companies say this does not represent help.

The Ministry of Labour has also proposed the extension of “attendance allowance” (ošetřovné in Czech, a contribution to those who look after a sick family member) for the entire period of quarantine or distance learning in the case of children under the age of 13.

At present, sickness insurance pays employees 60 percent of the income base in the case of children under 10 for nine days; in the case of single parents, it convers children under 16 for up to 16 days.

ANO argue that such an adjustment is not necessary as quarantine now lasts for 10 days and there has been no blanket closure of schools.