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Govt on the defensive about draft labor code

The government's draft of a modified labor code is a consultation document ready for feedback, the prime minister's spokesman Péter Szijjártó told reporters on Monday, after trade unions and opposition parties criticized the draft, published on Friday.

The draft moves to make rules on dismissal, overtime pay and holidays more flexible, according to its authors, but opposition parties say it "compromises employee rights."

The draft is expected to be submitted to parliament in the autumn, Szijjártó said.

János Lázár, leader of Fidesz's parliamentary group, said the draft was still in preliminary stage, and added that the government aims to help jobless people and mothers on maternity leave find their way back to the labor market.

Among other stipulations, the draft makes it possible for employers to dismiss employees immediately following the expiration of sick leave, military service, paid maternity and childcare leave or unpaid family-care leave, compared to the current law requiring a 15- or 30-day notice of dismissal. It also allows employers to announce the dismissal before the above protection periods expire.

Szijjártó, in response to opposition criticism that the draft does not include existing protection against dismissal for employees of more than 55 years in age, insisted that that the code would maintain such protection. He cited a questionnaire sent out to households earlier, in which 91.2% of respondents said the protection of those in the years before retirement is necessary.