Salaries and pensions in Greece are paid according to a 14-payment system implemented in 1945 by the Ministry of Labor, following the end of Nazi occupation. As explained in “Examples of jobs and salaries in Athens, Greece,” a normal annual salary is divided into 14 equal portions that consist of 12 monthly payments, plus a full month’s payment at Christmas and two half payments at Easter and summer.
Paying salaries in this alternative way helps to ensure that households have money for important holidays, lowering the monthly salary year round and serving as a forced savings account that comes available when extra expenses are incurred.
Other European countries, such as Austria, Portugal and Spain, also have 14-payment schedules. It is not unique to Greece.
*Article last updated December 16, 2014
Christmas doro — Introduction
The Christmas doro (gift) or δώρο Χριστουγέννων (doro Christougennon) is a full month’s payment disbursed on or before December 21. It is sometimes called the ’13th salary,’ with the combined half payments at Easter and summer being the ’14th salary.’
Citizens from countries with a 12-payment system, anyone misinterpreting the word ‘doro’ or gift, and English-language media mistranslating or referring to the doro as a ‘bonus’ or ‘extra salary’ all contribute to popular misconceptions that payments at Easter, summer and Christmas are gratuitous. They are not extra salaries, additional paychecks or bonuses.
The second round of austerity measures from May 2010 that eliminated or reduced the 13th and 14th salaries were, in fact, 10-30 percent pay cuts to pensions and annual salaries. Behind the scenes in 2011, many employers gave workers the choice of having their salaries cut and withheld or being fired.
In 2011 and 2012, more than 60 percent of people admitted that they will use their ‘doro’ to pay existing debts and expenses, or do not want to spend money on gifts, fearing that they or a family member will soon be unemployed. Less than 15 percent of the doro would be allocated for holiday gifts or entertainment, a sharp drop from 2009 when the percentage was 46 percent.
Who is entitled to receive a Christmas doro?
• Salaried employees in the private sector
• Salaried employees in the public sector not subject to ‘Exceptions’ listed below
• Professional soldiers in the Greek military
• Unemployed workers registered with OAED, who are eligible for benefits
• Retirees, or their beneficiaries, collecting a Greek pension and not subject to ‘Exceptions’ listed below
Part-time or full-time salaried employees in the private or public sector with indefinite or fixed-term contracts are eligible to receive a full or pro-rated Christmas doro, as long as they were legally employed between May 1 to December 31 that year.
Anyone registered with and receiving unemployment benefits from OAED will receive a Christmas doro, provided they meet eligibility, are in a legal status and have not exceeded the one-year period. For example, a non-EU citizen in Greece may not be able to collect a Christmas doro if his/her residence/work permit expires, as explained in “Who can collect unemployment benefits in Greece?”
Unemployed persons who worked anytime from May 1 to December 31 before voluntarily quitting or being dismissed are entitled to collect a portion of their Christmas doro from their ex-employer, in addition to whatever unemployment benefits they receive.
Self-employed entrepreneurs, business owners, freelancers and uninsured/illegal workers do not receive a Christmas, Easter or summer doro.
Austerity measures passed May 2010 restrict certain salaried employees and pensioners from collecting the Christmas doro in part or in full.
In cases where a person has more than one Greek pension, the higher pension is used to determine eligibility.
• Retirees over the age of 60 and collecting a gross monthly payment of less than 2500 euros from any Greek insurance fund are entitled to a flat-rate Christmas doro of 400 euros.
• Retirees over the age of 60 and collecting a gross monthly payment of 2500 euros or more from any Greek insurance fund are NOT entitled to a Christmas doro.
• Retirees part of Μετοχικό Ταμείο των δημοσίων υπαλλήλων (Μ.Τ.Π.Υ.) did not receive a Christmas doro in 2010, though the issue is under review. — Imerisia (in Greek)
• Beneficiaries of a retiree’s pension are entitled to collect the Christmas doro if he/she is:
— spouse of the deceased;
— a minor child in the household up to age 18 or a dependent child up to age 24 who is actively enrolled in university studies;
— unable to practice a profession at more than 67 percent capacity;
— a pensioner collecting benefits outside an insurance fund.
However, with austerity and reform to the pension system from 2010-2014, most retirees no longer receive a Christmas doro.
Public sector employees
• Public sector employees earning a gross monthly salary of less than 3000 euros are entitled to a flat-rate Christmas doro of 500 euros.
