The Student Employment Act is the first law in Croatia governing student work. It introduces a minimum hourly rate; prescribes higher remuneration for night work, work on holidays and Sundays, and overtime work; and equates the right to perform student work for full-time and part-time non-employed students.
Until November 2018, student work was regulated for more than 20 years by the ordinance on intervention for the employment of full-time students. Since many student work matters were not clearly defined or were not regulated by that ordinance, the Student Employment Act was enacted.
The act imposes changes to rights and obligations on all three parties involved in student work: the students, their employers and student centers, which act as intermediaries. One of the main amendments is that full-time and part-time students without full-time employment and/or those who do not engage in an independent activity of crafts, free professions, and/or agriculture and forestry are now treated equally, with both groups having the right to perform student work. International students involved in student exchange programs are also eligible to perform student work in Croatia. In order to maintain the right to student work, students must earn at least 1 ECTS credit each academic year.
A student may enter into a student work contract beginning on the date of enrollment in a higher education institution. The student, the student center, and the employer sign the contract before the start of the student’s work. Student work contract forms may be completed and signed in written or electronic form. This should speed up the process, which was previously very exhaustive, as students had to wait in lines in student centers in order to submit their contracts.
A student work contract is required for each calendar month. However, a contract may also be created for a slightly longer period of up to 45 days, provided the reason for its longer duration is stated.
The act prescribes a minimum hourly student rate, which is calculated by dividing the minimum gross salary in the Republic of Croatia by 160. In 2019, the minimum hourly student fee is HRK 23,44 net. Further, students are entitled to a 50 percent increase to the hourly fee for work on public holidays, on Sundays, and at night, as well as for working overtime. Also, students are now entitled to reimbursement for travel expenses and hot meals. Likewise, for student work lasting at least six hours in a day, the student is entitled to a paid break of at least 30 minutes.
The employer is obligated to pay the student center the fee for student work within 15 days of the end of work. The student center then has three days to pay the student. An additional protection of students, as well as the employer’s other workers, is that employers that terminate an employment contract with a worker due to business reasons are prohibited from employing a student in the same job for the next six months. The aim of this provision is to prevent employers from using students as a cheap workforce.
To prevent the misuse of student work, inspections will be performed. For violations of the Student Employment Act’s provisions, fines of up to HRK 100,000 (approximately EUR 13,500) are prescribed.
The Student Employment Act should have a positive impact on the regulation of student work. The act allows for a better protection of students, but it also prevents many irregularities that were very common among students, such as selling student work contracts and working under someone else’s name. Since the act is still relatively new, it remains to be seen how its implementation will turn out.
Written by Goran Ilej and Anja Stanić of Ilej & Partners and Roger James of Ogletree Deakins
© 2019 Ilej & Partners and Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.