5. Managing COVID-19-Related Employee Issues
Management of quarantine, childcare and medical leave for employees affected by COVID-19.
- Royal Decree-Law 6/2020 published on March 11th 2020, establishes in Article 5 that in order to protect public health, the periods of isolation or contagion of workers caused by the COVID-19 will be considered as a situation equivalent to work accident, exclusively for the economic benefit of the Social Security system for temporary disability. This economic benefit (sick subsidy) will be up to 75% of the employee’s base salary. In addition, vulnerable individuals qualify for sick leave if their job puts them at risk of contracting COVID-19. Vulnerable individuals are considered those with cardiovascular pathologies, high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic lung disease, immunodeficiencies, cancer processes in active treatment. All individuals applying for vulnerable status must provide a medical certificate in order to receive the sick subsidy.
Employees who fear infection and refuse to work.
- In the event that working conditions in the company imply a serious and imminent risk for the employees’ health and safety, it is permissible for an employee or for the works council to suspend working activities for those individuals that may be affected by coronavirus (article 21.1 of the Health and Safety Act). However, fear of infection alone does not trigger the effect of the aforementioned articles. If an employee merely fears infection and refuses to work, he or she could in principle be sanctioned. To the extent this sanction could be considered unfair, due to the reasonableness of the matter, is uncertain. We would advise that employers warn the employee prior to issuing a sanction.
Disclosure of employees who are infected.
- Employers must adopt the measures and provide the necessary instructions so that, in case of serious, imminent and unavoidable danger, workers may stop their activity and, if necessary, leave the workplace immediately. An employer must ask that the worker to stay home and immediately communicate their situation to the health authority. Notwithstanding, the employer must communicate this situation to the risk prevention service, so that they may adopt the measures they deem appropriate (Article 21 of Law 31/1995, of November 8, on Occupational Risk Prevention).
- In order to promote work-life balance, the Government recognised the workers’ right to receive a reasonable accommodation and/or reduction of working hours, for employees who can prove duties of care for their spouse, partner and relatives to the second degree of consanguinity. This reduction may reach up to 100% of the working day. A reasonable accommodation must be requested by the employee - specifying scope, content and justification. Examples of a reasonable accommodation include: change of shift, change of schedules, flexible hours, midday break or continuous workday, change of function, etc. These measures will remain in force for three months following the end of the state of alarm.