1. Emergency Measures
This spring, Norwegians experienced a time when their government enacted new regulations regarding furloughs and sickness benefits in a manner that was remarkable and swift. Due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and also the oil crisis, Norway is facing a period in which permanent redundancies and permanent dismissals are imminent, and will likely involve court cases specifically related to the selection of which employees will be redundant and which employees will be entitled to stay with the companies. As long as COVID-19 continues to impact our everyday lives, employment law will be marked by issues of social benefits, employers’ contributions and economic support for companies struggling to survive.
All indications point to the fact that Norwegian employment law will be required to consider alternative ways of performing work – enhanced digital interoperability and a renewed freedom to work from home. It is now quite clear that the experience of temporarily working from home will likely transform into more permanent solutions. The employer’s responsibilities related to HSE at the home office and working time outside the office is still uncertain in today’s evolving legal landscape. There is a need to improve regulations governing both the employer’s responsibilities, and also the right to control employees’ workspace outside the office.
Decrees, orders or guidelines in effect and pertaining to reopening facilities.
As a result of the COVID-19 epidemic, diverse decrees and guidelines have been put into effect. The Act on Infection Control (LOV-1994-08-05-55) provides a legal basis for the government establish rules regarding infection control. The most important regulation adopted thus far as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, is the Directive on infection control measures due to COVID-19 (FOR-2020-03-27-470), which regulates issues such as quarantine, isolation, and various prohibitions against public events, the effects of which impact working life as such, since the Directive is applicable to any person or business physically located in Norway. Further, the legislator adopted the Temporary Act as a means to regulate and control the consequences of COVID-19 (called the “Corona-Act”). This law has, during the course of this current crisis, provided a legal basis for the government to rapidly adopt regulations without having to go through the legislator. However, this law was just recently repealed, on 27 May 2020.
In addition to the particular COVID-19 legislative measures with a provisional purpose, the ordinary rules in the Working Environment Act and the Act on Temporary layoffs still apply - together regulating the rights and duties of working life. The government has recently adopted a proposal that would make some minor changes to the rules on temporary layoffs, with effect as from 1 September 2020.
When it comes to reopening workplaces, the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority has published a guide for employers, in English, at: https://arbeidstilsynet.no/en/safety-and-health/corona-virus-information-for-workers-and-employers/
In addition, the Labour Inspection Authority has issued specific guidelines on reopening offices (available in Norwegian only) at: https://arbeidstilsynet.no/tema/utforming-av-arbeidsplassen/rad-ved-tilbakeforing-til-arbeid-for-kontorarbeidsplasser/
The Institute of Public Health has released an English version of the workplace guidelines at: https://www.fhi.no/en/op/novel-coronavirus-facts-advice/advice-and-information-to-other-sectors-and-occupational-groups/workplace-advice/
Optimal approach to keep track of the latest updates.
The government has created an English language information site, where enterprises can keep track of the latest updates regarding government measures and proposals of all types: https://www.regjeringen.no/en/topics/koronavirus-covid-19/id2692388/
In addition, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health has launched a similar website with important information on COVID-19 is published daily at: https://www.fhi.no/en/id/infectious-diseases/coronavirus/