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Employment Law in Turkey

This guide was written by Başak Yıldız Orkun, Managing Partner at Orkun & Orkun (info@orkunorkun.com) in collaboration with Guides.Global (office@guides.global).

It was written on 22 June 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.

Our guides are prepared by professionals from many countries. They are, of necessity, both brief and general and can take no account of your personal circumstances. They are intended to be a good introduction to the subject BUT ARE NO SUBSTITUTE FOR PROPER PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, which our contributors will usually be happy to provide upon request.

The advice and opinions contained in the guides are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Guides.Global.

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The scope of this guide

This guide is about employment law in Turkey.

It looks at the Turkish Labour Code, and the various rights, entitlements and responsibilities you have as an employer or employee in Turkey.

Introduction

Many foreigners wish to work in Turkey, even though it can be difficult to find a job and that many jobs are low-paying.

Turkish law gives you substantial employment protection but, be aware: many employers try to get around the law by employing you (totally illegally) without a contract and paying you cash in hand.

The Turkish Labour Code

The Turkish Labour Code sets out all the rights and obligations of employers and employees in Turkey.

The Turkish Tax Code sets out your rights and obligations when it comes to taxation and social security.

Unless specifically stated to the contrary, all the provisions of both codes apply equally to local workers and to foreign workers.

Foreign workers have exactly the same remedies as Turkish workers when it comes to enforcing their rights.

Probationary period and contracts in Turkey

Under Turkish law, the employer is entitled to place you on a probationary period of up to two months during which time he can dismiss you without cause and you can leave without having to give notice. At the end of that period he must give you a written contract setting out, at the very minimum, the following:

  1. Your job title

  2. A summary of your job responsibilities, if this is not obvious from the title

  3. Your rate of pay

  4. Your hours of work

  5. Your holiday entitlement

  6. The person to whom you report

  7. The period of notice that you are required to give or be given

  8. Any special or unusual terms

There is no special format required for this contract.

It is a good idea (and very inexpensive - around €75 for a simple contract) to have an employment lawyer check over this contract, because the law is complex. If the contract does not comply with all the technical requirements your rights can be prejudiced.

Failure to give you such a contract is a criminal offence (and so can be reported to the police) and entitles the worker to compensation for any loss suffered.

Payment in Turkey

In Turkey, almost everybody is paid monthly in arrears and it is rare – except in very senior roles – for there to be any hidden perks, or benefits such as the company paying for your accommodation, your health insurance or your children’s education.

If you’re working in a casual post (such as behind a bar) it would be common to be paid daily at the end of each shift – often in cash.

turkish liraWhen they’re talking about their earnings, most Turks talk about their monthly salary and not about their annual salary. In other words, someone will say that they earn TRY3,000 per month. Things can get complicated at this point because, especially in a casual setting, people will often refer to their net monthly income – i.e. after deduction of tax and social security payments – rather than their total (gross) monthly income.

When discussing pay with either your employer or your colleagues, you need to be clear about the basis being used for the calculation. The best is your gross monthly salary as the amount of tax and other deductions from it can vary from person to person.

An added complication at this point is that, in some European countries, it is customary for an employee to receive 13 or even 14 ‘monthly’ salaries per year. If this is what you’re used to, please note that this does not happen in Turkey. You will receive 12 monthly payments.

Relocation expenses in Turkey

Except for people being transferred to Turkey by an international company, it is rare for an employer to pay anything towards your relocation expenses.

Taxes and social security in Turkey

As an employee, you will usually have to pay tax and social security payments. The amount of tax depends upon your earnings. See our guides on taxes.

Social security costs of 12% are deducted from your salary each month.

Holiday entitlement in Turkey

After you have been employed for a minimum of one year (or if it is agreed in your contract) you are entitled to a minimum of 14 days' paid holiday per year.

If you have been employed for five to 15 years, you are entitled to 20 days.

If you have been employed for more than 15 years you are entitled to 26 days.

In addition, you will be entitled to public holidays. These amount to 14.5 days per year.

Redundancy in Turkey

If the circumstances of the company change and there is no longer enough work for you to do, the employer may make you redundant. This right arises whether the lack of work is due to economic circumstances, technological development, or a reorganisation of the workplace.

Generally, if you’ve worked for the company for more than six months and if the company has more than 30 employees, you can apply for reemployment in some other role within the company.

In any situation, any alleged redundancy must be real and not just an excuse for removing a particular employee.

In some places, the redundancy will affect only one or two people. In other cases, it can involve large numbers of people. In the case of large-scale redundancies (known as ‘collective dismissals’) more complex procedures arise but they're probably outside the scope of this book.

If the redundancy is a small-scale redundancy, then there is no special procedure to be followed apart from the requirement to give you written notice of the redundancy.

In the event of redundancy, you will be entitled to a severance payment. This will be the payment to which you're entitled for your period of notice and your accumulated holiday entitlement. In addition, you will be entitled to one month's salary for each full year that the employer employed you, up to a certain monthly maximum laid down from time to time by the government (2017 - a maximum of €1,141.37 per month).

Health and safety in a Turkish workplace

Turkish law makes the employer responsible for the health and safety of their employees during their employment.

work accidentThe employer is, in particular, required to:

Employers must also have, at the place of work, an accident book and ensure that it is completed after any accident that might occur. Any accidents must be reported to the Department of Social Security/ Social Insurance Institution (SSK).

