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Coronavirus - a practical guide for employers

  • Slovakia

    26-03-2020

    We continually update the guide in relation to gradual disclosure of official information on the part of the public authorities. The last update is as of March 26, 2020 at 9 a.m.

    We are presenting employers with an up-to-date list of all crisis measures, practical recommendations and advice in relation to a quick spread of the novel coronavirus on the territory of Slovakia and in the neighbouring countries.

    Emergency situation – the whole territory of the SR

    The government of the Slovak republic has announced an emergency situation as of Thursday March 12, 2020 from 6 a.m. on the whole territory of the SR due to a growing number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

    State of emergency – extended onto additional healthcare facilities

    The government of the Slovak Republic has declared a state of emergency effective as of March 16, 2020 from 6 a.m. The state of emergency, was extended onto the chosen kinds of healthcare facilities owned by either the state or the private sector (especially the institutional care facilities - hospitals), effective as of March 19 from 6:00 a.m. You can have a look at a list of all districts and all healthcare facilities to which the state of emergency applies to at the following link.

    Due to the declaration of the state of emergency, the government of the SR has legal rights to make decisions on adopting other special measures, of which we will keep you updated via this web page.

    Crisis measures

    In connection with the unfavourable development of the epidemiological situation related to occurrence of the novel coronavirus in Europe and on the territory of Slovakia, the following measures have been issued:

    1. A mandatory quarantine and isolation following return from abroad

    • As of March 13, 2020, all people returning from abroad (from any country) are obliged to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine. Not respecting this may be punished by a fine up to the amount of EUR 1,659.
    • All people returning from abroad (from any country) in the time period from March 13, 2020 from 7 a.m., including people who live with such a person in the common household, are obliged immediately following their return to the SR to inform their doctor about their return from abroad and a place of their stay during a quarantine either in an electronic form or by telephone. Not respecting this shall be punished by a fine up to the amount of EUR 1,659.
    • Doctors will issue a medical clearance certificate to these people due to a quarantine resulting from COVID-19. It is not absolutely clear from the wording of the measure of the Public Health Authority (PHA) as of March 18, 2020 whether it will happen automatically or solely upon a request of an employee.
    • Effective as of March 16, 2020 from 6 a.m. all people returning in groups from the affected areas overseas are enforced to isolation in the facilities designated by the Ministry of Interior of the SR for a time period necessary for performance of laboratory diagnostics of COVID-19. Following a negative result, such people are obliged to remain in a home quarantine. A natural person may be awarded a fine up to the amount of EUR 1,659 for not respecting this measure.
    • The abovementioned measures do not apply to certain people, e. g. drivers of freight transport or people living in the border areas not more than 30 km from the border. It is necessary to present oneself with a certificate of permanent or temporary residence and a certificate from an employer
    •  A person in a quarantine is obliged to:
      • monitor their health conditions (a sudden onset of at least one of these symptoms: fever, cough, shortness of breath) and in case of occurrence of the symptoms contact by a telephone without undue delay an attending physician and the relevant regional public health authority and to undergo sampling of the biological material.
      • refrain from social contacts (e.g. visits of cultural, social, sports or other mass events, meet people or perform social activities at the place of isolation);
      • refrain from travelling;
      • refrain from attending learning process activities except for e-learning forms;
      • refrain from work performance except for work at the place of home isolation;
      • refrain from any activities which require one to leave the place of isolation, or to meet sensitive people at the place of isolation.

    2. Borders

    The major border crossings will remain opened for the time being. However, controls are being introduced there with a consequence that only people who will present themselves with an official form of residence – permanent, temporary, etc., and a valid travel document will be allowed to enter the territory of the SR. The minor border crossings will be closed.

    3. Closure of schools

    • Effective as of March 16, 2020, all preschool and school facilities, free-time centres and other organised free-time activities for children are closed.
    • The written school-leaving examinations will not take place, it is recommended to postpone entrance exams to universities.

    4. Free-time activities

    • With effect from March 13, 2020 ski resorts, wellness centres, amusement parks, aqua parks, bars, discotheques, fitness centres and spas have been closed.
    • Cultural facilities – cinemas, theatres, museums - are also closed.
    • A legal person may be awarded a fine for not adhering to the ban in the amount exceeding EUR 10,000.
    • It is prohibited to visit social care facilities, old people’s homes, children’s homes and hospitals.

