24 Mar Employment law during the state of emergency declared because of COVID-19

On 24 March 2020, the Emergency Measures and Actions Act during the state of emergency announced by a decision of the National Assembly of 13 March 2020 was promulgated (the “State of Emergency Act”). The Act introduces measures and actions during the state of emergency, as well as changes in numerous other acts. This article aims to briefly outline the major changes that are being introduced in the Employment Law legislation.

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Until the state of emergency is lifted, employers may unilaterally assign employees to work from home or telework. The assignment shall be by an order specifying the place of work and the conditions under which working from home or teleworking are performed. Until now, working from home and teleworking have been possible only by mutual agreement between the parties. For the whole period of the state of emergency or part of it, employers may establish part-time work for the full-time employees in the company or some of its units. In this case, the duration of the working hours may not be less than half the statutory duration for the period of calculation of the working hours. For example, when the working hours are calculated daily, they may not be less than 4 hours a day.

Many employers were obliged to cease all or part of their activities by order of the Minister of Health No. RD-01-124 / 13.03.2020 (e.g. owners of amusement and gaming halls, discos, bars, restaurants, etc.). The new State of Emergency Act makes it possible, even if the activity carried out does not fall within the scope of the cited order or other order of a state body, the employer to decide to suspend the work of the enterprise, part of the enterprise or individual employees for the whole period of emergency or part of it.

Whether the work suspension is by an order of a state authority or decided by the employer, during the period of emergency the employer is entitled to grant up to one-half of the annual paid leave to the employees even without their consent. For the period of state of emergency, the requirement for acquisition of 8 months of length of service to be entitled to annual paid leave is not applicable.

If a company continues to operate under a state of emergency, the employer is obliged to allow the use of annual paid leave or unpaid leave at the request of several categories of employees, namely:

  • a pregnant employee, as well as an employee in an advanced stage of in vitro fertilization procedure;
  • mother (single father) or adoptive parent of a child up to 12 years old or a disabled child, regardless of age;
  • an employee who is under 18 years old;
  • an employee with permanent disability of 50 and more than 50 percent;
  • an employee who has been reassigned due to reasons of health;
  • an employee suffering from certain diseases, listed in Regulation of the Minister of Health No5 (ischemic heart disease, active form of tuberculosis, cancer, occupational disease, mental illness, diabetes);

Time spent on annual paid leave or unpaid leave under the above conditions is recognized as length of service.

Provided that the work of the enterprise, part of the enterprise or individual employees is suspended by an order of a state authority or by the employer, the employees concerned are entitled to receive their gross remuneration, as the suspension is not due to their fault.

It is expected that the National Social Security Institute will assist employers by providing them with 60% of the amount of the employees’ insurance income for January 2020. The support will be for up to three months. An act of the Council of Ministers shall set out the criteria the employers must meet.

The above changes enter into force retroactively, as of 13.03.2020, and apply until the state of emergency is lifted.