1. Emergency Measures
Employment law will no longer be the same. The COVID-19 crisis has accelerated changes to existing regulations towards a more digitised working environment, home office, online meetings, and more. The Czech Labour Code is currently not prepared for such a working environment and must be amended to allow employers to react flexibly to other circumstances, which are similar to those we are facing today (e.g. use of electronic signatures, home office, health and safety). Employers should use the current situation for updating their policies and procedures, including establishing relationships with employees, improving health and safety requirements and procedures.
Decrees, orders or guidelines in effect and pertaining to reopening facilities.
Emergency measure issued by the Ministry of Healthcare no. MZDR 15757/2020-19/MIN/KAN – Duty to cover nose and mouth:
- inside buildings (except at home);
- using public transport;
- any place where the distance between 2 persons (at least) is less than 2 meters (except for members of household).
There are other exceptions based on age and occupation, e.g. children in kindergarten, employees performing work at the same place, when keeping a distance of at least 2 meters from one another.
Ministry of Healthcare Emergency Measure No. MZDR 20020/2020-1/OVZ – Prolongation of validity of the affidavits issued during the State of Emergency regarding health capacity to work for 30 or 90 days. As the employees could not receive their occupational medical exams (initial or periodical) during the State of Emergency, they were allowed to provide an affidavit instead. They now have a certain amount of time following the end of the State of Emergency to receive a standard medical exam.
The Czech version of EU guidance for a safe return to the workplace is available at the Ministry of Healthcare website, along with the Ministry of Healthcare’s Guidelines on how to prepare the workplace.
Optimal approach to keep track of the latest updates.
2. State Aid
Government subsidies and special relief resources allocated to support employers, and workers, in their efforts to maintain employment and pull through the crisis.
- The “Antivirus” Employment Support Programme offers State benefits for employers whose employees cannot work as a result of imposed obstacles and other reasons related to COVID-19.
- The Attendance Allowance benefit is available to parents whose children under the age of 13 stayed home due to COVID-19 related school closings. During the COVID-19 State of Emergency, this benefit was increased from 60% to 80% of reduced average earnings.
- Possibility for employers to defer social insurance payments.
3. Health and Safety Measures
Requirements mandated by law or any official guidance.
- Mandatory covering of nose and mouth (see section I above for more details);
- Compliance with the limit of the maximum number of persons at large events (e.g. concerts, festivals);
- Medical certificate with a negative COVID-19 test result or requirement to stay in quarantine when coming to the Czech Republic from specified countries. The list of countries is regularly updated by the Ministry of Healthcare) at: https://koronavirus.mzcr.cz/seznam-evropskych-zemi-podle-miry-rizika-nakazy/
Measures typically implemented by employers and the associated legal risks, limitations, obligations and issues to consider.
- The current emergency measures compel employers to ensure adherence to protocols regarding social distancing at the workplace. If social distancing is not possible, employees must order employees to wear masks while working onsite;
- More frequent disinfection of common facilities;
- Broader use of home office and technical measures for distant communication; and
- Temperature monitoring, though it has not been widely implemented.
Policies and procedures for telework once the business reopens.
Teleworking is possible only by mutual agreement between employer and employee. Entering into a written agreement by which further conditions of teleworking are regulated, is recommended. Issuing an internal policy is also suggested, including mainly, rules regarding occupational health and safety and regulations on data protection while teleworking.
5. Managing COVID-19-Related Employee Issues
Management of quarantine, childcare and medical leave for employees affected by COVID-19.
Quarantine and medical leave are among the many obstacles impacting an employee’s ability to work. Payment of salary compensation (60% of reduced average earnings) during the first 14 days is provided by the employer and thereafter by the government by means of the social insurance. The Czech government provides childcare benefits to parents whose children, under the age of 13, stayed home due to COVID-19 related school closings.
Employees who fear infection and refuse to work.
Only an employee whose fear is reasonable, may be entitled to refuse to work (e.g. the employer does not ensure their safety). Employees would otherwise breach their employment contract by not working.
Disclosure of employees who are infected.
An employee is not legally obliged to notify his/her employer that he/she was infected, but he/she has to notify the Regional Hygiene Station, which in turn will decide who else should be notified and possibly quarantined. If the employer is aware of the infection, only those employees who could be reasonably in danger should be notified (to avoid panic and protect the infected employee’s privacy).
6. Cost-Reduction Strategies
To what extent can employers implement the following cost-reduction strategies as a result of COVID-19, and what are the primary limitations on each?
In general, employers may apply for state support if their employees cannot work as a result of obstacles imposed for the prevention of COVID-19 (decreased demand for goods and services, quarantine, etc.) and related restrictive measures adopted by the government (e.g. closure of stores, prohibition of certain business activities). The actual link to the prevention of COVID-19 does not have to be justified (e.g. it is sufficient to declare or document the decrease of demand for goods and services during the relevant period from 12 March 2020 until the end of August 2020). Employers are entitled to state benefits in amount of 60% or 80% of the salary compensation paid out (i.e. the compensation paid to employees for the time they could not work), and up to CZK 39.000 or CZK 29.000, depending on the types of obstacles imposed.
The employer can unilaterally reduce the salary to 80% if it suffers from a shortage of materials or other resources, and up to 60% in case of decrease in demand of products and services. Other salary reductions depend on how the salary was determined: if it was stipulated in the salary statement or through an internal policy (unilateral document), it can therefore be changed without the employee’s consent, but such a reduction is limited. On the other hand, if the salary was established in an agreement (employment agreement, salary agreement, etc.) a reduction of any kind can only be done with the employee’s consent.
The employer may dismiss the employee for redundancy. In this case, the employee is entitled to receive a severance payment at least in the amount stated by the Czech Labour Code (one to three monthly earnings depending on the length of employment).
In such cases where the decision to close is made by the employer, the employer is therefore obliged to pay the employees’ full salary.
7. Best Practices
Tips, recommendations and common pitfalls.
- New rules effective from 15 June 2020 are online at: https://www.mvcr.cz/imgDetail.aspx?docid=22251929
- Czech citizens: medical certificate with a negative COVID-19 test result is required when returning from RED countries;
- European Union citizens and foreigners with either a temporary or permanent residence in the EU: medical certificate with a negative COVID-19 test result is required when coming to the Czech Republic from RED or YELLOW countries;
- Open borders with Austria, Germany, Hungary and Slovakia.
- Testing of the new system for early detection, isolation and quarantine, and identifying persons/contacts of which the virus may have been transmitted.
“E-Face Mask” Mobile Application
- The application is based on Bluetooth technology and can help to quickly find contacts at risk.