June 19, 2024

Working time limits

The provisions for the working time limits of the employees cover one of the most crucial parts of the labour legislation, as they do not simply define the duration of work but also regulate how remuneration shall be calculated. These regulations are directly related to the health and safety of workers.

‘Statutory working hours’ means the working hours laid down by legal provisions (in the substantive sense of the term, including regulatory administrative acts adopted pursuant to a delegated law), which are public policy rules in nature and apply irrespective of whether the employment contract is valid or not (Judgment No 1188/90 of the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece (Areios Pagos), Judgment No 4911/92 of the Athens Court of First Instance, etc.). Under Article 1 of Law 3385/2005 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 210) the statutory weekly working time was set at 45 hours for a 5‑day working week system, or 48 hours for a 6‑day working week system. Moreover, after the 5‑day working week system came into force, the statutory daily working time was set at 9 hours, but remained at 8 hours for a 6‑day working week [Article 6 of the National General Collective Labour Agreement (Εθνική Γενική Συλλογική Σύμβαση Εργασίας, EGSSE) of 26 February 1975,Law 2269/1920, (Article 18 of the Presidential Decree of 8 April 1932); Judgment No 119/97 of the Areios Pagos].

Under Article 58 of Law 4808/2021 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 101), which amended Article 4 of Law 2874/2000, the legal weekly working time were set at 45 hours for a 5‑day working week system, or 48 hours for a 6‑day working week system. Moreover, after the 5‑day working week system came into force, the statutory daily working time was set at 9 hours, but remained at 8 hours for a 6‑day working week [Article 6 of the EGSSE of 26 February 1975,Law 2269/1920, (Article 18 of the Presidential Decree of 8 April 1932); Judgment No 119/97 of the Areios Pagos; Circular No οικ.64597/03.09.2021 on Article 58 of Law 4808/2021].

‘Contractual working hours’ means the working hours determined by individual or collective labour agreements and may be shorter, but never longer, than the statutory working hours. More specifically, under the EGSSE of 14 February 1984 and Article 55 of Law 4808/2021, it was set at 40 hours per week, meaning 8 hours per day for a 5‑day working week and 6.40 hours per day for a 6‑day working week.

‘Daily working time’ means the time worked during a continuous period of 24 hours (Article 3 of Presidential Decree 88/1999).

‘Weekly working week’ means the time worked during the period from 00.01 on Monday to 00.00 on the following Sunday (Article 2 of Decree 88/1999).

Whenever the daily working time is longer than 4 hours, a break of at least 15 minutes and not more than 30 minutes must be granted, during which workers are entitled to leave their workplace. The break time does not constitute working time and may not be granted consecutively upon the start or end of the daily working time (Article 4 of Presidential Decree 88/1999, as amended by Article 56 of Law 4808/2021).

In accordance with Article 60 of Law 4808/2021, the following dates are set as compulsory public holidays for all undertakings, holdings and works in general which are not in operation on Sundays and public holidays:

a) New Year’s Day (1 January)
b) Epiphany (6 January)
c) Greek Independence Day (25 March)
d) Easter Monday
e) Labour Day (1 May)
f) Assumption (15 August)
g) Ochi Day (28 October)
h) Christmas Day (25 December)
i) Boxing Day (26 December)

Decisions may be issued by the Minister for Labour and Social Affairs, following an opinion from the Supreme Labour Council, which must be published in the Hellenic Government Gazette, designating other holidays too, up to five holidays per year, as mandatory or optional public holidays in the entire Greek territory. The power to designate local public holidays rests with the heads of regions. Designated public holidays may be abolished or changed using the same procedure.

Work done in excess of 8 hours per day for a 5‑day working week up to a 9‑hour limit, or 6.40 hours per day for a 6‑day working week up to an 8‑hour limit, provided that there is an excess of 40 hours per week up to a 45-hour limit for a 5‑day working week or a 48‑hour limit for a 6‑day working week, qualifies – in accordance with Article 4 of Law 2874/2000 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 286), as amended by Article 58 of Law 4808/2021– as ‘extra work’ (yperergasia), whereas the employer has the discretion to have an employee carry out such extra work.

The 5 hours’ extra work for a 5‑day working week (hour 41 to hour 45) and the 8 hours’ extra work for a 6‑day working week (hour 41 to hour 48) is remunerated at the hourly rate of pay plus 20% and is not taken into account when calculating the maximum permissible overtime work under the relevant provisions.

