As part of the effort to combat COVID-19, the Slovak government adopted new measures on 23.3.2020. What follows is an overview of what is new in the field of legal protection, employment and data protection during the coronavirus pandemic.
Legal protection during coronavirus pandemic
On 23.3.2020, the Crisis Management Team of the Ministry of Justice discussed a draft proposed to legislate certain extraordinary measures in connection with the spread of COVID-19.
On 24.3.2020, the Government approved a draft introducing certain extraordinary measures in the justice sector in connection with the spread of COVID-19, a dangerous communicable viral disease, which also amends certain other laws (the “Draft”). We are bringing you a summary of the provisions proposed in the Draft that affect several areas of law.
Suspension of time limits and periods
Under the Draft, all statutory limitation periods in the private-law context are suspended from the effective date of the Draft until 30.4.2020. This also applies to the time limits prescribed by law or set by the court for the parties to judicial proceedings to appear before court or take procedural steps in relation to the proceedings. When it comes to criminal proceedings, the suspension only applies to the time limits within which the accused, his or her legal counsel, the victim(s) and the parties involved may seek remedy.
The Draft also provides that if a matter brooks no delay because a delay could cause a threat to life, health, security, freedom or considerable damage to a party to the proceedings, the court may rule that the suspension shall not apply and will set a new adequate time limit. No appeal against such a ruling will be possible.
As regards the limitation periods which were running after 12.3.2020 until the effective date of the Draft, these periods will not end earlier than 30 days after entry into force of the Draft.
Presence of public at hearings
The Draft also affects the participation of public at court hearings. The Draft says that during an extraordinary situation or state of emergency, all court hearings and public sessions shall be open to public to the minimum extent necessary and that the protection of public health is the ground on which public may be excluded from the courtroom or a public court session.
Petition for bankruptcy
The Draft amends the time limit within with the debtor, on having become insolvent, is obliged to file a petition for bankruptcy in respect of his assets. The Draft affects the insolvencies occurring from 12.3.2020 to 30.4.2020 and the time limit for filing a petition for bankruptcy is extended to 60 days.
Decisions adopted per rollam by the boards of legal entities subject to private law
The Draft also amends the way in which the boards of legal entities established under civil law or commercial law may vote. During an extraordinary situation or state of emergency, the boards may use postal voting or enable their members to participate in board meetings through electronic means, even if the bylaws or statutes of the company do not foresee this option.
Temporary ban on foreclosures and auctions
Under the Draft, all foreclosures are suspended until 30 April 2020 and the auctioneers, bailiffs and bankruptcy trustees must refrain from holding auctions. As a consequence, any steps taken towards foreclosure and any auctions carried out between the effective date of the new Draft and 30.4.2020 shall be void.
According to the Draft, during an extraordinary situation or state of emergency, the state may enter into contracts in a public procurement procedure also with the entities not registered in the Public Sector Partners Register, provided, however, that the conditions for a direct contract award because of an extraordinary situation have been met.
Measures affecting the employers and employees
Despite the numerous proposals put forward by the members of parliament, which could introduce the widely expected and necessary measures to help the employers, the parliament has not yet adopted any specific measures that would alleviate the impact of COVID-19 on Slovak employers and thus avoid the otherwise inevitable layoffs.
One of such measures is a duty to wear facemasks outside of home. In other words, all employees commuting to their workplace will have to wear and thus must have access to facemasks when the Public Health Authority issues the decree. Obviously, it will be for the employers to provide those employees who, due to the nature of their work, come or may come in contact with persons infected by coronavirus with the necessary personal protective equipment (e.g., facemasks, respirators) and other protective items (mainly disinfectant soaps).
Another measure which will undoubtedly affect the employers is the closure of all grocery stores, pharmacies, tobacco kiosks and pet stores for customers on Sundays for cleaning and disinfection. On entry to factories and hospitals, the employees will have their body temperature forehead scanned.
The last measure of interest to employers concerns the obligatory medical checks of employees, these checks will most likely be suspended. However, this change must go through the legislative process, which takes some time.
We are constantly monitoring the situation and we will keep you up to date.
Changes in the area of personal data protection
Apart from the changes described above, the Draft also introduces an addition Section 63(18) of Act No. 351/2011 on Electronic Communications, as amended (the “Communications Act”) in the wording as follows “the data which are subject to telecommunication secrecy pursuant to paragraph (1), sub-paragraphs b) to d) may, during an extraordinary situation or state of emergency declared for the healthcare sector, be disclosed to the Public Health Authority for the purposes of their collection, processing and storage to the extent necessary for the identification of natural persons in the interest of protecting lives and health of citizens, including in a causal nexus with the rise of a pandemic or spread of a dangerous communicable human disease. The data referred to in the previous sentence may be collected, processed and stored by the Public Health Authority throughout the duration of an extraordinary situation or state of emergency, however, no longer than until 31 December 2020.”
The Draft thus introduces the following:
- Collection, processing and storage of data by the Public Health Authority for the purpose protecting lives and health of citizens, i.e., without the consent of data subjects.
- The data may be processed and collected only for the duration of the pandemic, not beyond 31.12.2020.
- The thus collected data should help create the topography of infected individuals.
- According to the Draft, the processing will not cover just the ‘location data’ (as presented by the media), but also metadata (see footnote 2). The proposal will be discussed by the parliament in a fast-track legislative procedure.
- The data will not be made available to the public or to state authorities other than the Public Health Authority.
- The technical solution will be presented once the Draft is enacted. It is expected that the technical solution will involve the sending of SMS notifications to infected individuals.
We should also mention in this context that on 20.3.2020 the European Data Protection Board (EDPB) stated that European data protection rules do not hinder measures taken in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. It is in the interest of humanity to curb the spread of diseases and to use modern techniques in the fight against scourges affecting great parts of the world. The EDPB also recalls that any measure taken in this extraordinary context must respect the general principles of law and must not be irreversible. With regard to the processing of location data obtained from mobile phones, the EDPB has stated that if it is not possible to process anonymous data only, the ePrivacy directive enables Member States to introduce legislative measures to safeguard public security (Article 15).
We are monitoring the situation and we will keep you updated on any new developments.
Zuzana Judiaková, Dajana Csongrádyová, Zuzana Krajčovičová
 In the fast-track legislative procedure, the Draft passed the first reading in parliament on 24.3.2020. The second reading is scheduled for 25.3.2020 at 11.00 (https://www.nrsr.sk/web/Default.aspx?sid=schodze/schodza&ID=397#current ). The Draft will be then presented for signature to the President of the Republic.
 Subject to telecommunications secrecy are data related to the communicating parties, namely the telephone number, registered legal name and the seat of a legal entity or the registered legal name and the place of business of a natural person-entrepreneur, and the personal data of natural persons, namely the forename, surname, academic title and permanent residence address; the data published in the telephone directory are not subject to telecommunications secrecy.
 Location data are subject to communications secrecy.
 Section 3(1) of Act No. 42/1994 of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on Civil Protection of Citizens, as amended
 Article 5 of Constitutional Act No. 227/2002, as amended
 Section 5 of Act No. 355/2007 Coll. on Protection, Support and Development of Public Health, as amended
 Section 2(1)(q) of Act No. 355/2007 on Protection, Support and Development of Public Health, as amended