The Armenian government gave on Thursday conditional approval to three parliamentarians’ proposal to increase from five to six days the length of a regular workweek in the country.
The country’s existing Labor Code bans public and private entities from keeping their employees in the workplace for more than 40 hours a week, spread over five days, without overtime pay.
Amendments to the code drafted by deputy parliament speaker Samvel Balasanian and two other pro-government lawmakers -- Hakob Hakobian, and Sukias Avetisian -- would significantly ease this restriction. In particular, employers would be able to summon their staff to work for six days a week without extra compensation.
The government said it would back the amendments on the condition that a six-day working week can apply to workers employed in several specific spheres. Among them are the healthcare, telecommunications and energy sectors.
Hakobian, who chairs the parliament committee on social affairs, found these conditions “acceptable.” He insisted that Armenians would still have to work for a total of up to 40 hours a week and receive additional pay for overtime work. There would also be no changes in overtime pay rates set by the Labor Code, he said.
“We are only talking about two things. Forty hours [of work] over five working days a week, with two days off, or 40 hours over six working days a week, with one day off,” Hakobian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Under Armenian law, the government needs to receive a written “impact assessment” of the measure from the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs before it can formally endorse the amendment. Prime Minister indicated that it will be positive.
“I think the impact assessment will be easy in this case as we would be returning to the old regime,” Sarkisian said during a weekly session of his cabinet.
Private firms operating in Armenia routinely violate legal working-hour limits and other worker rights, capitalizing on high unemployment and a virtual absence of functioning trade unions. It is not uncommon for Armenians fearing arbitrary dismissal to work for ten or more hours a day and have only one day off a week.
Many private sector employees are also unable to fully enjoy at least 24 days of paid vacation guaranteed by the Labor Code for the same reason.