Work done in excess of 45 hours a week for a 5-day working week or in excess of 48 hours a week for a 6-day working week qualifies – in accordance with Article 58(2) of Law 4808/2021 – as ‘overtime work’ (yperoriaki apascholisi) and is subject to all the legal consequences, formalities and legalisation procedures. It is remunerated at the hourly rate of pay plus 40%.

Moreover, work done in excess of the statutory working time of 9 hours per day for a 5‑day working week (Article 6 of the EGSSE of 26 February 1975, Judgment No 119/1997 of the Areios Pagos) or in excess of the statutory working time of 8 hours per day for a 6‑day working week (Judgment No 247/2003 of the Areios Pagos, Circular No οικ.64597/03.09Z.2021 on Article 58 of Law 4808/2021) qualifies as ‘overtime work’.

  • Work within the maximum limit for overtime work

In accordance with Article 58 of Law 4808/2021, the maximum limit for overtime work in all undertakings and for all employees in the private sector is set at 150 hours per year and up to 3 hours per day.

Employees working overtime, as per the above provisions, are entitled to remuneration equal to the hourly rate of pay plus 40% for each hour of legal overtime work, up to 3 hours per day and up until they have completed 150 hours per year.

  • Legalisation of overtime work

Extra work and overtime work is legal only if declared by the employer in the ‘ERGANI’ information system before such work is carried out [Article 36 of Law 4488/2017 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 137), which replaced Article 80(1) of Law 4144/2013, as amended by Article 78 of Law 4808/2021]

Please note that the performance of extra work will no longer be declared in advance in the ‘ERGANI’ information system, following issuance of the relevant Ministerial Decision provided for in Article 79(5) of Law 4808/2021.

  • Illegal overtime work

Where overtime work is carried out without compliance with the formal and substantive requirements of the relevant aforementioned provisions or in excess of the overtime limit, it is illegal and will therefore, result, apart from civil consequences against the employer, in criminal liability for the employer or for the person responsible for the undertaking under the law, in accordance with Articles 24 and 28 of Law 3996/2011 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 170).

Furthermore, in accordance with Article 4(4) and (5) of Law 2874/2000 as amended by Article 58 of Law 4808/2021, overtime work carried out without complying with the formalities provided by law (prior declaration to the ‘ERGANI’ information system) or in excess of the maximum limits laid down in this article (3 hours per day and 150 hours per year) and without following the relevant approval procedures specified by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs qualifies as illegal overtime work (instead of the previously used term ‘exceptional overtime work’). For each hour of illegal overtime work, the employee is entitled to compensation equal to the hourly rate of pay plus 120% (instead of the previously used percentage of 80%).

Greek labour law (Royal Decree 748/1966) prohibits all industrial, craft, commercial and professional activity in general on Sundays (between midnight on Saturday and midnight on Sunday) and on official public holidays, therefore also prohibiting employment of the relevant employees. However, there are exceptions to this prohibition, which are linked to specific categories of undertakings or employees [Articles 2, 7 and 9 of the aforementioned Royal Decree, as well as Article 9(3) following approval from the Labour Inspectorate and Article 63 of Law 4808/2021).

In accordance with joint Decisions No 8900/46 and No 25825/51 of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Labour, as well as Article 2 of Legislative Decree 3755/1957, as amended and supplemented by Legislative Decree 147/73, Article 2 of Law 435/1976, Article 42(2) of Law 4454/2018 and Article 91 of Law 4876/2021, employees working on Sundays and public holidays should be given additional pay amounting to 75% of 1/25 of their statutory monthly salary or daily wage.

Generally speaking, every employee who works more than 5 hours on a Sunday is entitled to time off in lieu in the form of a 24-hour weekly rest period on another working day of the week starting on the Sunday on which they worked. Employees who work fewer than 5 hours may request time off in lieu in the form of a rest period of equal duration. Please note that only workers who work on Sundays, not workers who work on public holidays, are entitled to time off in lieu in the form of a weekly rest period (Article 10 of Royal Decree 748/1966).

Moreover, under the above provisions, employees paid a daily wage who will not work on the above public holidays, for reasons for which they are not to blame, are entitled to the statutory wage without any additional pay.

(a) Arrangement by agreement between the employer and the employees’ trade union

Article 41 of Law 1892/1990, as amended and currently in force, introduced a system of working time arrangements.

