5. Managing COVID-19-Related Employee Issues
Management of quarantine, childcare and medical leave for employees affected by COVID-19.
As a general comment, many employers have been able to manage a host of issues through flexible arrangements (home office, if possible) and working hours. As a result of this flexibility, employees in quarantine, with children at home, or have otherwise been affected by COVID-19, have managed to perform their work relatively close to normal. Employees who have fallen ill from the COVID-19 virus, benefit from the rights afforded to them pursuant to the ordinary rules on sickness leave and benefits as set out in the relevant legislation. The requirement of quarantine has, however, challenged the interpretation of the rules. Hence, the authorities have provided guidance resulting in some practical advice for employers. Firstly, the authorities have advised that employees who are in a group not at risk of being sick, may be entitled to sickness benefits in certain circumstances. Secondly, employees quarantined by the health authorities, may be entitled to sickness benefits if certain conditions are met. The authorities have, however, encouraged employers to enable employees to work from home, if possible.
A large part of the workforce has been forced to contend with the closing of schools and daycare centres across the country. Employees impacted by these measures are entitled to parental leave for childcare and their rights have been somewhat extended. As of 11 May, most schools have reopened, and therefore these measures are less relevant at this time. However, schools and kindergartens have restricted their business hours as they gradually reopened, necessitating the need for greater flexibility in the workplace.
Employees who fear infection and refuse to work.
An employee who fears infection and refuses to work, albeit unnecessarily from a medical point of view, is violating his/her duty to work. This may serve as an objectively justified ground for dismissal if the violation is severe enough. The employer should in these cases provide a written warning to the employee, stating that such behavior is unacceptable. If the employee still refuses to return to work, the employer should summon the employee to a consultation meeting and consider dismissal.
Disclosure of employees who are infected.
The GDPR establishes strict limitations on the disclosure of information concerning an employee’s heath condition. Please note that exemptions from the ordinary rules applicable in such cases and have not, to date, otherwise been adopted.