• Public sector employees earning a gross monthly salary of 3000 euros or more are NOT entitled to a Christmas doro.
New austerity measures eliminated the 13th and 14th payment on January 1, 2013 for all civil servants, whose salaries will be determined and tracked by a single payroll system.
Special payment for low-income pensioners For low-income pensioners of all funds except OGA, the Greek government also approved a supplemental payment of 100-300 euros from EKAS in 2010. Retirees must be at least 60 years of age as of November 30, 2011 and have (ideally) filed a tax return in 2009 for the year 2008 as proof of meeting income requirements listed below. 100 euros: Individuals declaring a gross annual income of 8,501–10,500 euros, or total household income of 14,501–16,500. 200 euros: Individuals declaring a gross annual income of 7,001–8,500 euros; or total household income of 12,001–14,500 euros. 300 euros: Individuals declaring a gross annual income up to 7,000 euros; or total household income up to 12,000 euros. Financial assistance payments from EKAS are tax-exempt.
How is the Christmas doro calculated?
The Christmas doro is not based on job performance, competence or efficiency as it part of the normal salary. The amount due an employee depends on three variables:
a) How long the employee worked between the period May 1 to December 31;
b) Whether that time counted toward the Christmas doro; and
c) Rate of pay up to December 10 of that year.
A pay raise awarded after December 10 is not taken into account even though the period lasts until December 31; and the rate of pay on the date of departure is used if the employee quit or was terminated before December 10.
Calculation of the Christmas doro is based on regularly earned or periodically repeated wages and other benefits and allowances for an average of 25 days work that form part of the normal monthly salary. This would include legal holiday and/or vacation pay; food, housing and travel allowances; bonuses for productivity efficiency; regular work hours in which the employee earns Sunday or overtime pay; tips given to the employee by customers or clients.
According to the Κέντρο Πληροφόρησης Εργαζομένων & Ανέργων/Kentro Pliroforisis Ergazomenon & Anergon (ΚΕΠΕΑ/KEPEA), or Employee and Unemployment Information Center, a full Christmas doro is calculated using the gross (not net) monthly salary multiplied by 1.041666. For example, 900 euros x 1.041666 = 938 euros.
For those entitled to a partial doro, the calculation is 2/25 of the monthly wage, or two days pay, for every 19 calendar days of employment or a fraction thereof.
Christmas doro payments are taxed, and social insurance contributions for this holiday payment appear as an entry separate from regular monthly payments on your printout.
*Please consult an adept accountant or epitheorisi employee to determine the correct calculation of a partial Christmas doro. I will not be able to assist you, nor do I encourage people to disclose private details such as salaries.
Absences included in the Christmas doro
• Authorized, legal maternity leave
• Absence by students on the days of exams
• Therapy ordered by a licensed physician of an insurance fund
• Absence allowed by the insurer, in case of illness.
Excluded from the Christmas doro
• Unpaid or unauthorized leave of any kind (sickness, vacation, family emergency) between May 1 to December 10
• Unauthorized overtime, sixth day of a work week
• Bonuses paid for “difficult working conditions”
• Union activities
• Voluntary participation in strikes and work stoppages
In these uncertain economic times, it is also appropriate to mention that an employee’s Christmas doro is reduced if a business or company shuts down permanently or temporarily anytime from May 1 to December 31.
According to Eleftherotypia, the doro is reduced by half if a company closed for a period more than one month but not longer than two months; and reduced by two-thirds if the business shut down for more than two months. However, it does not apply to businesses that closed a physical location and employees continue(d) to render services, nor does it apply to seasonal businesses.
Professions with regular but variable income
Taxi drivers receive a Christmas doro from mid-December to early January, charging a fixed fee per ride (usually 1 euro) set by the union in conjunction with the Ministry of Transport. In 2009 and 2010, taxi drivers decided to forgo the Christmas doro to show solidarity and sympathy.
Food servers, bartenders and hair dressers get a Christmas doro based on estimated, average earnings. It also depends on the business and/or what contractual agreement is signed between the employee and employer.
Domestic staff, such as valets, maids, gardeners and cooks receive a Christmas doro that cannot be an amount less than 10 times the legal minimum wage and should be based on actual compensation for services.*
*I have no first-hand knowledge in this category, so questions should be directed at an accountant or epitheorisi employee.