    5. Retail business and services

    • Effective as of March 16, 2020 from 6 a.m. all retail businesses and all service providers’ operation units are closed for the time period of 14 days excluding:
      • grocery shops, butcher’s shops, baker’s shops, greengrocer’s shops, special nutrition purposes shops for babies and infants as well as grocery shops for special medical purposes,
      • pharmacies, medical aids shops and supply points,
      • chemist’s shops,
      • fuel stations,
      • newsagents,
      • animal food shops and veterinary ambulances,
      • telecommunication operators’ operation units,
      • public catering operation units and fast food restaurants,
      • operation units of postal, bank and insurance services,
      • operation units of Internet shops (e-shops) and delivery services,
      • funeral services, cemeteries and crematories,
      • car repair shops, tyre services and towing services,
      • taxi services providing transport of goods and products,
      • laundry and dry cleaner’s services,
      • operation units of communal services, disinfection services and pest regulation services.

    Operation of law firms and notarial offices will not be affected. During a stay outside of a home. People are obliged to protect themselves with masks or other means of face protection. On Sunday, groceries and drugstores will be closed for the public to allow sanitation and disinfection of their premises. In shops and services, the time slot from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. is reserved for the retirees only.

    A fine amounting up to EUR 20,000 may be awarded for not adhering to the ban mentioned above.

    6. Catering

    • Effective as of March 13, 2020 restaurants and fast food restaurants may be opened from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
    • Effective as of March 16, 2020 from 6 a.m. for a time period of 14 days, presence of the public at the premises of public catering and fast food restaurants shall be prohibited; this ban shall not apply to sale outside the premises of catering service operation units (e.g. a fast food restaurant with a take-away window or take-away sale without entering the premises.
    • A fine amounting to EUR 20,000 may be awarded for not adhering to the measure.

    7. International transport, telecommunications

    • Trains. Since March 13, 2020 there is no international train service. Interstate personal train transport operates every day according to the timetable posted on Railways of Slovak republic´s website.
    • Buses. Since March 13, 2020 from 7 a.m. there is no international bus service neither from Slovakia nor to Slovakia.
    • Ship transport. Since March 13, 2020 from 7 a.m. private cruise ships may not board in Slovakia. They may sail trough the territory without stopping.
    • Air transport. All international personal flights from Slovakia as well as to Slovakia are stopped. International Airports in Bratislava, Košice and Poprad are closed until furher notice.
    • Lorry transportation of goods. Freight transportation is allowed on interstate as well as international routes with the aim to safeguard supply. Lorry drivers are obliged to be equipped with protective aids.
    • Surveillance of tracking data. The Government passed an intention that State Authorities will be entitled to use tracking data of persons, disclosed by mobile operators, for public protection.

    8. Post office

    The Slovak Post operates in a restricted regime and adjusts its opening hours as necessary. The operating units are subject to regular disinfection. It is forbidden to enter a post office without having one’s nose and a mouth covered.

    9. Healthcare

    Effective as of March 16, 2020, the government of the SR has issued a work order for securing performance of healthcare to all healthcare employees of the hospitals located in the districts to which the state of emergency applies, i.e. they cannot refuse to provide healthcare. These employees have been deprived of their right to participate in a strike during the state of emergency. All hospitals, not only the state ones, are similarly ordered to restrict scheduled surgical operations.

    10. Services to citizens and the Social Insurance Agency

    • Opening hours in client centres have been restricted to three hours per day.
    • The Social Insurance Agency has introduced a simplified procedure for claiming a nursing benefit and a sickness benefit to avoid personal contact with a doctor or a Social Insurance Agency employee. You can find more information at this link.

    11. Ceasing of lapse of periods, ban on auctions and execution of pledge

    Periods set by legal regulations or courts for the claiming of rights within private legal proceedings, by the lapse of which rights would be limited, cease to lapse from 12 March to 30 April 2020. No auctions or execution of pledge may be carried out until 30 April 2020.

    12. In case you suspect the infection, contact:

    In the event that you suspect the infection by the novel coronavirus, it is necessary to contact a nonstop information line +421 (0)917 222 682 or to write to an e-mail address: novykoronavirus@uvzsr.sk.

    Preventive measures

    In order to fight the infection of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causing the COVID-19 disease, general preventive recommendations will do the best service, namely regular hand washing, using 70 per cent alcohol-based disinfectants, covering your mouth when coughing with a tissue or a sleeve, not your hands, assessment of movement of employees and not underestimating the symptoms.

