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Covid-19

Legislative changes in view of the Covid-19 pandemic

These are the most significant legislative changes that have been adopted upon the Act of the Measurements and Actions in the State of emergency, announced with a Resolution of the Bulgarian Parliament on the 13th of March 2020 promulgated in the State Gazette, issue no. 28/24.03.2020 /the Act/:

Public procurement

The Act declared by the virtue of a decision of the National Assembly, dated March 13th 2020, stipulates the provisions of the Public Procurement Act not to be enforceable to:

a/ purchase, made by contracting authorities, of sanitary materials, disinfection products, medicinal products and personal preventive instruments, necessary for provision of ant epidemic measures;

b/ purchase of medicinal products, medicinal and laboratory appliances, necessary for diagnostics and treatment of infected patients, accessories thereto, as well as activities, regarding their implementation;

c/ assigning activities regarding disposal of pesticides and biomedical waste in accordance with Regulation №1 for the requirements towards activities, related to collecting and treating of waste on the territory of medical and health institutions.

The Act stipulates as well a possibility by a request of a contractor under a public procurement the term for fulfillment to be renegotiated, but for a period, not longer than the term the emergency state has been declared for.

Funding from the European Structural and Investment Funds

The Act stipulates until the state of emergency is revoked, the managing bodies of the funding from the European structural and investment funds to have the power to:

a/ amend unilaterally granted financial assistance contracts in accordance with the necessity of measures under crises in the sense of art.2, section 21 of Regulation (EU, Euratom) 2018/1046 of the European Parliament and the Council, as well as to increase the amount of the contracted granted financial assistance;

b/ allot granted financial assistance under simplified rules, including without an invitation for raising proposals being published;

c/ increase the common resources of the operations, exceeding those approved by the surveillance committee, with regard to the schemes, under which measures are admissible, under the circumstances of emergency situations and under the hypothesis, stated in letter “a” hereinabove.

Reliefs for citizens within the State of Emergency

1.On validity of personal documents of Bulgarian citizens:

The validity of the personal identity cards, which expires in the period 13.03.2020. - 31.10.2020, is extended with 6 months. It is important that for the period of extension the personal identity card is valid only on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, and that upon request a new personal identity card could be issued before the expiry of the period of extension; The period of validity of driving licenses, which expires in the period 13.03.2020. - 31.10.2020, is extended with 6 months. It is important that for the period of extension the driving license is valid only on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria, and that upon request a new driving license could be issued before the expiry of the period of extension.

The period of validity of the documents for residence of foreigners and their family members, which expires in the period 13.03.2020. - 31.10.2020, is extended with 6 months. It is important that for the period of extension the documents are only valid on the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and certify only the right of residence, and that upon request a new residence document could be issued before the expiry of the period of extension.

2. On legal terms:

· the deadlines set by law, which expire during the state of emergency and are related to the exercise of rights or fulfillment of obligations of private entities, are extended with 1 month after the state of emergency has been revoked;

· the effect of the administrative acts, which is limited in time and expires during the state of emergency, is extended with 1 month after the state of emergency has been revoked.

3. On terms set under contracts:

Until revoking of the state of emergency the consequences of late payment, including interest and penalties for late payment, as well as non-monetary consequences such as early repayment, termination of contract and seizure of property are not applicable.

4. On medical treatment:

Pharmacies could dispense medicinal products only on a prescription booklet, without presenting a prescription according to the most recently entered data on the dispensed medicinal products until the state of emergency is revoked and 2 months after its revoking.

5. On the movement:

A foreigner with a long-term residence permit in the Republic of Bulgaria, whose term of residence expires within the term of the state of emergency could apply for continuation of the residence within 14 days after revoking of the state of emergency, without the term of the state of emergency being considered for interruption when the foreigner applies for a long-term or permanent residence; A long-term resident to whom the permitted long-term residence expires within the term of the state of emergency could enter the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria without a visa within 14 days after revoking of the state of emergency; For the term of the state of emergency it is not considered for absence the absence of the foreigner who has received a long-term or permanent residence permit from the territory of the Member States of the European Union for a period of 12 consecutive months.

