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Workwear: rules, liability, taxation, prices

There is a lot of talk these days about fringe benefits, but do they include workwear or protective clothing? Not according to the compliance expert, as the Labour Code requires employers to provide them for certain jobs. However, according to the sales manager of one of the largest national distributors of workwear and protective clothing, workwear can still become a kind of cafeteria item. How?

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Workwear and protective clothing are used in the Labour Code, but the new law adopted in 2012 does not regulate the details of the issue of workwear at all, so it depends on the practice of companies - Ádám Kéri, lawyer and compliance expert told HR Portal. This clothing is provided by the employer, it can be uniforms or uniforms to protect the home or work clothes to create a uniform appearance. Workwear is defined in the legislation as clothing that protects the employee's own (street) clothing from heavy soiling and accelerated wear and tear while performing his or her job duties. It is not suitable for street wear.

Wearing workwear is also regulated by the so-called cleanliness classification, said László Mikskéri, labour adviser to the LIGA trade union. In the first and last two categories of the five grades, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with work clothes. Cleaner clothing is required in the health sector, where it is unthinkable to use your own clothes, but also consider the possibility that the worker's clothes on the street could be bloody while working," said László Miskéri. But, for example, for workers in classification "e" or "d", in the cleaning of highly contaminated or infectious-toxic substances, it is also unthinkable to work in their own clothes and the employer is obliged to provide work clothes, he added. However, an office worker working in a civilian environment, for example, may not be provided with work clothes.

Wearing a uniform outside the workplace is prohibited

When work clothing is provided, it is mandatory for the employee to wear it while at work and some level of liability for damage is imposed for its condition, the compliance expert explained the work clothing policy. "In general, employers do not allow employees to wear workwear outside the workplace. There is a risk that damage may occur during private use, or even because, for example, if the employee goes to a nightclub in it and behaves in an objectionable manner, it may damage the company's image", added Ádám Kéri. The details of workwear are usually written into the employment contract. In multinationals, if the employment relationship is terminated within 6 months, a number of costs, such as access cards or even work clothes, have to be paid, which is irregular, as employers cannot pass on the costs necessary to maintain the employment relationship to the other party, the expert adds.

Protective clothing: mandatory for certain jobs

Wearing protective clothing is a protective device, the details of which are also not regulated by the Labour Code, but only in general terms, that if protective equipment is necessary for the performance of the work, the employer is obliged to provide the employee with protective clothing. In general, the OSH risk assessment will determine whether protective clothing is required for a particular job. If necessary, the employer is responsible for providing both, so the costs are not borne by the employee, but are tax-free for the employer. The law on protective clothing stipulates that, in order to ensure safe working conditions that do not endanger health, the employer must ensure that protective equipment is fit for its intended purpose, that it is fit for its intended purpose, and that it is cleaned, maintained, repaired and replaced as necessary. While workwear may be given a "wear-out period", protective clothing should not be given this period, but should be replaced when it is no longer "fit for purpose", said László Miskéri. For both types of clothing, the maintenance of the clothing is essentially the responsibility of the employer, but the worker must also protect the clothing. In relation to workwear and protective clothing, it is the responsibility of the employee to use it as intended. The employer is liable for any damage caused to the clothing, the employee only if the clothing is not used in the way expected. However, it is the employer who must prove that the employee has suffered damage. "The Labour Code limits the amount of workers' compensation in cases of slight negligence to the employee's obligation to pay compensation, i.e. the amount of compensation may not exceed the amount of the employee's four months' absence pay. In the case of intentional or grossly negligent damage, it provides for full compensation to be borne by the employee", quoted Ádám Kéri, but he said that this is very difficult to prove, so experience shows that in practice, this never leads to concrete financial compensation being recovered through legal action. The Labour Code does not allow the damage caused to be deducted from the person's wages, it would have to be recovered afterwards, so in serious cases such damages are more likely to result in termination of employment. In the case of protective clothing, in particular, the employer should provide training on its proper use, thus preventing unjustified damage and promoting its proper use.

More and more is being spent on workwear

The financial aspect of workwear is an even more important issue, as a look at the prices of one of the largest domestic distributors shows that a set of workwear in the cheaper category (shoes, trousers, T-shirt, jacket) costs 35-40 thousand forints, while a set in the medium category costs 50-60 thousand forints. Protective clothing can cost two to three times more. On a good night, a worker can get 2-3 sets of these. However, price is not the only factor. Fashion and practicality are also increasingly entering the world of workwear, with companies looking for workwear with a cut similar to everyday wear, but made of materials that offer comfort and durability," says Krisztián Kardos, sales manager of Hanza, a workwear company that has been present on the market for more than 30 years. The combination of cotton and newer fabrics is resulting in increasingly comfortable, higher quality clothing that employers are willing to spend money on, he says. The Hungarian company, based in Debrecen, not only distributes but also manufactures workwear, protective clothing and protective equipment, which it supplies to several neighbouring countries in addition to its home market. In their experience, the market for made-to-measure garments is in decline, as they are slow to produce and can be more expensive, with more and more people looking for ready-made garments that can be delivered from stock within 24-48 hours to anywhere in the country or even abroad.

A sophisticated workwear with a logo is part of employer branding

According to Krisztián Kardos, while many people used to look for workwear in the cheaper price range, companies are now often willing to spend more on it, typically buying mid-priced workwear and protective clothing, which 9 out of 10 companies will also have their logo on. It's also worth choosing better quality clothing, adds László Miskéri, as it can often turn out to be cheaper than more expensive - for example, if workwear wears out prematurely and needs to be replaced. Of course, some employers may (also) try to save money on this, but in such cases, effective action and lobbying by employee representatives can ensure that workers receive better quality workwear or protective clothing, says the expert from the League of Trade Unions.

Krisztián Kardos says that while it used to be the case that companies in Western Hungary spent more on workwear and protective clothing, while in the East they spent less, this has now levelled out. "A lot of capital-rich, serious companies have come to Eastern Hungary: BMW, Lego, BYD, which can spend more on their employees in this area. They buy mid- to upper-mid-range products for their workers," the sales manager said. Workwear also acts as a kind of employer branding tool, according to the expert, as it makes a difference how a company's employees appear in a workplace. Well-dressed, visibly well-equipped professionals can also raise the company's image, and customers take the company more seriously," the sales manager shares. According to Krisztián Kardos, many companies now see workwear, or the clothing provided as workwear, as a kind of cafeteria item: they also attract potential employees with more expensive, higher quality clothing. The Hungarian market for the production and distribution of workwear, protective clothing and protective equipment is happy about this. With an annual turnover of up to several hundred billion euros, the domestic market is made up of around 10 major companies and a number of smaller manufacturers and/or distributors. However, distributors from other countries, such as England, Ireland and Poland, are also entering the Eastern European market, including Hungary, often with low-cost products.

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