The right to happiness at work: the perspective of the romanian legislation

Author:Radu Razvan Popescu - Isabela Delia Popa
Pages:102-108
SUMMARY

The paper aims to outline that, despite the lack of specific regulation addressing the right to happiness at work under the Romanian legislation, there is an indissoluble connection between happiness, well-being and respect of human dignity that defines the working environment in Romania and employees’ productiveness at work, thus transposing happiness at work into a set of social values that need to benefit from proper legal protection. A recent study carried out in Romania reveals that happiness at work is not linked to low-paid jobs or poorly-equipped working environments, but mainly to the level of content of workers with respect to their person and to the opportunity to develop their career. What guarantees does the Romanian legislation offer to this extent?

 
CONTENT
102 RADU RĂZVAN POPESCU, ISABELA DELIA POPA
THE RIGHT TO HAPPINESS AT WORK:
THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE ROMANIAN LEGISLATION
Radu Rzvan POPESCU1
Isabela Delia POPA2
ABSTRACT
The paper aims to outline that, despite the lack of specific regulation addressing the right to
happiness at work under the Romanian legislation, there is an indissoluble connection between
happiness, well-being and respect of human dignity that defines the working environment in
Romania and employees’ productiveness at work, thus transposing happiness at work into a set of
social values that need to benefit from proper legal protection. A recent study carried out in Romania
reveals that happiness at work is not linked to low-paid jobs or poorly-equipped working
environments, but mainly to the level of content of workers with respect to their person and to the
opportunity to develop their career. What guarantees does the Romanian legislation offer to this
extent?
Keywords: happiness at work, salary, dignity, professional training, Romania.
I. Introduction
The right to happiness, either at work or in any other social environment, does
not have a correlative regulation in the Romanian legislation. No normative act
contains references to a potential right to happiness, while the Romanian courts of
law (including the Romanian Constitutional Court) have never considered this
aspect within their reasoning.
Without stressing on the psychological meanings of the concept of „happiness”,
for the purpose of this paper «happiness at work» shall be interpreted as referring to
1 Associated Professor, PhD, The National University of Political Studies and Public
Administration (SNSPA), Bucharest, Romania. Attorney-at-law, Bucharest Bar, Romania. E-mail:
radupopescu77@yahoo.com
2 Collaborator Assistant Professor, The National University of Political Studies and Public
Administration (SNSPA), Bucharest, Romania. PhD candidate, Faculty of Law of the University of
Bucharest, Bucharest, Romania. Attorney-at-law, Bucharest Bar, Romania. E-mail:
isabela.popa@idplegal.com
Law Review vol. III, Special issue 2017, pp. 102-108
The right to hapinessat work... 103
satisfaction at work and employees’ personal and professional fulfilment. Particularly,
the paper aims to outline that, despite the lack of specific regulation addressing the
right to happiness at work under the Romanian legislation, there is an indissoluble
connection between happiness, well-being and respect of human dignity that defines
the working environment in Romania and employees’ productiveness at work, thus
transposing happiness at work into a set of social values that should benefit – as a
matter of principle - from proper legal protection.
The question is whether the existing Romanian legislative framework does
offer any guarantees to employees with respect to their well-being at work.
II. The current trend on the romanian market in terms of happiness at work
The statistics drawn up by the Romanian National Institute of Statistics reveal
that, on 1 January 2017, there were 22,223,000 inhabitants in Romania3. In terms of
existing workforce, with reference to the same date, the Ministry of Labour and
Social Justice from Romania reported that there were 4,781,400 employees working
in Romania4, while the net average salary earning was amounting to RON 2,300
(i.e., approximately EUR 512)5. However, as concerns the level of satisfaction at
work of employees in Romania, there is no aggregate data collected and publicly
released by national authorities.
A private survey conducted early in 2017 by eJobs6, an online recruitment
platform that enables employers and employees to post and view job offers
respectively, aimed to determine the index of happiness at work among 128,000
respondents (employees working in Romania). The survey was entitled
„Happy@job” and focused on 5 pillars: passion, honesty, balance, impact and
development.
