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Come back to the workplace in CEE during COVID-19 pandemic

20 May

Some countries have begun to lift lockdown restrictions and social distancing measures. Companies are starting preparations for their employees’ return to the workplace and implement new safety measures to help workers stay safe during the pandemic.  

We have taken a closer look at a new COVID-19-related legislation and have presented the main restrictions and obligations in this regard for employers across CEE region.

As the provisions of law change frequently these days, we do recommend to always check with us the current status.

  1. Can the company order employees working remotely due to COVID-19 to come back to work at the workplace?
  2. Can the employer run the temperature screening of the employees?
  3. Must the employees wear masks while at the workplace?
  4. Must the employer provide the employees with any protective equipment (e.g. masks, gloves, disinfectants)
  5. What are the main limitations the employer must consider when loading employees back to the office?
  6. How can the employer ensure that these limitations are observed?

1. CAN THE COMPANY ORDER EMPLOYEES WORKING REMOTELY DUE TO COVID-19 TO COME BACK TO WORK AT THE WORKPLACE?

BULGARIA

Employers should organise remote work taking into account the specifics of the business activity. Where not possible, the employers must apply certain measures with respect to health and safety at the workplace.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Remote work is only allowed in the case that it was previously pre-agreed between the employer and the employees. So, if the agreed place of work is both the employee’s home and the employer’s premises, then the employer can unilaterally order the employee to come back to the workplace.

HUNGARY 

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Hungarian government enabled the employers to order home office or telework unilaterally. The employer may also unilaterally instruct the employees to perform work in the office again. 

POLAND

The law does not explicitly regulate that matter. In our view, in most cases, the employer could order the employees to return to the office and the employees should follow the instructions.

ROMANIA 

Currently the employers must organise their activities so that the work can be carried out from the employee’s home, and, if the business being carried out does not allow work from home, to take specific measures for the protection of the employees.

RUSSIA 

Relevant limitations and protective measures in relation to the COVID-19 outbreak have been established at the regional level in Russia, thus there are differences in the relevant legislation across various regions of Russia. 

In Moscow, if the employees have been placed on temporary distant working regime in relation with the COVID-19 epidemic situation, then the employer can demand the employees to return to work in the office as soon as the relevant prohibition is cancelled by the government.

SLOVAKIA

Generally yes, but there is a risk that the employees might refuse as, by law, during the time of the pandemic, the employee has a right to work from home if operationally possible.

TURKEY

The law does not explicitly regulate that matter. In our view, as long as employers comply with social distancing rules and take specific health and safety measures, they can ask employees working from home due to COVID-19 to come back to work at the workplace. 

UKRAINE

Companies can recall employees back to the workplace only upon their consent.

2. CAN THE EMPLOYER RUN THE TEMPERATURE SCREENING OF THE EMPLOYEES?

BULGARIA

The law does not explicitly authorise employers to run temperature screening. So, the employer could measure the temperature of the employees with their consent or organise temperature screening by a healthcare professional or by a qualified employee of the occupational healthcare provider. In some circumstances, the temperature screening can be run on the grounds that the employer has a legal obligation to ensure H&S workplace conditions.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Temperature screening by thermal imagers or frames containing a temperature sensor in connection with the current pandemic might be an option subject to compliance with relevant obligations set out in the GDPR and the Labour Code.

HUNGARY 

Subject to specific conditions, the organisations can introduce mandatory diagnostics or screenings but only with the assistance or supervision of healthcare professionals or nurses / HR employees under their professional responsibility. This in particular required following data protection rules. 

POLAND

According to the Polish Data Protection Authority, the employer may conduct temperature screening of the employees based on the relevant decision of the Sanitary Inspector. We see some reasoning to conduct the screening on health-suspicious employees based on health and safety rules but that would require a higher risk appetite as health and safety rules conflicts with GDPR ones.

ROMANIA 

Yes, the employers are required to ensure temperature screening at each access point in the company’s premises. Based on draft recommendations, if employees register a temperature of at least 37.3 degrees Celsius, they will not be allowed to enter the premises. However, further details/guidance are expected in this respect.

RUSSIA 

Yes, at the moment the employer is obliged to do so. Therefore, it is recommended to pass an internal order that sets forth the procedure of regular screening of the employees’ temperature. The legislation in Moscow requires performing screening at least every four hours with regard to employees of those businesses that are currently admitted to work in the offices.

SLOVAKIA

Yes, but only if the employer determines a valid legal ground for collecting such data under the GDPR rules.

TURKEY

Yes, the employer can proceed with temperature screening but must take into account the GDPR rules.

UKRAINE

Yes, temperature screening of employees is allowed, and even recommended by the local authorities.

3. MUST THE EMPLOYEES WEAR MASKS WHILE AT THE WORKPLACE?

BULGARIA

In our view, yes, if an employee has to communicate with other people at a distance closer than 1.5 meters.

CZECH REPUBLIC

Currently, it is mandatory for all persons to wear masks in public premises and workplaces. There are some exceptions depending on the business sector and industry.

HUNGARY 

There is a legal requirement to wear masks. The company must take care of H&S rules and the protective measures may entail wearing masks or gloves. 

POLAND

Employees must cover their mouth and noses at work if they perform direct services for the customers.

ROMANIA 

Yes. Use of masks in the work environment is mandatory.

RUSSIA 

Yes, at least in Moscow there is such an obligation for the employees of those businesses that are currently admitted to work in the offices, except for cases when an employee can be located alone in an isolated room.