    What to do for employees’ health protection

    An employer must assess risks connected with work performance and adopt measures for their removal or minimalization. This also includes a risk of the infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. It is necessary to adjust the measures to specific conditions of an employer. The coronavirus is transmitted in the same way as flu. Consequently, preventive measures are in both case very similar. Even though the disease caused by the coronavirus may have a complicated course, the majority of the infected have only minor symptoms of the disease.

    An employer should regularly inform their employees about adopted and scheduled measures, update specific data of employees as well as people whom employees should contact in case of any questions regarding the coronavirus.

    Monitoring employees’ private life

    It is possible to require information about risks connected with the coronavirus from employees, for example whether they have stayed at a place of the outbreak of the infection, or whether they have been overseas. On the other hand, it might be difficult to punish employees for a false or an incomplete answer.

    On a practical level, we recommend informing employees about the obligation to report their return from overseas, since the mandatory 14-day quarantine applies to them. In the event an employee has been part of a group returning from overseas, the obligation to isolate at the place designated by the Ministry of Interior of the SR applies to them since March 16, 2020.

    Testing employees for the coronavirus

    An employer may not enforce testing for the coronavirus. At present, these tests are performed solely on the basis of a doctor’s decision. An employer may evaluate the capacity for work performance by means of special employment medical examinations. We recommend consulting such a procedure with a provider of these services in advance.

    What to do with an employee suspected of being infected?

    Provided that an employer is worried that an employee might be infected, we recommend agreeing (by telephone) with an employee that they will report to their general practitioner or respective department of epidemiology of the Regional Public Health Authority in the SR (RPHA) in the SR. It will decide on the need to perform testing for the coronavirus and respective ruling of a quarantine.

    In the event an employee shall refuse to cooperate in this matter, an employer might report to a respective department of epidemiology of RPHA in the SR, which will try to contact an employee directly. You will find the contact details at this link.

    In case of suspecting the infection by the novel coronavirus, it is necessary for an employee to contact a nonstop information line 0917 222 682 or write to an email address: novykoronavirus@uvzsr.sk.

    An employee is obliged to stay in a quarantine

    In case an employee must stay in a quarantine, i.e. provided that they have been ruled by a doctor or provided it results from the measure of the Public Health Authority of the SR, it is considered an obstacle at work for which an employee is entitled to wage compensation in the same way as with common sickness absence. It means that an employee is entitled to wage compensation for the first three days of sickness absence amounting to 25 per cent of the assessed base, for the 4th – 10th day amounting to 55 per cent of the assessed base, and since 11th day they are entitled to a sickness benefit paid by the Social Insurance Agency.

    The Social Insurance Agency has introduced a simplified procedure for claiming a nursing benefit and a sickness benefit without a personal contact with a doctor or a Social Insurance Agency employee. For further information, go to this link.

    An employee is obliged to report the placement under a quarantine or an obligation to stay in a quarantine without unduly delay to an employer and give evidence of the work obstacle. The Public Health Authority has issued a regulation for people under a quarantine which can be found at this link.

    In case an employee is able to perform work from home and they will agree on this with their employer, they will not ask a doctor to issue a sickness certificate in this case, and they are entitled to salary for work performance from home.

    We suspect an employee is infected, but they have not been ruled a quarantine

    Provided that an employee is not under a quarantine (their free movement does not pose a threat to the public) and an employee is able to work, an employer must respect this conclusion.

    Provided that an employer decides, in this situation, that an employee shall not stay at the workplace, they have several options:

    • An agreement to work from home – a possibility conditioned by an approval of an employee provided that nature of work admits it.
    • To send an employee to ‘obstacles’ – even without an employee’s approval. However, an employer is obliged to pay wage compensation amounting to the average earnings.
    • Compensatory leave – provided that an employee has worked overtime, the parties may agree upon its drawing.
    • Unpaid leave – on the basis of an employee´s request, an employer may enable them to draw unpaid leave.
    • Paid holiday – a possibility to rule a holiday to an employee, even without their consent; however, it is necessary to rule it 14 days in advance.
    • Cancellation of scheduled shifts – a possibility to adjust the timetable of shifts to an employee even without their consent; it is necessary to plan the schedule at least one week in advance.
    • Serious operation-related reasons – provided that there are representatives of employees at an employer, it is possible to agree with them on the so called serious operation-related reasons for which it is not possible to assign work to employees, and in such cases, employees are entitled to wage compensation amounting to 60 per cent of the average earnings.

