This summary of age discrimination law in Hungary has been prepared by CLV Partners, the Ius Laboris member for Hungary: www.clvpartners.com/hu

Overview

Hungary has implemented the following directives with the Act CXXV of 2003 on equal treatment and the promotion of equal opportunities:

  • Council Directive 76/207/EEC of 9 February 1976 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women as regards access to employment, vocational training and promotion, and working conditions;
  • Council Directive 79/7/EEC of 19 December 1978 on the progressive implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in matters of social security;
  • Council Directive 86/378/EEC of 24 July 1986 on the implementation of the principle of equal treatment for men and women in occupational social security schemes;
  • Directive 86/613/EEC of 11 December 1986 on the application of the principle of equal treatment between men and women engaged in an activity, including agriculture, in a self-employed capacity, and on the protection of self-employed women during pregnancy and motherhood;
  • Council Directive 97/80/EC of 15 December 1997 on the burden of proof in cases of discrimination based on sex;
  • Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 implementing the principle of equal treatment between persons irrespective of racial or ethnic origin;
  • Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 establishing a general framework for equal treatment in employment and occupation;
  • Council Directive 2004/113/EC of 13 December 2004 implementing the principle of equal treatment between men and women in the access to and supply of goods and services;
  • There are no other regulations in force.

The Equal Treatment Authority (“the Authority”) was established by Act CXXV of 2003 on equal treatment and the promotion of equal opportunities as set in the Government Decree No 362/2004 (XII.26.). The Authority started its work on the 1st February 2005. It is an independent organisation, which was set up by the Hungarian Government to receive and deal with individual and public complaints about unequal treatment and to implement the principles of equality and non-discrimination.

Who's covered?

The principle of equal treatment must be observed by:

  • The Hungarian state;
  • Local and minority governments and all bodies thereof;
  • Organisations exercising powers as authorities;
  • Armed forces and policing bodies;
  • Public foundations, public bodies and employer and employee representative bodies;
  • Organisations performing public services;
  • Institutions of elementary and higher education (hereinafter collectively: educational institutions);
  • Persons and institutions providing social care and child protection/welfare services;
  • Museums, libraries and elementary educational institutions;
  • Voluntary mutual insurance funds and private pension funds;
  • Entities providing health care;
  • Parties;
  • Budgetary organs that do not belong to any of the above

Equal treatment must be observed in the course of establishing their relationships, in their relationships, in the course of their procedures and in the measures they take.

In addition to the entities listed above, the following persons shall observe the principle of equal treatment in respect of the relevant relationship:

  • Those who make a proposal to persons not previously selected to enter into contract or invite such persons for tender;
  • Those who provide services or sell goods at their premises open to customers;
  • Self-employed persons, legal entities and organisations without a legal entity receiving state aid, in respect of their relationships established in the course of their utilisation of such a state aid, from the time when the state aid is utilised until the competent authorities can audit the utilisation of the state aid in accordance with the applicable regulations; and
  • Employers in respect of employment relationships and persons entitled to give instructions in respect of other relationships aimed at employment and relationships directly related thereto

The scope of the regulation does not extend to:

  • Family law relationships;
  • Relationships between relatives;
  • Relationships directly connected with the activities of the religious life of the churches; and between the members of legal entities and organisations without a legal entity and relationships related to membership, except for the establishment of membership.

This provision cannot be applied at:

  • The establishment and cancellation of membership relationship; and
  • The relationship of parties with the exception of characteristic of political and other opinion

What enforcements/remedies exist?

Each person has right to lodge a complaint to the Authority about the violation of equal rights. In this claim the claimant has to inform the Authority that it has suffered disadvantage and it has to specify the protected quality which is the basis of the complaint.

What decisions are made by the Authority?

If the Authority has established that the principles of equal treatment have been violated, they may:

  • Order that the situation constituting the violation of law should be stopped;
  • Prohibit the continuation of the violation of law;
  • Publish its decision establishing the violation of law;
  • Impose a fine from 50,000 to 6 million Hungarian Forint (HUF), and/or;
  • Apply legal consequences defined by the Act

Damages can only be awarded by the court. To get compensation the victim has to bring legal proceedings against the alleged discriminatory in court.

How common are claims?

During the first year of its operation the Authority received about 500 complaints, the majority of them being allegations of race discrimination. The equal rights of people were mostly abused in employment. The Authority has been successful in 9 cases, settlement was reached with the help of the Authority in 6 cases, in 3 cases a fine was imposed against the discriminator, in 125 cases no discrimination was established and in 24 cases the Authority dissolved the proceedings, partly because the client withdrew the complaints and partly because the case was at court on the same ground parallel with the Authority's procedure.