Bulgarian citizens and citizens of other countries with permanent, long-term or continuous residence in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria and members of their families arriving from China, Iran, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Spain, Italy, Korea, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland could go back and should be quarantined for 14 days at their home/other accommodation pointed by them, with exception of the Bulgarian citizens drivers of heavy goods vehicles for who special rules are provided.

Notary Servicing during the State of Emergency

The Act provides that notary services are restricted and only "urgent" ones will be performed. It is important to note that the law does not explicitly define the term “urgent notarizations”, which will leave the notaries the option to decide which notarizations are “urgent” and which are not. The Act requires a number of notaries on duty with a ratio of at least one notary per 50,000 inhabitants for the respective region. The Notary Chamber of the Republic of Bulgaria announced a list of notaries who will provide services during the state of emergency. Obtaining documents for notary deals (marital status certificates; valuation of properties; schemes from the cadaster, etc.) can be done electronically. For this purpose, registration should be made on the website of the institution concerned, which is free of charge. Public authorities and institutions (Geodesy, cartography and cadaster agency; the municipalities, etc.) provide various opportunities for obtaining documents - signing and submitting applications with electronic signature; submission of documents by courier, etc. Municipalities in Bulgaria provide the opportunity for different types of electronic services, detailed information for which can be found on their websites.

Employment

1. Home office

In case of a state of emergency, the employer unilaterally and without the consent of the employee, may order working from home or teleworking, if the nature of the job under the job description allows that. In the order, the employer can change only the workplace, not the other elements of the labor agreement. In case of home office order, the employer should provide the employee with the necessary equipment/software at his own expense in order to enable the employee to perform his/her work. The employer should provide devices for communication as well.

2. Temporary suspension of work

In case of suspension, the employer may unilaterally change the place and nature of the employee’s work without their consent while the suspension is in progress.

In case of a suspension for more than 5 working days, the employer has the right to unilaterally grant the employee their paid annual leave. During the suspension, the employee is entitled to his/her nominal remuneration.

3. Full or partial suspension of work

In case of a state of emergency, the employer may unilaterally suspend the activity of the company, part of it or individual employees. The suspension shall be declared by a written order with a maximum duration up to the end of the state of emergency. When the activity of the firm, part of it or the activity of individual employees is suspended, the employer has the right to grant the employees their paid annual leave without their consent, including employees who do not have 8 months of work experience. The period of paid annual leave is recognized as work experience. During the suspension, the employee is entitled to his/her nominal remuneration.

4. Part-time work

For the whole period of declared state of emergency, or for part of that period, the employer may unilaterally establish part-time work in respect of employees with a full-time contract. The working hours may not be less than half the legally stated working hours. In case the work of the company goes down, the employer may establish a period of up to 3 months of part-time work for the employees (in case the state of emergency lasts for a shorter period). This, however, can be done after prior agreement with the syndicate.

5. Employer’s obligation to provide paid/unpaid leave at an employee’s request

In case of a state of emergency, the employer is obliged to provide paid/unpaid leave at the request of certain categories of employees explicitly listed in the law. The period of paid/unpaid leave is recognized as work experience.

6. Employer's right to provide paid leave to an employee

In case of a state of emergency, without taking the measures/actions described above (suspension, termination of activity of the whole/part of the company, etc.), the employer may unilaterally and without the consent of the employee provide him/her with up to one half of their paid annual leave. Reimbursement by the NSSI for part of the amounts paid as salaries to employees by the employers

During the validity period of the Act but for a period not exceeding 3 months (not later than 24.06.2020), The National Social Security Institute (NSSI) will provide 60% of the amount of the insurance income of the employees for January 2020 in favor of the employer (as "insurer"). The criteria for the categories of employers (as "insurers") who will be entitled to receive these amounts from the NSSI will be defined by an explicit act of the Council of Ministers.

7. Termination of employment by the employer with notice period

In case the work of the company goes down or the suspension of work lasts for more than 15 working days, the employer may unilaterally terminate the employee's labor agreement with notice period.