Subject to implementation during the state of emergency, declared in the Republic of Bulgaria within the time period as of March 13th 2020 until April 13th 2020
(this Summary is up-to-date as of March 18th 2020)
By virtue of the project of the Act on the measures applicable during the state of emergency, hereinafter referred to as “the Act” and/or “the project of the Act”, (declared with Decision dated March 13th 2020), issued by the National Assembly, are provided numerous measures which shall be implemented on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria within the time period of the declared state of emergency.
The present document aims to summarize the most important (from business perspective) emergency measures, provided by the project of the Act.
As of the date of preparation of the current document, the project of the Act has been adopted in general at its first reading conducted by the National Assembly. Considering that future amendments might be made within the final version of the Act, we reserve our right to amend the current document accordingly.
The Transitional and final provisions of the project of the Act provides amendments in a numerous legal acts for the purpose of the implementation of all emergency measures. Such legal acts are:
a. The Criminal Code;
b. The Labour Code;
c. The Social Security Code;
d. The act on the disabled individuals;
e. The act on the Bulgarian identification documents;
f. The act on the foreigners on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria;
g. The act on the defence and the military forces of the Republic of Bulgaria;
h. The act on the civil servants;
i. The act on the national community centers;
j. The act for amendment of the Act on the administrative regulations of economic activities, related to oil and products of oil origin.
Within the discussions conducted in the National Assembly between first and second reading of the project of the Act, have been proposed additional amendments in other legal acts for consideration. The most important of them are the National health act, the Act on the medical establishments, the Act on the public procurement procedures, etc.
Murgova and Partners Attorneys at law is available to provide to its Clients the full set of legal services and consultations related to analyzing and implementing the emergency measures. Further to the above, our law firm might assist its Clients with preparation of all necessary internal company documents, including specific internal rules, policies, orders, decisions, etc.
The emergency measures included in the project of the Act aim to prevent, to restrict and to overcome the infection with COVID – 19 as well as the consequences of the spread of COVID – 19.
1. Restrictions on gathering of individuals and on their movement
1.1. All visits of entertainment and gaming rooms, discos, bars, restaurants, fast food restaurants, drinking establishments, cafes, pastry shops, trade centers (MALLS) – with the exception of banking and insurance offices, grocery stores and pharmacies placed therein, are forbidden.
The restaurants and fast food restaurants are entitled to organize food deliveries, following strict sanitary and hygiene requirements.
It should be outlined that the list of restricted business activities is exhaustive. Thus, all of the activities which are not mentioned above, might be further executed following the current requirements, as well as following strict sanitary and hygiene requirements.
1.2. All school sessions as well as the visits of kindergartens, schools, universities, etc, are forbidden. If possible, each school, kindergarten and university should organize distance training of its students.
1.3. All mass events, including sport events, cultural and scientific events are also forbidden. Falling within the present item are also cinemas, theaters, concerts, museums, fitness room visits, etc.
1.4. All planned medical consultations, medical examinations, immunizations, organ transplantations as well as visits in hospitals are forbidden.
1.5. All trainings and business trips (conducted on the territory on the Republic of Bulgaria as well as on the territory of any other foreign country) are forbidden.
1.6. All visits of correctional institutions (including prisons and other similar establishments) are forbidden.
1.7. Each individual travelling abroad is entitled to have medical insurance of an obligatory character.
The measures listed above might be expanded and amended with an Order issued by the Minister of Health after recommendation of the National Operational Headquarters.
2. Restrictions related to procedural terms (deadlines), notary and other procedures
During the state of emergency in the country all procedural terms (deadlines) related to all and any court, administrative, arbitration and executions procedures and cases are suspended. This restriction shall not be applicable to the terms (deadlines) related to criminal procedures.
The formulation of the initial text of the respective provision is rather vague as it is not clear which is the initial moment as of which these terms are considered suspended. Therefore, this ambiguity shall be clarified when the final version of the Act is being adopted by the National Assembly. Taking this into consideration, it is our opinion that until the finally adopted Act is being published and enforced (following the applicable legislative procedure) the procedural terms are not suspended and thus – they shall be met. Furthermore, it shall be additionally clarified if procedures related to imposition of administrative penalties fall within the scope of this restriction. Considering the formulation of the initial text of the provision, we believe that these procedures are also falling within the scope of this restriction, but this should be explicitly clarified by the National Assembly.
In addition, the provisions related to objection of administrative acts is rather unclear as well. If these terms are also considered suspended, this might prevent numerous administrative acts (such as Decisions issued by Assignors under the Act on public procurement procedures) from entering into force and execution.
Further to the above, all procedures for public sale or entering into possession initiated by private bailiffs, are considered terminated. It should be outlined that there is no differentiation provided between procedures for entering into possession against individuals or legal entities. The broader formulation of the text of the respective provision leads to the conclusion that the restriction is applicable to all procedures for entering into possession (irrespective of the capacity of the debtor).
Further to the above, all procedures initiated for preservation of funds stored on bank accounts, restraining of pensions or labour remunerations as well as for preparation of inventory list of movable and immovable property (within enforcement procedure) are also suspended. All of these restrictions are applicable only when the debtor is individual, which means that all similar procedures conducted against companies, non-profit organizations, etc. might be proceeded.