Examining the previous 5 years, in Hungary the Authority established the violation of legal provisions in 6 cases, 1 case was closed by settlement, the procedure was finished by court in 1 case and 2 complaints were rejected. Regarding the data above, we can state that discrimination claims are not common in Hungary, as employees are generally not aware of their rights.

What claims are most common and what are trickiest issues for employers?

In the previous 5 years disability claims are by far the most common; there are few cases of age discrimination.

Termination in cases of indefinite legal period, where the employee is 5 years from the retirement age, must be justified and have regard the conduct of the employee in connection with the labour relationship.

Of those cases that are brought, most are brought by older people who were not hired or were dismissed because of their age. Frequently also in job advertisements the employers request employees of a certain age.

Are there any specific exceptions in your laws?

The provisions of the Act on equal treatment do not apply to family and private life and relationships directly connected with the activities of the religious life of the Churches or relationships of parties except for the political or other opinion, relationships between the members of legal entities and organisations without a legal entity, relationships related to membership (except for the establishment of membership).

Retirement ages

Although the employer can never force an employee to retire, the Hungarian Labour Code considers an employee who has reached the age necessary for retirement (generally 65 years old) and who has the necessary service period (generally 20 years) a "retired" person, even if the employee has not actually retired. Different rules are applicable for "retired" employees, as they can be dismissed without any justification and there are not entitled to severance payment.

The women who has service period of at least 40 years are also entitled for retirement without regarding the age.

Interesting cases

On 15th December 2003 a civil servant of over 50 was made redundant because the Government made a decision about cuts in civil service. The Authority had to dismiss the case, because the Act of the principle of equal treatment was not in force yet.

The mayor office of a village dismissed a civil servant with a working capacity reduced by 67 percent but before that time they employed another civil servant with working capacity reduced by 50 percent. The Claimant turned to the Authority and to the Labour Court at the same time asking them to state that he was a victim of discrimination. His claim was based on the fact that he was given a pension. The Authority had to dismiss the case because the discrimination was being investigated by the Labour Court.

The Authority established discrimination and imposed a fine of 450,000 HUF on a travel agency which employed 4 new people who were aged 30. The reason for the violation of equal treatment was the age of the dismissed people.

A regional branch of a state financial institution's civil servants turned to the Authority with their complaint because only middle aged graduated civil servants were the victims of the lay-offs in 2004. The clients objected to the way the chief administrator of the supervisory authority wanted to cut the number of the staff. In a circular sent to the local authorities, 90% of 164,000 HUF was set as the minimal saving per capita from the reduction. The graduate civil servants became the discriminated group. The Authority examined the principle of lay-offs and saw that the average sum was set in the circular with which all categories of civil servants could be affected. This is why the complaint was dismissed. It was also investigated to see if certain age groups were discriminated in the lay-offs. The data did not show any sign of discrimination. Although all the dismissed civil servants were over 31, the proportion of people between 31 and 60 was 82.9% in the staff. The case was dismissed as baseless.

A woman thought she might have been discriminated when her job application for cleaner at a state institution was refused because she was under 18. One of the employees of the Respondent informed her that she had been refused because people under 18 could not get an entrance card in that building. She applied twice for the advertised vacancy but was refused each time because of her age. The Authority initiated proceedings against the Respondent. Settlement was being considered by the parties, so at their request, the procedure was suspended for 30 days. During this time a draft settlement agreement was made. The Respondent promised that as soon as there would be a vacancy in the part of the country where the woman lived, she would be among the first people interviewed if she is still unemployed and that she should inform the Respondent as soon as she is employed anywhere else. The Authority approved the agreement.

An individual applied for a warehouseman and shelf-filler position in a business company in 2011. In the conditions it stated that the age between 20 and 30 was required and although the claimant sent its CV four times, they were not invited for an interview due to their age exceeding 30. The employer did confirm the “unfortunate words”, but it denied if there was a disadvantage in the case of the claimant. The Authority stated that in the offer given, the requirements were not objective and it prohibited the employer from the continuation of the violation of law.

In 2014, an individual requested that the Authority justify their case. They had applied for a job of collecting raspberries and the company offering the position told him that they would inform him when the session started. They did not do so; however the claimant started to receive information that the company requested the work of claimant.  After few weeks, they asked the employer to confirm the starting date and received the response that the employer was requesting a younger colleague due to ‘the conditions of the job’. The Authority stated that the company violated the provisions of equal treatment.