Labour law in Bulgaria

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History of Bulgarian Labour law

Initially, Labour law in Bulgaria was known as social legislation (a term which is also used nowadays), later it was named industry legislation and only afterwards it was renamed Labour law.

The emergence of Labour law in Bulgaria is, on the one hand, related to the development of the Third Bulgarian State and the Bulgarian industry and, on the other, to the implementation of European law.

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78 ended the 500-year Ottoman rule over Bulgaria and led to the creation of the Third Bulgarian State. The first democratic constitution was adopted in 1879 in Tarnovo. This laid the foundations of civil, criminal and procedural law. The industry was encouraged by specific laws. Therefore, the need also arose to adopt labour legislation.

Labour law in Bulgaria, as well as in most European countries, emerged after a campaign by the workers, especially the Labour party and its political and professional organisations - the Bulgarian Socialist Labour Party and the General Workers' Union. The workers' movement was an essential tool for the creation of new laws to protect the rights of the workers in XIX and XX centuries.

The first statute enacted in Bulgaria aimed to protect children and women in the workplace and was adopted in 1905. The statute regulated the minimum working age, working hours, holidays and maternity leave. Later, other statutes were enacted regarding labour law. In 1907, the Labour Inspectorate was established. However, during the two Balkan wars (1912 and 1913), most workers were women and children, and the enforceability of labour law was therefore severely limited. In 1917, the Law on Health and Safety at Work was adopted, replacing the previous female and child labour law, as well as the Law on the Labour Inspectorate.

In 1920, Bulgaria became a member of the International Labour Organisation, which was founded in 1919. Today, all acts ratified and promulgated by the ILO form part of the applicable law.

Other important regulations are the Employment Contracts Act and the Collective Agreements Act of 1936.

Today's Labour Code was promulgated in Bulgaria for the first time in 1986. It entered into force in 1987 and has been modified 65 times to date, most recently in February 2010.

The Labour Code is the most important source of Labour law. This is due to the following reasons:
a) It regulates all matters relating to the general working conditions (Chapter I, XVIII, XIX) and also to the individual employment contracts (Chapter V - XVII) as well as the collective labour relations (Chapter III, IV and VI). Today's Labour Code deals primarily with individual employment contracts.
b) The Labour Code regulates the key elements of labour relations. In most cases, the rules are so detailed that no further regulations and instructions are necessary (Chapter III, IV, IX, XV, XVI, XVIII). In other cases, the Labour Code contains only general provisions and therefore further sub-legislative norms need to be enacted with regard to the specific issues (Chapter VII, VIII, XII).
c) The amendments to the Labour Code from the last 16 years have resulted in a dispositive character for most of its provisions.