Articles

Coronavirus (COVID 19) – Practical follow up questions

by Marek Bugan

As a follow up to our previous article on the possible impacts of coronavirus on labour-law relations in the Slovak Republic, we received several practical questions from our clients. We believe that sharing knowledge on this topic is very important and therefore we decided to share the most relevant questions with you.

Q: We understand that if the manufacturing facility will be closed based on decision of the employer, the employer will have to pay wages; the amount paid would depend on the content of the collective bargain agreement, if it exists. Is this the same if the manufacturing facility is closed because of quarantine ordered by the state?

A: Yes, also in this situation, it will be the employer who pays wages and bears all associated costs.

Q: Is the employer free to advise its employees to work from home (“Home office”)?

A: Yes, the employer is free to advise its employees to work from home but may not impose such work.

According to the Slovak Labour Code, the work from home may only be performed if there is (i) agreement between the parties or (ii) acceptance of the request of the employee made by the employer.

The situation we are currently facing is not reflected in the Labour Code (with respect to the homework) and more than that, it has never been dealt with in Slovakia before, therefore a lack of any historical and practical experience is understandable. If the quarantine is imposed, the respective state authority may also provide some recommendations or event limits/rules what can be done, also by the employers, and how to proceed further. Let’s bear in mind that those are extraordinary measures which are generally outside of the scope of “standard” laws.

We can already learn from some quarantine measures that were issued in the past days by Regional Public Offices. For example, in the case of the closure of Cambridge International School, one measure was to refrain from working, except working from the place of domestic isolation.

If you want to take some preventive measure, please try to agree on home work with your employees.

Q: What if the office must be closed due to a quarantine order received from the public authorities? Can the employer expect the employees to work from home in case they are healthy?

A: The same answer as above will apply; the employer cannot impose such work duty against the will of the employee. Being in quarantine is generally considered the same level excuse as being sick.

Q: Can I decide to measure the temperature of visitors or employees before the entrance to my premises?

A: We must distinguish between the visitors and the employees.

Visitors. In this case, you can measure their temperature. The premises are your property and you can generally decide who is allowed to enter and under what conditions. Of course, the visitor may refuse to let his/her temperature be measured. But if the visitor does not agree with the temperature measurement, you do not have to let him in. If the visitor agrees, we recommend measuring his / her temperature by a qualified person (e.g. employer´s health services). Depending on the scale of such measures, this may not be practically possible. If you want this measure to be really workable and relevant, we also recommend using certified thermometers capable of providing relevant results for the requires time.

Employees. Such steps may be considered as a preventative measure. Medical examinations of the employees should not be done without reason and shall be adequate towards employees. Medical examination is also considered as significant interference with an employee´s rights and may be performed / secured / demanded by the employer mainly in relation to ability to perform the work.

We recommend taking such action only in the case of suspicion of illness or serious concern, but firstly towards individual employee (e.g. if returned from risk area as Tenerife – Italy) or if member of his family is under such suspicion); secondly towards all employees under serious circumstances (e.g. one of the employees is suspected to be infected or already is infected by coronavirus; or the employee came into direct contact with the infected). We have not yet encountered a similar situation in the history of the Slovak Republic and therefore we expect that the authorities will also judge employers' actions individually, considering the specific circumstances of coronavirus threats.

You can, of course, advise your employees to measure the temperature and motivate them to voluntarily undergo the examination.

Should you have further questions regarding the employment of your employee during coronavirus threat please do not hesitate to contact us.

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