General Employee Rights in Croatia
Written employment contracts are mandatory regardless of the duration of the employment. The agreement must be in the local language and be signed by both parties. The following information must be included in the contract:
- Names and addresses of the parties
- Place of work
- Name and type of work or a description of tasks
- Date of commencement
- Daily and weekly working hours
- Type and duration of employment (if temporary)
- Basic salary, bonuses (if any) and frequency of payment
- Leave entitlement
- Fringe benefits, if any
- Notice period
Employers and employees are free to negotiate conditions better than those specified by law. If an employment contract is not in writing, the employer must issue and deliver to the employee a written record of the employment contract (a written certificate) and its essential provisions. If the employer does not sign or does not present the employee with an employment contract, the working relationship is deemed indefinite, and the employer can be fined between HRK 61,000 to HRK 100,000.
Employees are entitled to training for jobs that require specific education covered by the employer. Employers have the obligation of preparing employees for their jobs and any changes to their responsibilities.
Health and safety
Employers are responsible for employees’ health and safety whether the latter work at the office or from home. Employers must ensure the safe working conditions of employees; provide them with an ergonomic workstation; and educate them regarding health, safety, and working in front of a computer. Employees must abide by all the security and health measures in place. Accidents that happen while an employee is working from home or at the office are considered a work accident.
Employers must carry out a risk assessment of the workspace to evaluate and eliminate risks to the employee and risks connected with certain jobs. They should also conduct a workstation set-up for employees who spend more than four hours a day in front of a computer screen. Employers must also train employees to prevent accidents and ensure work is performed safely.
Employers must provide eye examination for employees who spend long hours in front of a computer screen before they start employment in front of a screen and again every two years or as requested by the employee. The employer must bear the cost of the examination. Employers must also educate employees about the importance of changing activities and resting and should organise alternative activities away from the screen if the role allows, or provide them with breaks of at least five minutes and relief exercises to compensate for the strain in the eyes.
Moreover, employers must appoint one safety advisor with health and safety skills if employing 50 to 249 workers, and an additional advisor if employing more than 250 employees. Employees have the right to choose a commissioner who protects their interests and ensures that employers are applying all legal regulations regarding safety at work. That commissioner can also make suggestions, require certain changes to eliminate sources of risk, and inform the work inspection if the employer is omitting any safety requirements.
Parents on maternal, paternal, parental, and adoption leave have the right to request work flexibility to care for their children. Their employers must accept it, with the possibility of non-acceptance for a maximum of 30 days. In all other cases, employers don’t have to accept but must consider a full-time employee’s request to work part time, provided such work is available.
Employers are responsible for determining the employee’s working hours unless the working time schedule is determined by the law (the case under the Croatian Labour Law, Article 66, paragraphs 2–3), collective bargaining agreement, works agreement, employment by-law, or employment contract. Working hours can be allocated by days, weeks, or months in both equal and unequal periods.
If the working time is unequally allocated due to the nature of work where varying hours are required, the employer needs to make a working schedule, which cannot be for less than a month or more than a year. During that period, the total allocation of working time hours must correspond to the contracted full time or part time.
If the working hours are unequally distributed, an employee can work for up to 50 hours, including overtime, in a week unless a collective bargaining agreement agrees on an unequal distribution of working hours from week to week. In this case, it can last up to 60 hours a week, including overtime.
Employee Protections in Croatia
Protection from discrimination
Discrimination, both direct and indirect at the workplace or related to working conditions, is strictly forbidden during the entire employment process — from job interviews to promotion and termination. Employers cannot discriminate against candidates and employees on the following bases:
- Race and ethnic origin
- Skin colour
- Sex and gender identity
- Sexual orientation
- Language and nationality
- Marital status
- Family obligations
- Political views
- Political or union membership
- Social status and background
- Financial status
- Physical or psychological disabilities
Employers with more than 20 employees must adopt employment by-laws detailing their anti-discrimination measures, provided that this has not been regulated in an applicable collective bargaining agreement.
Protection from harassment
Employees have the right to be protected by their employers from verbal, physical, and sexual harassment at work. The procedures and measures in place to extend that protection are regulated by specific laws, collective agreements, or agreements between the employer and works councils.
Employers with more than 20 employees must adopt employment by-laws detailing how they handle harassment and appoint someone to be responsible for dealing with harassment complaints.
If sexual harassment occurs, the employee can claim damages against the third party who harassed the employee and against the employer, who can be fined. In addition, an employee can discontinue work with the employer during the period when conditions for harassment exist and still retain their entitlement to their wage.
Protection in case of business transfer
All employment contracts and employees are automatically transferred to the new employer during the partial or full business undertaking. Transferred employees are entitled to the same employment rights that they enjoyed before the transfer date, and the new employer must assume all the rights and obligations from the transferred employment contracts.