SLOVAKIA

Yes, it is mandatory to wear masks in public and workplace, unless the person is subject to an exemption. As from 20 May 2020, wearing a mask in exteriors will be voluntary, but the safe distance of at least 5 meters must be observed.

TURKEY

Yes, following the list of precautions to be taken in the workplaces announced by the Ministry of Health, the employers must take all necessary measures and provide all protective equipment to the employees. Therefore, the employees must follow the instructions and wear masks if deemed necessary by the employer. 

UKRAINE

Employees who are in contact with visitors must wear masks and employers are obliged to provide the employees and visitors with personal protection equipment, including masks.

4. MUST THE EMPLOYER PROVIDE THE EMPLOYEES WITH ANY PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (E.G. MASKS, GLOVES, DISINFECTANTS)

BULGARIA

Yes. The employer must provide personal protective equipment (mask, helmet, gloves, etc.), depending on the specifics of the particular workplace and the occupational health risk assessment. The employer shall also organise regular disinfection of the working premises.

CZECH REPUBLIC

The law does not regulate this matter. In our view, the employers should provide the employees with protective equipment within their general H&S obligation.

HUNGARY 

Potentiality yes, if the company decides that H&S rules at the workplace requires such a measure. 

POLAND

Yes, the company must provide disposable gloves or disinfectants at their choice. If the individual work stations cannot be kept at least 1.5 meters apart, the employer must provide the employees with individual protective measures, including filter masks. The employer can choose the appropriate measures and any such measures are at the cost of the company 

ROMANIA 

Yes. Based on general H&S rules, the employer must provide protection equipment and ensure proper disinfection of the office premises, included the work station.

RUSSIA 

Yes, employers in Moscow have such obligation.  

SLOVAKIA

Yes, if the company decides that H&S rules require such protection, masks, disinfectants and other protective equipment determined by the employer are provided at the cost of the.

TURKEY

Yes, as per the list of precautions to be taken in the workplaces announced by the Ministry of Health, the employers must provide such protective equipment, such as masks, gloves and disinfectants at the cost of the employer.  

UKRAINE

In the case of the employees having contact with the visitors, the employers must provide the employees and the visitors with personal protection equipment, including masks.       

5. WHAT ARE THE MAIN LIMITATIONS THE EMPLOYER MUST CONSIDER WHEN LOADING EMPLOYEES BACK TO THE OFFICE?

BULGARIA

The employers have to: (1) ensure regular disinfection; (2) deny access to the working premises in the case of people with manifested symptoms of acute respiratory diseases; (3) instruct their employees on how to maintain proper hand hygiene and provide soap, water and disinfectants; (4) organise the work in the working premises in such a way as to ensure physical distance between people of at least 1.5 meter; and (5) provide personal protective equipment. Client-facing professionals must use face masks or helmets if they maintain contact with clients at a distance of less than 1.5 m. Alternatively, removable glass or other transparent walls can be used under specific conditions.  

CZECH REPUBLIC

There are no specific COVID-19-related limitations or obligations but the employers are obliged to create a safe and harmless working environment and working conditions and continuously seek out dangerous factors and processes in the working environment and working conditions, determine their causes and sources and to adopt measures to eliminate such risks. As part of these measures, employers should provide the employee with protective equipment or ensure social distancing.

HUNGARY 

The employers must ensure H&S at the workplace and take all necessary measures to protect employees. 

POLAND

The employer must provide safe and healthy working conditions and inform its staff on any threats. It must also take preventive measures which can include placing information describing the symptoms of coronavirus and urging staff to contact a doctor in case such symptoms occur. Relevant training is an option too.

The employer must ensure that the individual work stations are at least 1.5 meters apart. If not possible, the employees should be equipped with appropriate collective or individual protection measures, including filter masks.

ROMANIA 

Yes, the following limitations must be considered by the employer: (i) temperature screening at each access point of the office premises; (ii) mandatory disinfection of hands before accessing the work stations; (iii) observance of rules applicable in open space offices or common areas (regarding e.g. social distancing); (iv) specific differentiated start/closing work hours in companies hiring more than 50 employees. Further limitations are expected in the coming period.

RUSSIA 

In Moscow employers that are currently allowed to conduct office work must ensure social distancing between the employees at work. For employees having stationary workplaces and for whom such distancing is not an option, the employer must ensure the presence of partitions between the tables. The relevant employers must also arrange that employees wear gloves in commonly used places like elevators and when touching surfaces that could be touched by others. Employers must also arrange that a fixed number of their employees pass a coronavirus test and antibody tests within the terms established by the state medical authorities. 

Other limitations are expected and conditions may change.

SLOVAKIA

Employers must ensure H&S at the workplace and take all necessary measures to protect employees.

TURKEY

Employers must ensure H&S at the workplace and take all necessary measures to protect employees. Additionally, employers must provide information on the symptoms of COVID-19 diseases and its mode of transmission and the protection measures and must also implement social distancing precautions.  

UKRAINE

There are some recommendations on the national and local levels to companies that work with visitors, e.g. in Kyiv, a safe distance of 1 meter between the employee and visitors must be observed.

6. HOW CAN THE EMPLOYER ENSURE THAT THESE LIMITATIONS ARE OBSERVED?

There are number of tools available in various jurisdictions to ensure health and safety rules. These include:

  • rota system work (shifts);
  • compulsory holidays or furlough;
  • combined WFH/office work;
  • change of working time;
  • temporary change of job or tasks.

They all have limitations specific for the countries.

 If you find the above useful and need more help in this area, please contact us at [email protected].

Authors

Picture of Katarzyna Dulewicz
Katarzyna Dulewicz
Partner
Warsaw