    An employee refuses to come to work

    The Labour Code gives employees a right to refuse performance of dangerous work. However, refusal of work must pose an immediate threat to their life or health, or life or health of other people. A test for refusal of work is extremely strict and in the event of concerns of being infected by the coronavirus at this time, an average employee will not pass it.

    In general, we recommend listening to an employee and their concerns and trying to find a solution together, which will be within the scope of employer’s possibilities. It might be, e.g. a possibility to work from home, drawing paid holiday or providing unpaid leave. If an employee refuses to come to work, it represents unexcused absence from work for which an employer may penalize them.

    There may, of course, appear more complicated cases which will need to be evaluated individually (people with a weakened immune system, respiratory difficulties, heart-related issues, diabetes, pregnant women, etc.).

    Breakdown of public transport service

    In case of an unpredictable breakdown of public transport service, an employee who could not have been able to get to work on time, is entitled to time off from work without wage compensation.

    An employee has been ‘stuck’ on holiday oversees

    If an employee informs an employer that their flight has been cancelled or they cannot get from some distant place in the world, an employee may draw holiday and be entitled to wage compensation, or they may use an institute of Article 141 sect. 2 clause g) of the Labour Code – unpredictable breakdown of transport. In such a case, an employer is obliged to excuse absence of an employee at workplace, nevertheless, without wage compensation.

    Closure of schools for children

    The law specifically takes into consideration situations when an employee needs to look after a child instead of working. In this case, an employer is obliged to excuse an employee and an employee is entitled to a nursing benefit (a benefit paid by the Social Insurance Agency). The Social Insurance Agency has introduced a simplified procedure for claiming a nursing benefit and a sickness benefit avoiding a contact with a doctor or a Social Insurance Agency employee. For further information, go to this link.

    Closure of an operating unit, decrease of orders

    In the event of closure of an operating unit, employees will be, as a rule, entitled to the provision of work compensation in the same way as with obstacles at work on the part of an employer. An employer might take into consideration the abovementioned alternatives of decreasing a financial impact, such as ruling of paid holiday or rescheduling shifts. If it is possible, an employee might be ruled to work from home, or it might be agreed with them to draw compensatory leave for overtime work.

    If an employer has concluded an agreement with representatives of employees on serious operation reasons for which it is not possible to delegate work to employees, employees are entitled to wage compensation amounting to 60 per cent of average earnings.

    Besides the options stated above, an employer might consider relocation of an employee to a different type of work in order to avoid an emergency situation, in which case employees are entitled to wages.

    What is relevant for the manufacturing industry is that in case it will be necessary to close or restrict operation due to a temporary lack caused by a breakdown in supply of materials, and an employee cannot be relocated to a different type of work, they are entitled to compensation of wage amounting to their average earnings.

    Measures to alleviate economic impacts

    The government has informed about adopting measures in order to alleviate the economic impacts of the situation on entrepreneurs. Even though the details have not been made public in the adequate depth, for the time being, we draw your attention to an already existing possibility to obtain a grant for support of maintaining working places pursuant to the Act on Employment Services. The conditions for its obtaining include among other that employee representatives are established at an employer, and an employer for a time period not less 3 months prior to submitting the application for the grant, has not terminated working places despite continual and serious operational reasons specified in a written agreement with employee representatives.

    Conclusion

    The epidemiological situation will evolve rapidly. We recommend employers to keep calm and follow web pages of the Slovak authorities, e. g.:

    • The Public Health Authority of the SR – contact HERE
    • The National Centre of Health Information about Coronavirus web page: HERE
    • A labour-law information line of the Ministry of Labour of the SR regarding the coronavirus for the public – contact HERE
    • The Government Office of the SR – contact HERE
    • The Ministry of Interior of the SR – contact HERE
    • The Ministry of Health of the SR – contact HERE
    • ECDC – contact HERE

    The information line for the coronavirus is 0800 221 234.

    In the event of occurrence of the emergency situation in connection with the coronavirus, we recommend to deal with further procedure and measures without unduly delay and in line with our recommendations stated above, and most importantly in cooperation with an employee in question, their practising physician and predominantly a respective public health authority. Provided that all these agents participate, it will be possible to prevent further spreading of the epidemics effectively while safeguarding functioning of society.

    The situation is not simple and further steps on the part of the government and the authorities are expected. The Ministry of Finances and the Ministry of Economy are to elaborate measures in order to alleviate economic impacts of the abovementioned measures. We will monitor the situation for you, and we will keep you updated.

     

     

    Disclaimer

    This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full terms and conditions on our website.

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