Restraint of trade in Turkey

The employer may place a clause in your contract preventing you from working for his competitors for a certain period of time and within a certain geographical area. The clause must also be limited in time - for example, to a period of two years.

Any restraint of trade clauses can only be enforced through the courts and they can only be applied if an employee has important knowledge about the business.

The restriction as to the scope of the restraint - i.e. the range of people that you cannot work for and the geographical area to which it applies - must be reasonable in all the circumstances. Otherwise it will be chucked out by a court.

For example, it would not normally be reasonable to impose a restraint of trade clause on a waiter or car mechanic but it might be reasonable to have such a clause in a contract with a chef or a manager.

Other employee rights in Turkey

Overtime pay

If you work more than 45 hours in the week you must be paid overtime for the excess hours at 150% of your normal rate of pay. This does not apply to highly paid executives. The interpretation of highly paid is left to the discretion of the court. It is rare (and frowned upon) for employees in professional offices to make any claim for overtime pay, even if they might technically be entitled to it.

Weekend break

Any employee who has worked 45 hours in the week is entitled to a continuous weekend break of 24 hours.

Rest breaks

You are entitled to a minimum of one hour for your lunch.

In some industries, it is customary for there to be other allocated breaks, but there is no compulsory schedule of breaks laid down by the general law.

If there are defined breaks, they must be stated in a notice on the premises.

Minimum wage

With effect from 1 January 2017, the gross monthly minimum wage in Turkey is TRY1,777.50 (€479.47) per month. This is revised in January each year and has been increasing quite sharply. It still contrasts with €684 in Greece or €1,498 in Germany.

For those who do not work full time, there is also a minimum hourly or weekly amount.

Illness

Employees are entitled to time off in the case of illness or injury.

You'll be entitled to time off for the period certified by your doctor. If that period exceeds the period of notice the employer is required to give to you, the employer has the right to terminate your contract by giving you due notice.

The employer can dismiss a sick employee after six weeks’ absence on the basis that they are no longer capable of doing the job.

Sick pay

There is no entitlement to sick pay but there is an entitlement to claim social security payments from the government if the absence can be classified as occupational (i.e. if you were injured at work or if you suffer an illness acquired as a result of work) and a lower entitlement for non-occupational absence if it was not.

Despite this, many employers, especially if you are a senior employee, continue to pay you at your normal rate during any absence due to sickness or injury, deducting from your pay the social security benefit that you are entitled to receive.

Maternity rights

An employee’s maternity rights changed significantly at the end of 2016.

During the pregnancy

During pregnancy, a woman cannot be required to work for more than 7.5 hours per day or on a night shift. If their doctor certifies this to be necessary, the woman should be assigned to lighter duties. No reduction in wages must be made as a result of doing this. The woman is entitled to paid leave for attending medical appointments during her pregnancy.

baby feetLeave before and after the birth

A pregnant woman is entitled to 16 weeks’ paid maternity leave. This is usually taken during the eight weeks before the expected date of delivery and during the eight weeks following the birth.

In the case of second and subsequent pregnancies, these periods can be extended.

If a woman wishes to take additional leave, she may do so on an unpaid basis for a period of up to six months.

Halftime work

A woman shall be entitled to work for only half of her normal working hours for up to 60 days following the birth of a first child, 120 days following the birth of a second and 180 days following the birth of a third.

The employer will pay her for the hours worked and she will receive a payment from the state in respect of the hours not worked.

Nursing leave

For one year following the birth of a child, a woman is entitled to take one-and-a-half hours’ per day paid leave in order to nurse her child. This time may be taken in as many instalments and at such times as the woman decides.

You will not be entitled to nursing leave if you’ve chosen to work halftime.

Adopted and disabled children

Similar rights apply in respect of adopted children and older disabled children. For disabled children, the rules are complex. Seek legal advice.

Paternity rights

A father is entitled to five days paternity leave following the birth of his child.

Parental rights

A parent is entitled to up to ten days’ unpaid leave per year to attend to the needs of their children. These could be, for example, looking after a sick child or taking a child to hospital.

Protection from discrimination

The Turkish Labour Code prohibits employers discriminating on the basis of language, race, religion, gender or political/philosophical views. Failure to comply gives rise to a claim for compensation of up to four months' salary plus any other claim to which the employee might be entitled.

Protection from harassment

If an employee is subject to harassment, whether sexual or an affront to their honour and dignity, they may demand an immediate end to their employment and receive the full severance payment to which they would be entitled in the case of an unfair dismissal.

Other employee responsibilities in Turkey

The employee has the legal obligation to work diligently and honestly for the employer, to protect the employer's business secrets and to act in good faith at all times.

Conclusion

Turkey's labour laws are fairly strong and easy to understand on a basic level. Always seek legal advice if you are confused about your rights as an employee, or your obligations as an employer.

Other guides of interest

 Description Link 
Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
Click to see this guide
Finding Work in Turkey
Getting a job in Turkey
Click to see this guide
Working Within Turkey's Expat Community
Your options for work with other foreigners
Click to see this guide
Starting a Business in Turkey
Setting up your own business
Click to see this guide

You may also want to read:

 Description Link 
Turkish Labor Law
In English, listed by article. Great resource.
DESCRIPTION OF EXTERNAL LINK

Readers' Comments

 

Further information?

I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.

Başak Yıldız Orkun

21 June 2017


 

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