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Coronavirus - Employment law Q&A - Hungary

  • Hungary
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus - Country overview
  • Coronavirus - Workforce issues

30-04-2020

What are the employers' responsibilities during an epidemic?

Labour law does not contain specific provisions on what exactly employers should do in case of an epidemic. However, the Labour Code provides that employers must ensure the safe and healthy working environment. In addition, in many cases, employers can rely on the general rules of conduct set forth in the Labour Code including exercising rights and obligations in a manner consistent with the principle of good faith and fairness, mutual cooperation and information obligation must be respected, taking into account the employees’ interests etc.

Preventive and protective measures for employers may include:

• awareness among employees – preparing informative leaflets for employees

• reduce face-to-face meetings and prioritise talks and meetings by teleconferencing

• limit business trips and large conferences, especially abroad

• consider more frequent cleaning of the premises or cleaning them with disinfectants and the provision of disinfectants to employees

• provide protective equipment to employees immediately at risk of infection

• restrict the movement of third parties in the employer's premises

• allow employees to work from home when possible

Can an employer order an employee to work from home?

If the employee’s position makes it possible and the employer’s internal policy allows home office work, it can be ordered according to such rules. In addition, working from another workplace (i.e. from home) can be agreed by the employer and the employee at any time. In that case, rules of performing work are suggested to be laid down in an agreement by the parties or in the employer’s internal policy.

Can an employer force the employees to take vacations?

Vacations are scheduled by the employer according to the general rules upon hearing of the employee. The employee must be notified of the vacation at least 15 days before the first day of scheduled vacation. However, we think that in order to reduce the risk of an epidemic and to protect the health of other employees, it might be appropriate to schedule vacations even if the 15-days notification obligation cannot be respected. Under the current circumstances, it is expected that both labor authorities and employees will be more flexible regarding the breach of prior notification obligation.

When should an employee be put into quarantine?

According to Section 44 of Act LXXXIII of 1997 on the Compulsory Health Insurance System, employees are deemed incapable of work when they fall – among others – within the following categories:

a. employee is unable to perform his work due to sickness,

b. employee is receiving treatment in hospital in order to be diagnosed with a disease or for medical treatment,

c. employee is prohibited from performing his work in the interest of public health and no other position is offered to him, or if isolated on public health grounds by order of the relevant authority, furthermore, if the employee is unable to commute to his workplace due to an epidemiological or animal health emergency and no other position is available on a temporary basis or otherwise.

If the employee falls within one of the above categories, he is deemed incapable of work and under Section 55 of Labour Code, the employee is exempted from his obligation to perform work and to stay at the employer’s disposal.

If an employee is quarantined, isolated or sick does the employer still have to pay the salary?

If an employee is sick, the employee is entitled to sick leave for its duration but not more than 15 working days per year. For the duration of sick leave, the employer must pay the employee 70 percent of the employee’s absentee fee (that is basically the salary). After the last day of sick leave, the employee is entitled to sick allowance from the State in the framework of compulsory health system, that is 50 or 60 percent of the basic salary per day depending on the length of insured period and hospital care.

If an employee is prohibited from performing work or isolated in the interest of public health or is unable to commute to the workplace due to an epidemiological health emergency, the employee is also deemed incapable of work. Since the employee is not sick, he is not entitled to sick leave or salary from the employer but entitled to sick allowance from the State.

If it turns out later that the employee is sick too this period constitutes sick leave within the 15 working days entitlement period.

Can an employer release an employee from his obligation to perform work? If yes, does the employer have to pay the salary?

Yes. The employer can release an employee temporarily from his obligation to perform work. In this case, generally, the employer must continue the salary payments (100%).

The period when the employer is unable to provide work is regulated in the Labour Code and is called ’downtime’. During downtime, the employee is entitled to basic salary, unless it is due to unavoidable external events. Unavoidable external event is an objective factor that cannot be remedied within a reasonable time at a current level of technical possibilities. For example, this may be a shortage of raw materials. If the employer can eliminate the risk of infection with an average effort, this is no longer an external unavoidable event. In this case, if the employer decides to release the employee from performing work, he is entitled to his full salary for the whole period.

Can an employer oblige the employee to report if the employee or someone the employee has been in close contact with is infected?

Based on the cooperation and information obligation of the employee, the employee must notify the employer about the facts and circumstances that are significant in connection with the employment. And due to the employer’s obligation to ensure the safe and healthy working environment, it might be reasonable to require such information from the employees.