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Returning to the workplace after the COVID-19 crisis and labour law

  • Slovakia


    The Slovak Republic is successfully fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are reopening their operations or recalling their employees back to the workplace after working from home. This article will provide a labour law perspective on the issue of returning to work.

    Workplace hygiene measures and personal protective equipment (PPE)

    The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work has issued guidelines on return to work. It can provide employers with appropriate inspiration for measures to protect the health of employees. However, the guideline is only of a recommendatory nature, for example, employers are recommended to:

    • reduce physical contact between employees;
    • ensure frequent cleaning of the workplace;
    • to establish impermeable barriers between workers;
    • update the Occupational Safety and Health (BOZP) risk assessment

    The nature of the employee's work is decisive to the employer's obligation to provide their employees with face masks and other protective equipment. Therefore, three categories of employees can be distinguished:

    • employees who, in terms of their workload, are exposed to biological risk factors;
    • other employees in professions to whom the obligation to wear a face mask or to perform other hygienic measures is imposed by the UVZSR measure;
    • other employees to whom the employer does not have to provide a face mask or other protective equipment.

    If the employee works on a job in which he or she is directly exposed to biological factors

    (COVID-19), for example medical staff, the employer is obliged in accordance with Occupational Safety and Health measures (BOZP) to provide employees with face masks and other PPE1.

    The second category of employees includes, for example, the operation of driving schools, on which the UVZSR measure imposes the obligation to have the upper airways covered during practical rides.2 Therefore, we recommend that employers closely monitor the measures issued by UVZSR.3

    Employees who do not belong to any of the above groups do not have to be provided by the employer with a face mask or other protective equipment.

    Holidays, company-wide holidays, change of leave use and nursing benefit

    Due to a decline in orders, the employer can still decide to order a company-wide holiday. Due to the fact that the extraordinary situation in Slovakia still persists, the deadline for announcing a company-wide holiday or a collective use of leave is shortened from 14 to 7 days.

    If the employer has already ordered a leave in the previous days, but now the volume of contracts is increasing, they have the option to change the use of leave of an employee or to withdraw the employee from the leave. In such a case, the employer is obliged to reimburse the employee for the costs incurred as a result of the change in the use of leave. For illustration, it may be, for example, a refund of the cancellation fee for an already paid trip. In practice, the employee could now book a holiday somewhere in Slovakia, and will therefore be entitled to reimbursement of costs.

    In the summer, large employers carry out various shutdowns of their companies and order employees to take mass leave. Problems can arise if employees have already used up part of their leave as a result of the pandemic. The employer may determine the employee's use of leave, even if he is not yet entitled to it, provided that he is subsequently entitled to the leave by the end of the calendar year. If it happens that the employee is dismissed by the end of the calendar year, he or she must return the paid wage compensation to the employer.

    Employees who were taking care of their school-compulsory children and received nursing benefit, the so-called OČR, did not take any leave. They will still be entitled to their leave in the original extent. It is important to know that if an employer considers a dismissal, he would have to reimburse such unused leave for these employees. It is also necessary to calculate the expected volume of orders. Depending on the subject of business, it is necessary to consider arranging or ordering leave for the summer months or, conversely, wait for the end of the year.

    Schedule of working hours, organization of work changes

    Appropriate adjustment of working hours is also a suitable means of preventing the spread of coronavirus. For example, dividing a work team, where some employees will work from home and some will work at the employer's workplace.

    Depending on the wording of the employment contract, provided that it does not precisely define the beginning and end of working hours, the employer may adjust the work changes to avoid a high concentration of employees in the workplace. During an emergency, the employer must notify the employee of the schedule of work changes only two days in advance and the changes have to be effective for at least one week.

    If the employee already has specifically defined working hours in the employment contract, e.g. from 8.00 to 16.30, his consent would be required to work from 12.00 to 20.30 in the form of a relevant addendum to the employment contract.

    State aid

    From 16 May 2020, employers and other entities can apply for state aid for April 2020. On 16 May 2020, new forms for the provision of state aid will be published.

    The assistance provided is primarily intended for:

    • employers whose operations had to be closed, based on the decision of the UVZSR;
    • self-employed persons whose operations had to be compulsorily closed, based on the decision of the UVZSR;
    • employers whose operations did not have to be closed but they limited or ceased their activities.

    While help for employers is welcome, its ultimate purpose is to maintain jobs. After receiving this assistance, the employer may not dismiss their employees for a certain period of time for organizational reasons. It is, of course, still possible to conclude an agreement with the employee on the termination of employment or the employee may also resign. It is therefore to be considered whether the employer will reduce the redundancies by dismissals or prefer to receive state aid and thus survive the coronavirus crisis.




    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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