The results of the survey revealed the following:
3 According to the press release of the Romanian National Institute of Statistics no. 101 dated 26
April 2017, available at the website address: http://www.insse.ro/cms/sites/default/files/com_presa/
com_pdf/ popdom1ian2017r_0.pdf, last accessed on 01 May 2017. The statistic was drawn-up based on
the declared domicile of the Romanian inhabitants.
4 According to the data collected and publicly released by the Romanian Ministry of Labour and
Social Justice, available at the website address: http://www.mmuncii.ro/j33/images/Date_lunare/
Salariati_01_17.xls, last accessed on 01 May 2017.
5 According to the data collected and publicly released by the Romanian Ministry of Labour and
Social Justice, available at the website address: http://www.mmuncii.ro/j33/index.php/ro/transparenta/
statistici/date-statistice, last accessed on 01 May 2017.
6 The results of the survey are available at the following website address: https://www.ejobs.ro/
happy/happy_index.php, last accessed on 01 May 2017.
104 RADU RĂZVAN POPESCU, ISABELA DELIA POPA
69% are passionate about their
job
57% feel they benefit from
honesty at work
63% consider that their private
and professional life is in
balance
70% have the feeling that their
work has impact
46% consider that they have
the possibility to develop at
their current workplace
Part of the respondents areunsatisfied with their professional life, while others
declare that they are very happy at work, as follows:
• 26% are very happy with all aspects concerning their professional life;
• 40% of the respondents who benefit from balance between professional life
and personal life would like to have a major impact through their work;
• 17% have an average level of content with respect to their current job;
• 45% of the respondents, who do not feel that their work is of impact,are of
view that, however, they benefit from honesty/transparency at their workplace;
• 33% of the respondents who do not feel that their work is of impact are still
passionate about their daily work;
• 45% of the respondents who feel that they do not have the opportunity to
professionally develop declare that they are, however, passionate about the
professional environment where they carry their work;
• 6% are unhappy in all aspects of their professional life;
• 50% of the respondents who feel that there is no room and no opportunity
for professional development want to have impact through their work.
The main conclusion of the survey conducted was that 61% of the respondents
are satisfied at work.
Analysing the data above, one may assess that the milestones of dissatisfaction
(unhappiness) at work are the following: (i) lack of impact of the work carried, and (ii)
no opportunity/few opportunities for professional development. It is unclear whether
these are objective barriers to happiness at work, or whether these are generated in
the context of the given working environment, by superiors, co-workers and/or
company policy.
The right to hapinessat work... 105
Apart from the survey mentioned above, despite the lack of statistical data, we
assess that unhappiness/dissatisfaction at work is also generated by the following:
Low payment of work – during the last years, the national trade unions have
dedicated tremendous efforts to determine the increase of the minimum wage (with
impact on all sectors of the Romanian economy). Also, for more than 15 months, the
national trade unions have debated and negotiated with the Romanian Government
the adoption of the Unitary Pay Law, aimed to address the increasing wage
imbalances across sectors,that have persisted for years according to activities,
regions, ownership type and size of enterprises (process which is ongoing).
„Toxic” working environment – there are thousands of labour litigations initiated
in front of the Romanian courts of law, mainly deriving either from abuses at work
(moral harassment claims, discrimination claims, illegal disciplinary sanctions, lack
of payment of overtimeetc.) or from dismissals.
Under the given context, the matter of interest for this paper is to analyse and
determine if the existing Romanian labour legislation is well-construed and sufficient
in order to un-impede the achievement of happiness at work. Specifically, it is to be
analysed whether the Romanian legislation in force provides guarantees of happiness
to work (even in absence of a explicit regulation of such concept) and whether the
issues that employees confront with are a matter of implementation of legislation
(at the level of employer), a matter of resilience at company level towards the existing
legislative framework, or a matter of lack of education of the employees with respect
to their rights and the conditions under which such rights could be effectively
exerted. It is, thus, self-understood that happiness at work could only be achieved
by putting in common the efforts of employees and employers, based on a favourable
legislative framework.