The project of the Act also provides that all notary procedures, with the exception of those of an emergency or urgent character, shall not be conducted. The Notary Chamber is obliged to secure at least one notary public (with territorial competence) on duty, following strict sanitary and hygiene requirements. These new provisions are followed with additional ambiguities. First of all, there is no definition or at least indicative list which notary procedures shall be considered with such of an emergency or urgent character. Therefore, this circumstance shall be considered case-by-case which might lead to misuse of the specific notary procedure, delay with filing of Notary deeds before the Registry Agency, conduction of numerous deals with identical real estate and many other risks for the business. Thus, it is our professional opinion that the new provisions related to notary procedures shall be additionally clarified in order to avoid the mentioned negative outcomes.
3. Restrictions of the working process
All employers are obliged to implement procedures for distance fulfillment of employees’ obligations. In the event that this is not possible, strict safety and anti-epidemic measures shall be implemented within the working premises. Such measures might include filtering procedure on arriving employees, disinfection, ventilation of premises, trainings on personal hygiene, etc. Employers are also obliged not to allow to work employees or third parties (external to the employer’s organization) with symptoms of severe diseases.
Under the general state inspector’s recommendation the employer shall also organize the working process by securing at least 1 meter distance between all employees.
In relation to the above, the administrative directors within the employer’s organization shall report the implemented measures as well as they shall certify the smooth conduction of the working process.
Our law team is readily available for discussion of the most appropriate form of reorganization of the working process within your company, considering the specifics of your business activity.
Further to the above and as already stated, additional amendments shall be made in the Labour code for the state of emergency, such as:
a. The Employer will be entitled to assign to the employees distance fulfillment of their obligations, irrespective of their consent to this decision.
b. By virtue of explicit Order the Employer might suspend the working process of the company or of its part, of all of its employees or of part of its employees for the period of the state of emergency. In this case, the Employer is obliged the pay the full amount of the gross remuneration of the employees.
c. The working process of the company might be also suspended by virtue of an explicit order issued by competent state authority. In this case, the Employer is obliged to pay 50 % of the gross remuneration of the employees, but not lesser than 75 % of the minimum state wage.
d. The Employer is entitled to implement part-time work for employees initially engaged on full-time – for the period of the state of emergency.
All of the mentioned changes in working conditions (including the remunerations of the employees, holidays and leaves) shall be subject to explicit order issued by the Employer and provided to the attention of all employees which should also sign specific declarations that they are acquainted with these changes. Further, it is our understanding that for the purposes of clarity, these changes shall also be subject to supplementary agreements signed by the Employer and each employee (under the requirements of art. 119 of the Labour code).
e. When the working process of the company is suspended, the Employer is entitled to provide paid leave to the employee (irrespective of latter’s consent on this decision). This right might be exercised also over individuals which do not have 8 months working experience. In the event that some employees do not have any paid leave left, they might be provided with unpaid leave for the period of the state of emergency.
f. The Employer is obliged to provide leave under the request of the following employees:
Pregnant employees or such in advanced stage of in vitro treatment;
Mothers or single fathers of children up to 12 years old or of disabled children – without limitations in their age;
Employees under 18 years old as well as employees with decrease of performance of 50 or more %;
Employees subject to the protection provided by art. 333, subart. 1, item 2 of the Labour code.
4. Restrictions related to the EU structural and investment funds’ funds
The possibility of unilaterally modifying grant contracts by the managing authorities, granting grants under simplified rules, shortening the timeframes for direct grants, issuing non-present decisions on all matters of competence of the Program Monitoring Committee are envisaged. The application of some articles from the European Structural and Investment Funds Management Act is excluded.
The Murgova and Partners’ team is available for any additional consultations about the restrictions described herein above.
5. Assigning of tender procedures and procedures under the Act on the public procurement procedures
After decalaring the state of emergency in the country an amendment to the Act on the public procurement procedures was announced in State Gazette, No 23/14.03.2020. The amendment provides that the Act on the public procurement procedures will not be applicable about buying of medical devices and personal protective equipment necessary to provide anti-epidemic measures introduced by an act of the Minister of Health or a director of a regional health inspection in cases of declared emergency situation under art. 84, p. 12 from the Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria.
However, the initial draft of the Act does not provide any additional measures considering assignment and organization of tender procedures and public procurement procedures under the Act on the public procurement procedures. Our opinion is that this omission would rise lots of questions and hinders for the assignors about all started and new procedures under PPA and the tender ones as well. Part of these matters are included during the discussions before first and second reading of the Act.
There are expert discussions and proposals in the media but so far, no official opinion by any competent state organ has been announced. We will keep you informed about any further and detailed information considering these measures.
6. Other important matters
Up to date there are discussions about introduction of emergency economic measures supporting the business in several areas. The discussed measures are not final and they will be further clarified and completed. Considering their specifics we are expecting further amendments to be made in the draft of the Act before its finalization and that may affect some of the commented measures herein above as well.
Herein below, we will present the discussed measures in brief and we will inform you further when they are finalized.
The discussed economic measures are anticipated as follows:
6.1. The Employment Agency will pay off 60 % from the employees’ remunerations for a 3-month period for certain employers categories after a special application procedure is initiated by the employers;
6.2. Assistance or provision of reliefs for payments under commercial credits;
6.3. Extension of deadlines for tax and accounting closures as well as for declaring and payment of taxes.
The team of Murgova and Partners Attorneys at law is by your side during this challenging period as will assist and consult you about all specific legal matters raised by the emergency situation. We will keep you informed about the final draft of the Act once it is adopted by the National Assembly.
The Team of Murgova & Partners Attorneys at law