More specifically, the new provision allows undertakings which apply contractual working times of up to 40 hours per week to increase working time (2 hours per day in addition to the 8 hours) for a certain period, provided the weekly working times over and above the 40 hours, or a shorter contractual weekly working time, are deducted from working times in another period of reduced employment. The periods of increased and reduced working times must not exceed 6 months in total within a period of 12 months (reference period).

Moreover, instead of the arrangement described in the previous paragraph, the above undertakings may allocate up to 256 hours’ work out of the total working time in 1 calendar year by increasing the number of hours in specific periods of no more than 32 weeks per year and reducing working hours accordingly for the remainder of the calendar year.

Working time arrangements are adopted under a corporate collective labour agreement or under an agreement between the employer and the corporate trade union or between the employer and the employee council or between the employer and the associations. If there is no trade union, or no agreement is reached between the trade union and the employer, the working time arrangement may be applied following a written agreement between the employer and the employee.

Finally, corporate and sectoral collective labour agreements may introduce different working time arrangements, depending on the specifics of the sector or undertaking concerned.

(b) Arrangements under a private agreement between the employer and the employee

In accordance with Article 59 of Law 4808/2021 as amended and currently in force by Article 28 of Law 5053/2023, it is possible to apply a working time arrangement as per Article 41 of Law 1892/1990 (in a 6‑month or 12‑month reference period) following a written agreement between the employer and the employee. This procedure, as provided for herein, is possible only where there is no corporate trade union in place or where no agreement has been reached between the trade union and the employer.

Moreover, paragraph 2 of Article 55 of Law 4808/2021 introduced a new working time organisation system which constitutes full-time employment. More specifically and in the context of the working time arrangement provided for in Article 41 of Law 1892/1990 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 101), it is possible to adopt a 4‑day full-time employment arrangement of 40 hours per week and 10 hours per day. The agreement between the employer and the employee on the implementation of that working time arrangement should be entered into in accordance with the terms and conditions set out in this article.

More specifically, this working time arrangement may be applied either for a reference period of 6 months within 1 calendar year or for a reference period of 1 calendar year.

Where this arrangement is applied, working times over and above 10 hours per day and 40 hours per week, distributed over a 4‑day period, are not permitted.

Every employee with an employment contract of fixed or indefinite duration is entitled to paid annual leave from start of their employment by the liable undertaking, without the need to complete a basic period of employment [Article 2(1) of Emergency Law 539/1945, as amended by Article 13(1) of Law 3227/2004 and replaced by Article 1 of Law 3302/2004].

This leave is granted by the employer on a pro rata basis in proportion to the length of time the worker has been employed by that employer. Leave is granted proportionally on the basis of 20 working days’ annual leave for a 5‑day working week and 24 working days for a 6‑day working week over a period of 12 months of continuous employment. The employer must grant regular paid annual leave gradually in the first calendar year in which the employee was hired, in proportion to their period of employment by the liable undertaking. In the second calendar year, employees are entitled to regular paid annual leave in proportion to their period of employment by the liable undertaking, calculated as per the above. Leave will increase by 1 working day for each year’s employment after the first year, up to 26 working days in the case of a 6‑day working week or up to 22 days if the undertaking applies a 5‑day working week system. In the third calendar year and every year thereafter, employees are entitled to take their full annual leave at any time during that year.

Workers who have completed 10 years of service with the same employer or 12 years of past employment with any employer under any employment relationship are entitled to 30 working days’ leave for a 6‑day working week and 25 working days for 5‑day working week (Article 3 of the 2008-2009 EGSSE). As of 1 January 2008, employees who have completed 25 years of service or past employment are entitled to 1 additional day’s leave, i.e. a total of 31 working days for a 6‑day working week or 26 working days for a 5‑day working week.

The time of granting the annual leave should be arranged between the employee and the employer. However, employers are under obligation to grant the annual leave to employees within 2 months of their request [Article 4(1) of Emergency Law 539/1945].

In accordance with Article 61 of Law 4808/2021 amending Article 4 of Emergency Law 539/1945 the normal annual leave is granted by the employer to employees up to the end of the first quarter of the calendar year following the calendar year that corresponds to that leave.

If the leave is not granted by 31 March of the following calendar year, i.e. the date by which the entire leave to which an employee is entitled must have been granted, the employer is under obligation to pay the employee the leave of absence pay as follows: the regular amount of pay if there is no fault or negligence, etc. on the part of the employer, or double that amount, i.e. increased by 100%, where there is negligence or fault, etc. on the part of the employer (Emergency Law 539/1945; Legislative Decree 3755/1957, Judgment 1568/99 of Areios Pagos).

