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Coronavirus: Act for high risk employees passed

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calendar 28 May 2020
globus Denmark

On 20 May 2020, the Danish government passed a new Act which provides employees with a higher risk of complications if infected by coronavirus and their relatives the opportunity to stay home with salary or sickness benefits during the reopening of Denmark. The new scheme will apply from 20 May until 1 September 2020.

Pursuant to the new Act, employees who have an increased risk of complications if infected with coronavirus, and their relatives, will have the opportunity to stay home with sickness benefits until 1 September 2020. The Act is a result of an agreement between the Danish government and parliament.

The Act is based on the assessments of the Danish Health Authority, which currently considers employees with the following conditions and diseases as potentially included in the high-risk group:

  • High age (from 65 years)
  • Overweight (BMI over 30)
  • Reduced immune system
  • Severe lung disease
  • Special diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer etc.
  • Diabetes, if poorly managed
  • Other diseases reducing the force to cough or relief the airways of mucus
  • Pregnancy (based on a precautionary principle)
  • Other severe diseases

Even though the Act also includes relatives, the scope is limited to relatives living in the same household with whom the person has a familial affiliation or a cohabiting partner.

Specific and individual assessment

Whether the employee is in special high-risk category or is relative to someone in the high-risk category, must ultimately be determined by the employee’s own doctor. In this connection, it’s not decisive for the assessment if the employee is incapacitated for work, but it is the risk of infection with coronavirus and the increased risk of severe sickness if infected with coronavirus that determines if the employee should be covered by the Act.

For relatives, it’s of course about the risk of bringing home coronavirus to someone in the high-risk category that determines if they should be covered by the Act or not. Relatives, therefore, also needs to document that the person in the household, following a specific and individual assessment by his or her own doctor, is included in the high-risk category.

In both cases, the employee must pay for the required medical certificate. The local municipality will subsequently refund the expense, if the conditions for sickness benefits are met.

An agreement with the company is required

No derogations are made from applicable law with the new Act regarding lawful absence, which as usual entails that the employee suffers from a disease that results in an incapacity to work. Absence not caused by sickness is as a main rule not lawful absence and can, based on the circumstances, provide for valid grounds for termination or even summary dismissal. The scheme, therefore, presumes that the company in turn is willing to use the scheme.

To benefit from the scheme, the employee must first enter into dialogue with the company. If the company is willing to use the scheme, it must issue a statement explaining that it’s not possible to organize the workplace or to rearrange the tasks in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Danish Authorities for those in the high-risk category, and that it has not been possible for the employee to work from home. The company should also state that the employee is exempted from his or her duty to work during the period.

Oppositely, if the company assesses that it’s possible to rearrange the tasks or organize the workplace in a safe manner, the employee is not entitled to be exempted from his or her duty to work. This applies even if the employee does not agree with the company’s assessment.

The Danish Health Authority has already determined that it’s possible for many employees in the high-risk category to return to work without risking severe sickness if infected with coronavirus. The Act, therefore, aims to safeguard those in extraordinary circumstances.

Compensation

High risk employees and their relatives can agree with the company to stay away from work and receive salary during the period of absence or sickness benefits if the company does not pay salary. Companies are not obliged to pay salary during the absence period. Companies, who choose to pay salary, can receive reimbursement of sickness benefits from the first day of absence.

The employee and/or the relative must, in addition, comply with all other criteria in order to receive sickness benefits.

IUNO’s opinion

IUNO recommends that when reopening the workplace, companies should thoroughly consider if it’s safe for employees to return to the workplace, for example by complying with the new guidelines for reopening workplaces issued by the Danish Working Authority.

Companies with high risk employees or a relative to one, may enter into dialogue with the employee in order to clarify the possibility to make use of the scheme.

Companies who wishes to make use of the scheme should also be aware of the different elements, including statements, examinations and medical statements which are some of the conditions set forward by the Act.

[Act amending the Sickness Benefit Act of 20 May 2020]

Pursuant to the new Act, employees who have an increased risk of complications if infected with coronavirus, and their relatives, will have the opportunity to stay home with sickness benefits until 1 September 2020. The Act is a result of an agreement between the Danish government and parliament.

The Act is based on the assessments of the Danish Health Authority, which currently considers employees with the following conditions and diseases as potentially included in the high-risk group:

  • High age (from 65 years)
  • Overweight (BMI over 30)
  • Reduced immune system
  • Severe lung disease
  • Special diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancer etc.
  • Diabetes, if poorly managed
  • Other diseases reducing the force to cough or relief the airways of mucus
  • Pregnancy (based on a precautionary principle)
  • Other severe diseases

Even though the Act also includes relatives, the scope is limited to relatives living in the same household with whom the person has a familial affiliation or a cohabiting partner.

Specific and individual assessment

Whether the employee is in special high-risk category or is relative to someone in the high-risk category, must ultimately be determined by the employee’s own doctor. In this connection, it’s not decisive for the assessment if the employee is incapacitated for work, but it is the risk of infection with coronavirus and the increased risk of severe sickness if infected with coronavirus that determines if the employee should be covered by the Act.

For relatives, it’s of course about the risk of bringing home coronavirus to someone in the high-risk category that determines if they should be covered by the Act or not. Relatives, therefore, also needs to document that the person in the household, following a specific and individual assessment by his or her own doctor, is included in the high-risk category.

In both cases, the employee must pay for the required medical certificate. The local municipality will subsequently refund the expense, if the conditions for sickness benefits are met.

An agreement with the company is required

No derogations are made from applicable law with the new Act regarding lawful absence, which as usual entails that the employee suffers from a disease that results in an incapacity to work. Absence not caused by sickness is as a main rule not lawful absence and can, based on the circumstances, provide for valid grounds for termination or even summary dismissal. The scheme, therefore, presumes that the company in turn is willing to use the scheme.

To benefit from the scheme, the employee must first enter into dialogue with the company. If the company is willing to use the scheme, it must issue a statement explaining that it’s not possible to organize the workplace or to rearrange the tasks in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Danish Authorities for those in the high-risk category, and that it has not been possible for the employee to work from home. The company should also state that the employee is exempted from his or her duty to work during the period.

Oppositely, if the company assesses that it’s possible to rearrange the tasks or organize the workplace in a safe manner, the employee is not entitled to be exempted from his or her duty to work. This applies even if the employee does not agree with the company’s assessment.

The Danish Health Authority has already determined that it’s possible for many employees in the high-risk category to return to work without risking severe sickness if infected with coronavirus. The Act, therefore, aims to safeguard those in extraordinary circumstances.

Compensation

High risk employees and their relatives can agree with the company to stay away from work and receive salary during the period of absence or sickness benefits if the company does not pay salary. Companies are not obliged to pay salary during the absence period. Companies, who choose to pay salary, can receive reimbursement of sickness benefits from the first day of absence.

The employee and/or the relative must, in addition, comply with all other criteria in order to receive sickness benefits.

IUNO’s opinion

IUNO recommends that when reopening the workplace, companies should thoroughly consider if it’s safe for employees to return to the workplace, for example by complying with the new guidelines for reopening workplaces issued by the Danish Working Authority.

Companies with high risk employees or a relative to one, may enter into dialogue with the employee in order to clarify the possibility to make use of the scheme.

Companies who wishes to make use of the scheme should also be aware of the different elements, including statements, examinations and medical statements which are some of the conditions set forward by the Act.

[Act amending the Sickness Benefit Act of 20 May 2020]

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Søren

Hessellund Klausen

Partner

Kirsten

Astrup

Associate

Nina

Kumari

Associate

Cecillie

Cathrine Groth Henriksen

Associate

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