III. Main rights of romanian employees – correspondence with happiness
at work
As stated above, happiness at work is not provided under the Romanian law as a
right of employees. Note is to be made that, as opposed other European legislations,
the Romanian existing legislative framework is particularly protective with employees,
granting a level a superior level of protection to employees than to employers.
The Labour Code of Romania7 provides that employees have a total number of
14 (fourteen) main rights8, out of which (i) the right to be remunerated for the work
7 Law no. 53/2003 on the Labour Code, Official Gazette of Romania Part I, no. 345 dated 18/05/2011
(republished), as further amended and completed (hereinafter the „Labour Code of Romania”).
8 According to Article 39 of the Labour Code of Romania, employees have the following main rights:
a. the right to be remunerated for the work performed;
b. the right to daily and weekly rest;
c. the right to annual leave;
d. the right of equality of opportunities and treatment;
e. the right to dignity;
106 RADU RĂZVAN POPESCU, ISABELA DELIA POPA
carried out, (ii) the right to dignity, and (iii) the right of access to professional
training.
III.1.Right to be remunerated for the work carried out
The gross minimum wage in Romania is in amount of RON 1,450 (i.e.,
approximately EUR 323), representing the lowest monthly remuneration that
employers are allowed, under the law, to pay to their employees.The amount of the
minimum wage increased every year, due to the pressure exerted by the national
trade unions. However, at EU level, Romania is providing the second lowest
minimum wage, right after Bulgaria9. According to a study conducted by the
Romanian National Scientific Research Institute for Labour and Social Protection10,
pursuant to the data existing with the general electronic employees’ registry, in
October 2016, more than 1,550,000 employees in Romania (representing approximately
32.5% of the employed workforce in Romania) were remunerated with the minimum
wage. From our point of view, this factual situation may generate the following main
effects: firstly, the said employees will most probably remain trapped in low- or
minimum wage- positions; secondly, it is less probable that the work carried out by
such employees could have the expected (desired) impact.
As a general principle, the salary is the «hygienic» element of the working life
of any employee, considering that work is carried out in consideration of the salary
payment to be performed by the employer. In terms of happiness, neither the
minimum monthly gross wage of RON 1,450 (i.e., approximately EUR 323), nor the
national average monthly gross wage of RON 2,300 (i.e., approximately 512) could
be presumed to bring satisfaction related to work to any employee. In fact, the low
level of remuneration determined Romanian workers to emigrate to other EU and
f. the right to labour safety and health;
g. the right of access to professional training;
h. the right to information and consultation;
i. the right to take part in the process of determining and ameliorating working conditions and
working environment;
j. the right to protection in case of dismissal;
k. the right to individual and collective bargaining;
l. the right to take part to collective actions;
m. the right to form or to adhere to a trade union;
n. any other rights prescribed by the law or by the applicable collective labour bargaining agreements.
9 Karel Fric, Statutory minimum wages in the EU 2017, available at the website address:
https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/observatories/eurwork/articles/statutory-minimum-wages-in-the-
eu-2017, last accessed on 01 May 2017.
10 Romanian National Scientific Research Institute for Labour and Social Protection, Project:
Conducting a study regarding the minimum gross wage guaranteed for payment by evaluating the economic and
social effects on its application, the identification and evaluation of the aspects that influences it, determining the
aspects that have significant impact (negative/positive) on the socio-economic environment, determining the
controlling measures of such and the measures to adjust the negative effects, available at the website address:
http://www.mmuncii.ro/j33/images/Documente/Transparenta/2016/Studiu_salariu_ minim_ proiect.pdf,
last accessed on 01 May 2017.
The right to hapinessat work... 107
non-EU countries, being expected that Romania will lose 5 million inhabitants until
the year 2050 in this context.
III.2. Right to dignity
Any breach of the right to dignity of an employee would severely affect well-
being at work and the degree of satisfaction with respect to professional life. This
conclusion derives from the outstanding number and type of litigations initiated
by employees/former employees against employers every year in Romania.
A survey carried out by the Romanian National Institute of Statistics in 201311
in the field of health and safety at work revealed that more than 255,000 employees
reported at that point in time exposure to factors affecting only mental health, such
as harassment or emotional violence, physical violence or threats of physical
violence, pressure to deliver work at short notice, being overloaded with multiple
or simultaneous tasks. As a direct consequence, moral harassment12 claims brought
to court in Romania increased substantially in the last years.