When is the Christmas doro paid?
Funds set dates independent from the other, but the Christmas doro should not be paid later than December 21. When the doro is not paid by December 21 and an employee files a complaint, KEPEA says the absolute latest date for an employer to pay is December 31.
The 2014 schedule is:
December 1: OGA
December 4-20: NAT
December 19: OAED
December 21: Private funds
December 22: IKA, OAEE and all public sector funds
There are deviations if the date falls on a weekend or, in the age of austerity and bankruptcy, delays due to funding issues. An employer can pay earlier, if desired.
The doro should be paid in cash, via bank transfer or money in hand. Employers cannot substitute gifts, company shares, vacation or compensatory time-off from work, etc.
What if my employer does not pay the Christmas doro?
You must file a complaint by December 31.
In 2011, there was a five-fold increase in the number of complaints lodged by employees, with 1,545 total from 763 different companies who did not pay the doro on time or at all. In 2010, five in 100 workers filed complaints. Some companies gave a doro of only 250-300 euros and were pressuring employees to sign a paper saying they received 800-900 euros or else be fired. The labor board suspects that the actual number of workers not receiving a doro is 10 times higher.
Paying the Christmas doro is a lawful obligation, not an option. Non-payment, late payment or paying less money than owed is considered a criminal offense, punishable with penalties up to six (6) months imprisonment and a fine, which cannot be less than 25 percent or more than 50 percent of the amount in dispute.
Where can I file a complaint?
Employees are required to file an official complaint in Greek with Ministry of Labor authorities, local police (usually in rural areas) or professional workers’ organizations. The process is not incredibly difficult but is an article in itself.
Claimants may also call SEPE’s dedicated hotline from any landline in Greece at: ‘15512’
Most complaints are resolved fairly quickly and in favor of the worker. However, many workers are afraid to file for fear of losing their jobs, which has increased as the economic crisis in Greece deepens.
The first step is confronting your employer, which is what authorities request you do before documenting a full account of your complaint. If you have done this and there was no resolution, please leave a comment and I will help you.
Please note that I made every effort to be meticulous in my research, even though some of the bureaucratic vocabulary was difficult to translate. Corrections welcome.
— Personal experience with OAEE (formerly TEBE), OAED, IKA; shared experiences from friends who are employees and employers, taxi drivers, bartenders, professional soldiers, business owners.
“Πώς υπολογίζεται το Δώρο Χριστουγέννων: 2010″ — KEPEA
“Πώς υπολογίζεται το Δώρο Χριστουγέννων: General” — KEPEA
“Προειδοποίηση στους μπαταχτσήδες εργοδότες” — Eleftherotypia
“Στο Aυτόφωρο όσοι δεν καταβάλλουν το δώρο των Χριστουγέννων” –To Vima
“Τα μυστικά του δώρου Χριστουγέννων” — Eleftherotypia
“Factbox: Greece’s pension reform bill” — Reuters
“Factbox: Greece prepares key pension reform” — Reuters
“Σε χαμηλή πτήση το δώρο Χριστουγέννων” — Eleftherotypia
“«Ψαλιδισμένο» το δώρο των Χριστουγέννων” — Imerisia
“Από την Τρίτη το δώρο των Χριστουγέννων στους ανέργους” — Eleftherotypia
“Πώς θα δοθεί το έκτακτο επίδοµα” — Ta Nea
“Έρχονται τα επιδόματα και τα δώρα Χριστουγέννων” (article removed) — Kathimerini
“Δώρον… άδωρον” — Ta Nea
“FedEE review of minimum wage rates” — Federation of European Employers
“Greece: Working time” — International Labour Organization
“The snag in Greece’s salary solution” — CNN Money
“Αδίκημα η μη καταβολή Δώρου” — Eleftherotypia
“Greek taxi drivers won’t charge passengers extra €1 per ride for Christmas” — Kathimerini
“Στις 3 Ιανουαρίου το επίδομα στους χαμηλοσυνταξιούχους του ΟΑΕΕ” (article removed) — Kathimerini
“Δίνουν αντίδωρο, το βαφτίζουν δώρο” — Eleftherotypia
“5 στους 100 δεν πήραν Δώρο -μόνο… μισός το κατήγγειλε” — Eleftherotypia
Kat is a well-traveled American journalist and author. To learn more, see “About Me.”
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