In connection with the adverse epidemiological developments, Slovakia is adopting new measures to prevent the spread of a new communicable disease known as COVID-19. We are monitoring the situation and we will keep you up to date on the new measures taken.
As of today, the country has adopted a number of official quarantine and prevention measures; they are taken by the government’s emergency management team and then formally adopted by the Public Health Authority (PHA). The adopted coronavirus containment and prevention measures are published on the PHA website (in Slovak): http://www.uvzsr.sk/index.php?option=com_content&view=category&layout=blog&id=223&Itemid=144
Since these measures significantly affect both the employers and employees, below is an outline of the options which the employers have vis-à-vis their employees and any work impediments due to the measures adopted:
- Employees caring for children younger than 10 years
(Closure of pre-school and school establishments, leisure time centres and other organised extra-curricular activities for children, Decree effective from 16.3.2020)
The employer has a duty to excuse the absence an employee from work due to significant personal impediments, that is if the employee has a child younger than 10 years of age which, because of the preventive lockdown of schools and educational establishments, cannot be in the care of the thus closed schools or educational establishments.
Because of this work impediment, the employee is not entitled to compensation in the amount of his/her average wage, nor is he/she entitled to sickness benefits; the employee is only entitled to the carer’s allowance, an insurance benefit paid by the Social Insurance Agency. The parents (one of them) may claim the allowance also if the child is healthy.
- Quarantine hindering the employer (measures in place nowadays)
If a particular measure disrupts the operations of the employer, such a measure it is considered to constitute a work impediment on the employer’s part. If employees cannot work due to this impediment (otherwise they would work), they are entitled to a compensation equal to their average wage.
- Quarantine hindering the employee as a natural person
The imposition of a quarantine is ordered by the relevant authorities, i.e. district public health authorities and, in particular, the PHA or the Ministry of Health at the proposal by the PHA.
If, however, an employee is personally subject to a quarantine order and cannot go to work because of it (for example, he or she has been ordered to stay in a home self-containment), this represents a significant personal work impediment on the employee’s part. In this situation, the employee is entitled to the same compensation as an employee on a sick leave, namely to 25% of the daily assessment base for the first three days and 55 % of the daily assessment base from the 4th to 10th day and, subsequently, to the sickness benefits paid by the Social Insurance Agency. The compensation described above is paid by the employer during the first ten days and, starting from day 11, by the Social Insurance Agency.
If the job description of an employee so permits, the employer and employee may opt for home-office arrangements. In this situation, the place of the employee’s work is transferred without any financial consequences for the employer (save for the cost incurred in connection with providing the employee with necessary equipment and resources). If, however, the employee does not agree with such home-office arrangements, the employer may not impose them unilaterally.
It is very important to bear in mind that the employees working under home-office arrangements are deemed to be at work and hence any accident in their home settings in connection with the work performed for the employer may be considered occupational. The employer may not exonerate itself from its Occupational Safety and Health responsibilities.
Nevertheless, the employers are advised to consider this option as it brings economic benefits to both the employer and employee and furthers the employer’s vested interest in protecting the health of its employees.
The employer may order its employees to take a leave only subject to a 14-day notice; any shorter notice requires the consent of the employee(s) concerned. Employees on the leave are entitled to their average wage income.
- Time Off Work
Another option for the employer is to grant its employees ‘time off work’. It comes in several alternatives, yet all of them require the consent of the employee(s) concerned.
The employer may grant its employee a time off work, either unpaid or paid (at average wage), based on the employee’s request; alternatively, the employer and employee may agree on a paid time off which the employee will work out at a later point (which means that the employer will pay the employee average wage during the time off period and the employee will work that wage out later).
Decree of 12 March 2020
Under a decree dated 12 March 2020, anyone with permanent or temporary residence in Slovakia, anyone staying in Slovakia for more than 90 days and anyone employed in Slovakia who has returned to Slovakia from abroad past 07:00 hours on 13 March 2020 is ordered to remain in home self-containment for 14 days along with the persons living in the same household. At this point, the decree is not limited in time.
The self-contained may not go to work, but they may agree with their employer to work from home during the self-containment period. If, by virtue of being self-contained, they cannot work, it is a significant work impediment on their part and they are in a regime similar to a sick leave.
Breach of contractual obligations vis-à-vis other parties
Any breach of contractual obligations vis-à-vis other parties requires a thorough case-specific assessment.
In the first place, it is assessed against the contractual arrangements agreed between the parties involved. If the contract is silent about what to do, for example, in a force majeure situation, then only the statutory provisions apply.
The Commercial Code contains the grounds for liberation based on which (if evidenced) the obligor may be relieved from liability for damage. The circumstances excluding liability include the impediments occurring beyond the control of the obligor which prevent the obligor from discharging its contractual obligations unless it is reasonable to assume that the obligor can prevent or overcome such impediments or their consequences or that the obligor could have foreseen such impediments at the time of assuming the obligations.
Coronavirus and the related measures restricting the routine operations of a company, as the employer, can be classified as circumstances which have occurred beyond the company’s control and the company cannot be reasonably expected to prevent or overcome such circumstances, nor was the company in a position to foresee them at the time it had assumed its obligations. If the company is in breach with its contractual obligations, the company will have to prove the existence of the specific circumstances which hindered their due performance (e.g., sickness of employees due to coronavirus, etc.). The burden of proof rests with the company.
The above information is provided in response to the most frequently asked questions by the employers in connection with the spread of coronavirus. We will keep you updated on the latest developments of relevance to your employment and business considerations and about the possible solutions.
Dajana Csongrádyová, Zuzana Judiaková