Human dignity, likewise the right to happiness, is the basis of human rights. In
the context of working relations, it encompasses the need of every individual to be
treated with respect, to be fairly appreciated from professional perspective and to
be part of a non-intimidating, non-hostile and non-degrading or non-humiliating
working environment. From this standpoint, the right to dignity implies the
recognition at the workplace of the impact that the work carried has and the
added-value such brings at company level. The Romanian legislation grants
proper protection to the right to dignity at work, both at constitutional level and at
normative level13.
The „Happy@job” survey analysed above outlines that happiness at work is
not linked to low-paid jobs or poorly-equipped working environments, but to self-
content and peer-appreciation. From this perspective, both the right to dignity and
the right to happiness appear to be founded on the principle of equality between
individuals. It is, thus, undeniable that the right to dignity is inter-dependent to the
right to happiness at work and the proper observance of the first would lead to a
higher level of satisfaction in terms of work.
11 Romanian National Institute of Statistics, Accidents at work and work-related health problems
survey, second quarter 2013, INS, Bucharest, published on 12 December 2013.
12 Under the Romanian legislation, „psychological harassment” is defined as „any inappropriate
behaviour that takes place in a certain period of time, repetitively and systematically, and which implies a
physical, oral or written behaviour, gestures or other international acts and which may affect the personality, the
dignity or the physical integrity of a person” (Article I item 3 o f Law no. 229/2015 for the amendment and
completion of Law no. 202/2002 on equal opportunities between women and men, Offici al Gazette of
Romania Part I, no. 749 dated 07/10/2015).
13 The right to dignity is regulated under Article 6 para. (1) and Article 39 para. (1) letter e) of the
Labour Code of Romania, as well as under Article 1 para. (3) of the Romanian Constitution.
108 RADU RĂZVAN POPESCU, ISABELA DELIA POPA
III.3. Right of access to professional training
In a permanently-changing working environment, both at national and global
level, the need of every employee of professional training is more intense as ever.
Professional training is conceived to enable employees to keep up with the
developments incurred at work (and, thus, to maintain the position held within the
organisation), to promote to other/higher positions and/or to professionally
reconvert to another profession.
The Romanian legislation in force is clear and employee protective in this
concern. Essentially, it provides that employers have the legal obligation to ensure
the professional training (and development) of employees, at least every two years
or three years, depending on the number of workers employed, all costs incurred
being undertook by employers14. Thus, employers’ obligation converts into
employees’ right. Undoubtedly, the obligation to provide training to employees is
the sole responsibility of the employer and is not subject to any prior request by the
employees to receive such training. Otherwise saying, it is for employers to provide
relevant pieces of evidence confirming the duly fulfilment of the obligation to
provide professional training.
In the light of the above, the existing legislative framework in Romania does
protect and rightful configure satisfaction of employees at the workplace by enabling
professional development opportunities for employees.
IV. Conclusions
Despite the lack of a legislative specific approach with respect to employees’ right
to happiness, employees’ well-being at work is projected under the Romanian
legislation under various rights that converge to the same effect. The level of monthly
remuneration, by reference to the legally prescribed gross minimum wage, does not
have the potential to ensure a reasonable level of satisfaction at the workplace. Placed
second after Bulgaria, Romania is still characterised by low-paid workforce.
Happiness at work is not linked to low-paid jobs or poorly-equipped working
environments, but relies on other elements that could ensure employees’ personal
and professional fulfilment. Specifically, the degree of satisfaction increases
proportionally with the extent to which the right to dignity and the right of access to
professional training are properly observed at company level.
Therefore, it is not the existing legislative framework that could be able to impede
happiness at work for employees, but other causes, such as: the implementation of
legislation (at the level of employer), the resilience at company level towards the
existing legislative framework, or a matter of lack of education of the employees with
respect to their rights and the conditions under which such rights could be effectively
exerted.
14 The Labour Code of Romania dedicates several articles to professional training (especially
Articles 194 – 200 thereof).