The granting of exam leave is based on provisions of law, ministerial decisions, as well as specific articles of the national general collective labour agreements. It is therefore a legal leave of absence which is remunerated for by the Hellenic Manpower Employment Organisation (OAED), its fundamental purpose being to assist employees who meet the legal requirements with taking part in examinations.

More specifically, in accordance with Article 2(1) of Law 1346/1983 (Government Gazette, Series I, No 46) employees who are pupils or students in educational establishments of any type and of any grade, whether operated by the Hellenic State or supervised by it in any way whatsoever, and are younger than 25 years of age are entitled to additional 14 working days’ unpaid leave from their employer in order to take part in examinations. The leave concerned is granted in the form of consecutive days or intermittently.

The above leave for taking part in examinations was increased to 30 days by Article 7 of the 1996-1997 EGSSE, while Article 6 of the 1998-1999 EGSSE provided that it may also be granted to workers older than 28 years of age only for the specified duration of the study attended by a worker each time, plus 2 years, regardless of whether the study was completed on a continuous or intermittent basis.

Eligible working pupils or students will receive pay from the OAED for the aforementioned exam leave of absence.

Further details on the days of the aforementioned leave, the amount of daily pay, the method of payment, the relevant procedure and all other necessary details concerning the above are provided for in Joint Ministerial Decision No 31930/14.07.83 (Government Gazette, Series II, No 444), as supplemented and currently in force by related Joint Ministerial Decisions No 34651/29.11.96 (Government Gazette, Series II, No 1122) and No 33894/07.12.98 (Government Gazette, Series II, No 1276), falling under the remit of the OAED.

In accordance with Article 10 of the 2004-2005 EGSSE, those attending a programme for a master’s degree that requires at least 1 year of study or for a doctoral degree at a higher or technical education institution in Greece or abroad are entitled to 10 working days’ leave. This is unpaid leave that is granted by the employer in the form of consecutive days or intermittently, regardless of the eligible person’s age and is valid for up to 2 years.

As regards pay granted for the days of the aforementioned leave, the amount of the daily wage, the method of payment, the relevant procedure and all other necessary details concerning the above fall under the remit of the OAED.

The unpaid leave arrangement for the private sector was introduced into national law by Article 62 of Law 4808/2021. This provision allows a full- or part-time worker to be granted unpaid leave after entering into a written agreement with the employer on a personal basis. This leave of absence may not exceed 1 year and may be extended by further agreement between the parties. During the leave of absence, the employment contract is suspended and no social security contributions are due.

All rights and obligations of the parties under the employment contract will continue to apply after expiry of the unpaid leave.

The unpaid leave arrangement for the private sector was introduced into national law by Article 62 of Law 4808/2021. This provision allows a full- or part-time worker to be granted unpaid leave after entering into a written agreement with the employer on a personal basis. This leave of absence may not exceed 1 year and may be extended by further agreement between the parties. During the leave of absence, the employment contract is suspended and no social security contributions are due.

All rights and obligations of the parties under the employment contract will continue to apply after expiry of the unpaid leave.

Finally, as regards the granting of regular leave to employees who have taken unpaid leave as per the above, please note that the granting and calculation of the days of an employee’s regular leave will also take into account the period of unpaid leave granted to the employee (see also Article 2(6) of Emergency Law 539/45, as well as a relevant decision of the State Legal Council).

In accordance with Article 68 of Law 4554/2018, an employee responding to an invitation extended by an emergency blood donation service, or participating in an organised group blood donation session, or volunteering to donate blood at any blood conation centre is entitled to special leave on full pay only for the day of blood donation. The employee must provide the employer with a relevant certificate issued by the hospital where the blood donation took place. The same leave of absence is also granted for platelet donation.

A prerequisite for an employee to be granted special leave to take part in any of the above blood donation arrangements is that the employer must be notified in good time, at least 5 working days before the blood donation takes place, except in emergencies. Exceptionally, only where simultaneous requests are made by several employees to use that special leave, the employer may, in consultation with the employee and depending on their work schedule and the needs of the undertaking, grant the leave no later than ten (10) days from the date the blood donation is carried out.

The employee may exercise the right to special blood donation leave no more than twice a year.

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