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New legislative measures to overcome the consequences of the state of emergency (introduced by the Amendments to the Health Act, prom. on 13.05.2020)

27.05.2020

On 13th of May 2020, the Amending and Supplementing Act of the Health Act was promulgated, providing for a number of legislative changes aimed at establishing a regulatory framework for overcoming the consequences of the abolition of the state of emergency. The team of Penkov, Markov & Partners Law Firm has summarized below some of the more important, finally adopted changes, as follows:

I. Declaration of an emergency epidemic situation and introduction of temporary anti-epidemic measures

The amendments to the Health Act stipulate the possibility for the Council of Ministers, at the proposal of the Minister of Health, to declare an emergency epidemic situation. During the announced situation, the Minister may introduce temporary anti-epidemic measures on the territory of the country or a separate region: prohibition on entry into the territory of the country of citizens of other countries, temporary restriction of moving on the territory of the country, and as well temporary suspension or restriction of operation or the mode of operation of public facilities and/or other facilities or services provided to citizens.

Temporary anti-epidemic measures may also be introduced by order of the director of the respective Regional Health Inspectorate in coordination with the chief state health inspector for the territory of a separate district, municipality or city. It is explicitly provided that the orders of the Minister are general administrative acts, which shall be published on the website of the department.

II. Labor law and social security aspects

According to the amendments to the Emergency Measures and Actions during the State of Emergency Act, announced by a Decision of the National Assembly of 13th of March 2020, and on overcoming the consequences (the “State of Emergency Act”), the possibility of unilateral introduction of homework and work from a distance from the employers is extended for a period of up to 2 months after the abolition of the state of emergency. At the same time, the amendments to the Labour Code has introduced an opportunity for the employer in case of declared state of emergency or declared epidemic emergency situation to assign the employee without his consent to perform temporary homework and/or teleworking, i.e. for the whole or part of the state of emergency or epidemic emergency situation. By 2 months as of the lifting of the state of emergency, the employer's ability to unilaterally grant up to ½ of the paid annual leave to its employees was extended.

The rights of the employers introduced by the State of Emergency Act adopted on 13th of March 2020, such as unilateral termination by order of the employer of the enterprise’s activity, of a part of the enterprise or of particular employees, unilateral introduction of part-time work regime, etc. - will be in force not only in the conditions of state of emergency, but also in case of declared emergency epidemic situation.

A significant change, which was introduced in view of the economic situation in the country, concerns unpaid leave used in 2020, which will be recognized as work and social security length of service up to 60 working days.

The term for implementation of the 60/40 scheme is extended by two months - until 30th of June 2020, aimed at preservation the employment of employees by paying compensation to employers to cover the remuneration of their employees.

III. Renewal of deadlines

With the abolition of the state of emergency, all deadlines that ceased to run during the state of emergency, such as court, arbitration and enforcement proceeding deadlines, statutory limitation periods, upon expiration of which rights are revoked or acquired by private subjects, etc., continue to run after the expiration of 7 days from the promulgation of the Act in the State Gazette, i.e. from 20.05.2020

IV. Court proceedings and enforcement actions

The activity of the courts in the Republic of Bulgaria and all types of notary proceedings are fully resumed, without exceptions.

An opportunity is introduced for up to two months, as of the abolition of the state of emergency, open court hearings, as well as meetings of committees, commissions, local and state bodies, etc. to be conducted remotely while ensuring the virtual participation of the parties in the proceedings.

It is extended by two months after the abolition of the state of emergency, the non-application of the consequences of non-fulfillment of obligations of private entities, namely – no interest for delay and penalties shall be charged, the obligation could not be declared prematurely due and the contract could not be terminated due to default.

Also, within two months after the abolition of the state of emergency against individuals, all announced public sales and coercive seizures of possession, announced by public and private bailiffs, are suspended, after which two-month period they shall be rescheduled, without additional fees and expenses.

By the same two-month period introduced by the Emergency Situations Act is extended as well the prohibition on imposing seizures of bank accounts of individuals and medical establishments, seizures on salaries and pensions, precautionary measures on medical appliances and equipment, as well as conducting inventories of movable and immovable property owned by natural persons, except for maintenance obligations, for damages from tort and for receivables for wages. No seizures of bank accounts of municipalities are imposed for two months after the lifting of the state of emergency.

V. Rent of real estate – state and municipal property

Within two months after the abolition of the state of emergency is still in force the possibility introduced by the State of Emergency Act to reduce the rent instalments or full/partial exempt from payment of the rental fees for the usage of properties – owned by the state or the municipality, by natural or legal persons – tenants or users who have reduced or ceased their activity at the property as a result from the measures and restrictions imposed during the state of emergency. 

VI. Restructuring of financial funds under the European Structural and Investment Funds

The managing authorities of the European Structural and Investment Funds up to two months after the abolition of the state of emergency should be entitled to unilaterally amend the state aids agreements, to grant state aids under simplified rules, to increase the total resource above those approved by the Monitoring Committee under the schemes under which measures are eligible, in the conditions of emergency situations.

VII. Cancelled travels fees refund

The term in which the tour operator should reimburse the payments received by the traveller for the travels cancelled due to the declared state of emergency is significantly extended - up to 12 months as from the abolition of the state of emergency.

VIII. Export of medical products prohibition

The Minister of Healthcare’s right to impose a prohibition of the export of medical products from the territory of Republic of Bulgaria in order to ensure the sufficient quantity of the medical products is extended with two months as from the state of emergency abolition.

Amendments in other areas of the economic turnover are also envisaged - such as public procurement, excise duties, transport services, etc., which will be the subject of a separate article.

On other current topics, you can find information on our website: www.penkov-markov.eu. Of course, you can contact us for additional information and assistance at lawyers@penkov-markov.eu. The above provides general information, as it is not exhaustive and serves as a guide in interpreting the news.