On 23 March, 2020 the Bulgarian Parliament finally enacted measures against the coronavirus outbreak following the proclamation of a state of emergency ten days ago
The measures taken to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 can be summarised as follows:
- Suspension of procedural and limitation deadlines
The running of deadlines for court, arbitration, administrative and enforcement proceedings is suspended for the duration of the emergency. This does not apply to criminal proceedings for detention, procedures under the Extradition Act and the European Arrest Warrant.
In addition, limitation periods regarding rights or obligations of private individuals will not run, except for terms under the Penal Code and the Administrative Violations and Sanctions act.
- Extension of submission deadlines
Deadlines for filing annual tax returns by companies and natural persons (registered as sole proprietors) are extended to 30 June 2020. Companies must file their annual financial statements by 30 September 2020. As for dormant companies – these must report cessation of activity no later than 30 June 2020.
- Moratorium on certain measures and actions; other restrictions
Distraints on bank accounts belonging to natural persons and health-care institutions; wages and retirement pensions are exempt from execution by way of garnishment. In addition, precautionary measures cannot be executed on medical apparatus and equipment; an inventory list of movables and real estate owned by natural persons cannot be prepared unless alimony obligations, payments of tort claim and unpaid remuneration are involved.
Foreclosure sales and entry into possession already announced by public and private bailiffs are also suspended. Default interest due on the outstanding principal amount of bank loans will stop accruing during the state of emergency; early chargeability and rescission of contract cannot be invoked by the parties.
Notary services are restricted to urgent cases only. Additionally, one notary on duty for every fifty thousand citizens must be ensured as health and hygiene requirements must be observed in this regard.
- Employment law aspects
During the state of emergency employees may be assigned to temporarily work from home or to work remotely without their consent being required unless assignment is impossible. Another option for employers is to introduce part-time working hours for full-time employees. Moreover, an employer or a state authority may order cessation of all or part of the activity of an entire enterprise until the state of emergency is lifted (an order already issued by the Minister of Health can be found here). In these cases, employers can grant annual paid leave to employees without their prior consent. This also applies to employees with work experience not exceeding 8 months. The employer must allow use of annual paid or unpaid leave requested by some vulnerable categories of employees (e.g. pregnant women).
During the period of inactivity employees are entitled to payment of their gross wages. In addition, 60% of their insurable earnings for January 2020 will be paid by the state during the state of emergency but for a period not exceeding three months. And compensation will be granted by the state only to companies operating in certain economic sectors laid down in a list adopted by the Government. Requirements and the procedure for applying for compensation will be detailed in a decree of the Ministerial Council. Employers who fail to pay the total amount of wages will be obliged to reimburse all funds received from the state.
Source:Act on measures and actions during the state of emergency declared by decision of the National Assembly from 13 March 2020 (Promulgated in the State Gazette issue No. 28 of 24 March 2020)
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