However, transferred employees do not benefit from any special protection against dismissal once the business is transferred. The new employer can terminate employment contracts of the transferred employees following the provisions of the Employment Act.
If the transfer of the undertaking, business, or part of the undertaking or business results from bankruptcy proceedings or a resolution procedure, the rights that are being transferred can be impaired under specific provisions, collective agreement, or agreement between the work council and the employer.
In Croatia, employee’s data protection rights are regulated by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), the Act on Implementation of General Data Protection Regulation (Official Gazette No. 42/18), and the Employment Act. Privacy and data protection are not just employee rights but citizen ones.
Employers have the duty of protecting all personal data of employees and can use personal data only if provided for by the Employment Act or another law or if it is necessary for the exercise of rights and obligations arising from employment or related to employment. Employers are allowed to process employee’s data with a legitimate and important interest only where they cannot meet these requirements by a less intrusive means or when processing employee’s data is deemed necessary for the exercise of rights and obligations arising from or related to employment.
Employees have the right to obtain information related to how their data is being processed and stored, including the controller’s identity, the purpose for processing, the recipient of the personal data, the intention of transfer of personal data to third countries, the period of intended storage. They also have the right to request access, correction, or deletion of their data, to object to its processing, and to lodge a complaint with a supervisory authority.
Employers with more than 20 employees must adopt employment by-laws defining the personal data collected, processed, and delivered to third persons and appoint a person who, in addition to the employer, is authorised to supervise the treatment of employees’ personal information.
Protection against dismissal
An employer can end a fixed-term employment contract only if the contract stipulates they can. Overall, employees enjoy protection against dismissal rights in the following circumstances:
- Employees who are on sick leave and unable to work (They have the right to keep their job and return to work once they get better unless the employer has a justifiable reason to dismiss them. However, temporary absence from work due to illness or injury is not a justifiable reason to terminate the employment contract.)
- Employees who are pregnant, on maternity/adoption/parental leave, and whose baby is not six months old yet
- Employees on fixed-term contracts unless the contract addresses the possibility of termination
- Employees (1) exercising the right to shortened working hours or leave for caring for a child with serious developmental problems during the 15 days after the end of the pregnancy or (2) ceasing to exercise those rights
- Members of the works council and trade union representatives
Employees dismissed under these situations can challenge the termination within 15 days of dismissal. The burden of proof lies with the employer.
If the court ﬁnds the termination invalid, the employer must (1) offer the employee further work and (2) reimburse unpaid salary for the lapsed time. If, during the procedure, the court ﬁnds the termination to be invalid, but at the same time it is not acceptable for the employee to continue employment with the same employer, the court must, at the employee’s request, declare the termination of employment and order the employer to compensate the employee for damages suffered. The amount of indemnity will depend on the length of service, the employee’s age and support obligations, and must be between three and eight times the regulated or agreed monthly salary.
Employees who report work-related irregularities to the state authorities are protected under the Whistleblower Protection Act. Whistleblowers are entitled to judicial protection, damages, and protection of identity and confidentiality. Before reporting to the authorities, at least one of the following should be present:
- Imminent threat to the life, health, or safety of employees
- Large-scale harm or destruction of evidence
- No internal reporting processes
- No communication or action taken by the company for more than 30 days of lodging the information by the whistleblower
- A concern that the internal reporting process cannot ensure the general protection right, as well as identity protection or reported information confidentiality
- The real concern about a threat from a disadvantageous position or ineffective protection measures
- The same company no longer employing the whistleblower
Employees can report internally to their employers by filing a report of irregularities with the employer’s appointed confidentiality person. If the company has more than 50 employees, they must enable an internal reporting of irregularities, appoint a confidentiality person to whom irregularities are reported, protect the whistleblower, keep received information from unauthorised disclosure, eliminate identified anomalies, and regulate the procedure of internal reporting and appointment of a confidentiality person by an internal act.
An employer must not place a whistleblower in a disadvantageous position nor terminate them because of reporting. Whistleblowing is not considered a violation of a business secret.
Required Employee Benefits in Croatia
Apart from being protected against dismissal during pregnancy and for six months after giving birth, pregnant women enjoy many additional rights, including maternity leave, time off for prenatal examination, a daily breastfeeding break and time off to care for a sick child. Parents with children with health and developmental problems are entitled to additional leaves, such as the right to work half of their working hours and temporary suspension of employment to care for their children.
Employees who have made social security contributions for at least 9 consecutive months or 12 months in two years with interruption are entitled to claim income-replace benefits from the Croatian Health Insurance Fund (HZZO).
Job Security in Croatia
Employees have the right to join or opt not to join a union and to belong to whichever union they want. Employers cannot discriminate and are not allowed to offer the employee a benefit for leaving the union, mistreat an employee if they don’t leave a union, force an employee to join or leave one union over another. By their free choice, workers have the right, without any prior approval, to establish a union and join it under conditions that only the union can prescribe.