Simplifying the delivery of documents to employees

On December 16, 2019, the Government of the Czech Republic approved a proposal for a “big” amendment to the Labour Code, which, among other things, newly regulates and simplifies the delivery of documents within the framework of labour relations. The provisions of the part of the draft bill concerning the delivery of documents are proposed to take effect on July 1, 2020.

Why the need to amend the law?

According to the current stipulations of the Labour Code, the employer must deliver certain documents (especially documents concerning the creation, changes and termination of employment or agreements on work performed outside the employment) into the employee's own hands. The employer must do so at the workplace, in the employee's apartment or wherever the employee is reached, or through an electronic communications network or service, which requires the written consent of the employer. Only when it is not possible to deliver in one of the abovementioned ways can the employer deliver the document through the postal service provider.

The employer must therefore make every effort to reach the employee in person at the workplace, or wherever the employee is currently staying. Moreover, according to the case-law, if the employer fails to deliver the documents in person, it does not automatically mean that he can lawfully proceed with the option of postal services delivery. The employer must consider in advance how urgent the service of the document is, whether it will not be more effective to try to reach the employee in person on another day, etc.[1]

Delivery via the network or electronic communications proved to be unusable in practice, due to the need for an electronic signature both on the documents themselves and on the confirmation of receipt of the document sent by the employee via a data message. The electronic signature is used by a minimum number of employees. Moreover, it is certainly not expected that an employee who avoids accepting a document will voluntarily send an acknowledgment of receipt to the employer. The fiction of delivery does not apply in this case and effective delivery of documents in this way are thus almost impossible.

What brings the new amendment to the Labour Code?

Due to the problems that the current regulation brings in practice, the amendment proposes a procedure for the delivery of documents to employees, where the employer must first try to deliver the document to the employee in person at the workplace. However, if he fails or delivery is not possible, he can already choose which alternative he will go for, from the following:

  1. wherever the employee is found,
  2. through a postal service provider,
  3. through an electronic communications network or service; or
  4. via a data box.

In the case of delivery via a data box, which is newly introduced by the bill as a delivery option, the written consent of the employee is required. In the event that an employee tries to thwart the delivery of a document via a data box by not logging in, the bill introduces the fiction of delivery, where the document is considered delivered on the last day of 10 days from the date of delivery of the document to the data box. In practice, this option may seem to work better than delivery via network or electronic communications, but it cannot be assumed that it would be used frequently.

No more Sherlock Holmes stuff

Regarding the delivery of a document through the postal service operator, the amendment introduces the obligation of the employee to notify the employer in writing of the address to which the documents shall be delivered. The employer will not have to find out where the employee is currently staying, so it will be the employee's responsibility to keep his address information up to date. If the employee violates this obligation and does not inform the employer about the change of the delivery address, he risks that the documents will be properly delivered to the address where he no longer resides.

At present, the employer has to deliver the documents to the last known current address of the employee, which can be found out from various sources - a doctor's certificate of sickness, the address stated on the tax return, and even office talk, i.e. other employees if their colleague - the addressee of the document stated where he will be accommodated on vacation, where his cottage is located, or where he usually goes in the summer for extended weekends.[2] In extreme cases, the employer has had to perform a Sherlock Holmes stunt to find out to which address can the documents be properly delivered.

Extension of the deadline for collection of the postal item

The deadline for the fiction of delivery for unaffected recipients is extended from 10 working days to 15 days (calendar). Thus, if the employee is not reached when delivering the document in one’s own hands through the postal service provider, the postal item is deposited at the postal service provider's premises or at the municipal office and recipient is invited to collect the sent documents within 15 days. If the employee fails to do so, the document shall be deemed to have been received on the last day of the period. The reason for this change is that the period of 10 working days set by the Labour Code does not correspond to the current postal conditions of the Czech Post, which stipulates 15 calendar days as standard delivery time, and in practice there was a collision of these deadlines (in case of weekends and national holidays).[3]

No change in law shall occur in case when an employee prevents the delivery of a document through the postal service provider by refusing to accept a postal item containing a document or by failing to provide the co-operation necessary to deliver the document, the document shall be deemed to have been delivered on the day the document was prevented from being served. The employee must be informed by the courier of the consequences of such refusal of delivery. The change is that a written record will no more have to be made about the instruction according to the proposed amendment, which should again simplify the practice.

However, the practical problem remains that Czech Post does not offer such services that meet the conditions of delivery according to the Labour Code in terms of instructions of the addressee regarding the refusal of delivery, and it will remain the employer's obligation to ensure that the addressee is properly instructed (written record) at the same time as delivery or attempted delivery.

Conclusion

The proposed changes address the problems that have arisen and are appearing in practice. We can only hope that, thanks to the new regulation, if adopted, it will be possible to prevent controversial situations regarding the correctness of delivery. I especially appreciate the partial transfer of responsibility to employees in the form of the obligation to communicate the current address for delivery to employees. This should no more lead to absurd situations that we know from case law. In the future, electronic delivery, which is currently practically unusable, would also deserve an amendment. However, I understand that in this case, the solution would require a greater conceptual change within the whole system of private law.


[1] Judgment of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, file. 21 Cdo 2036/2017, dated November 7, 2018

[2] Judgment of the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic, file. 21 Cdo 3663/2014, dated June 6, 2015

[3] Explanatory Memorandum - part of Parliamentary Press No. 689/0 - Government Bill amending Act No. 262/2006 Coll., The Labor Code, as amended, and some other related acts

Autor: Aneta Koubková

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