The COVID-19 outbreak, which was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organisation on 11 March 2020, the date on which the first case in Turkey was discovered, has inevitably had a significant impact on economic life. The measures taken to minimise this impact eventually resulted in labour law having to be restructured according to the pandemic's circumstances. In this respect, the duration of compensatory working, which is stipulated under the Labour Act, has been increased.
Under Decision 2480 on the Extension of the Suspension of Terms for the Prevention of Losses of Judicial Rights, the suspension of terms stipulated in Law 7226, which aimed to prevent any loss of rights in regard to trials due to the measures taken to combat the COVID-19 outbreak, has been extended. However, this date will be re-evaluated if the risk of spreading the virus is eliminated before the extension expires.
The Law on Minimising the Impacts of the New Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak on Economic and Social Life and the Amendment of Certain Laws recently entered into force. The most significant amendments include the prohibition on employers terminating employment contracts for three months as of 17 April 2020 and the provision that employers can impose unpaid leave without an employee's consent during the three-month prohibition period.
The Law on the Amendment of Certain Laws 7226 recently entered into force upon publication in the Official Gazette. Pursuant to Law 7226, the procedural terms will be suspended until 30 April 2020 in order to prevent any loss of rights in regard to trials due to the measures taken during the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a May 2019 decision, the Supreme Court General Assembly on the Unification of Judgments concluded that the plaintiff in a partial monetary action need not reiterate its claim for interest when increasing the value of the claim if it claimed interest for its principal receivables in the plaint petition and the claim of interest will automatically apply for the amount which is increased later on.
The coronavirus pandemic will inevitably affect Turkish labour law; as part of employers' duty to protect employees, they must take occupational health and safety measures and protect employees' health and physical and mental integrity. This article outlines employers' duties in this respect.
At the beginning of each year, the minimum wage, severance payments and administrative fines prescribed by the Labour Act are revised. On 1 January 2020 the changes for 2020 came into effect. Among other changes, the monthly minimum wage rate has increased from TL2,558.40 (gross) to TL2,943.00 (gross).
The Supreme Court recently examined the date on which an addressee had viewed an electronic notification. The court's first decision caused uncertainty as it accepted the date on which the notification had been viewed as the notification date. However, the court later revoked this decision and provided clear legal guidance that electronic notifications will be deemed to have been served by the end of the fifth day after their delivery, regardless of whether the addressee has viewed the notification.
The Constitutional Court recently found that the requirement for employers to pay interest at a rate of 5% for each day that a journalist's overtime payments remain outstanding conflicts with the Constitution. The court ruled that this requirement places an excessive burden on employers and may result in journalists' unjustified enrichment. Therefore, the court repealed the provision on the grounds that it breached the principles of proportionality and equality.
The Supreme Court General Assembly on the Unification of Judgments recently concluded that penalty clauses agreed for the unjust termination of a fixed-term employment contract before its end date are valid and enforceable even if the contract is deemed to be of an indefinite nature due to a lack of objective conditions required by law to conclude fixed-term contracts.
The justification of court decisions is regarded as a key element of the right to a fair trial. In Turkey, this right is protected by the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the Turkish Constitution, the Code of Civil Procedure and Supreme Court precedents. However, in practice, judgments are sometimes made without providing any justification as to why the parties' claims and evidence were not taken into account.
Applying for mediation was recently made a prerequisite when filing a lawsuit concerning monetary claims by employees or employers arising out of employment contracts, collective labour agreements or reinstatement claims. Mandatory mediation was introduced to accelerate legal proceedings and lower the costs in employment disputes.
When the new Code of Civil Procedure was enacted in 2011, it introduced a new case type to Turkish litigation where plaintiffs file an action for receivables for an unquantified amount that is left to the courts to determine subject to dispute. This innovation in the litigation procedure raises questions regarding the instances in which plaintiffs should be deemed unable to calculate the size of their claims and what the courts should do when the receivables or damages are quantifiable.
Parties that failed to comply with an interim injunction or that violated an injunction previously faced one to six months' imprisonment. However, the Constitutional Court recently annulled this provision due to its lack of clear regulation and legal remedies. The changes will enter into force nine months after their publication in the Official Gazette and are final and binding on legislative, executive and judicial bodies, administrative authorities and real and legal entities.
The Supreme Court recently found that the failure of employees to use appropriate language in their written workplace correspondence with superiors or colleagues constitutes a valid reason for termination. The court held that although the actions of the employee in question had not been serious enough to constitute just cause for termination and deprive him of his termination benefits, the employer could not be expected to continue the employment relationship.
Minimum wage, severance payments and administrative fines prescribed by the Labour Act are revised at the beginning of each calendar year. The minimum wage rate was recently increased to TL2,558.40 (gross) and the maximum severance payment was increased to TL6,017.60 (gross). In addition, the rate of administrative fines was increased by 23.73% compared with 2018.
The recently published Presidential Executive Decree 85 amended Decree 32 on the Protection of the Turkish Currency. In the field of employment law, it is unclear whether foreign nationals fall within the scope of the decree and how their salaries will be paid going forward. Since the decree uses the term 'Turkish residents', the general understanding is that it also applies to foreign employees, as they must have a residential address in Turkey in order to have a work permit.
The Supreme Court recently issued a number of decisions setting out how to calculate overtime pay and how employees can prove any overtime owed when required. Among other things, the decisions state that signed payslips can be used as material evidence. Further, where an employee has not signed a payslip and overtime payments have been made via bank transfer, the employee must prove that they worked the disputed overtime with documentary evidence.
Turkey has recently faced higher currency exchange rates, which has raised the question of whether this increase constitutes a change in circumstances that affects the fulfilment of contractual obligations. As there is no settled Supreme Court precedent regarding whether a fluctuation in currency exchange rates requires the adaptation of contracts, first-instance courts will need to examine the circumstances of each case.
The Supreme Court recently issued a decision concerning an employee's dismissal for borrowing money from their employer's customer. The Supreme Court reversed the first-instance labour court decision and ruled that the termination was lawful based on the fact that the employee had acted against the rule of integrity and honesty and damaged the employer's reputation.