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Coronavirus and employees - What should companies do?

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Legal news
calendar 6 March 2020
globus Denmark

In line with the ongoing coronavirus developments (COVID-19), both Danish and foreign companies have already experienced sick employees, voluntary and imposed quarantines as well as closure of activities, etc. But what are companies’ responsibilities according to employment law with the new issues that arise in this regard?

A number of new questions are currently being raised in relation to how companies should deal with the spread of coronavirus to their employees, including whether it is appropriate to inquire about the reason for absence and whether the employee is entitled to pay during the different types of absence. 

Although the clear general rule in relation to the first question is that it remains the case that companies may not ask about the cause of sick leave, employees have a duty to disclose if they are or suspect they have the infectious disease. Likewise, the employee will be entitled to pay during sickness as usual in cases where:

  • The employee becomes ill with coronavirus
  • The employee is quarantined at your request (for example, after traveling to a hotspot area for the infection)
  • The employee gets sick during holiday leave
  • The employee becomes ill or quarantined during a business trip
  • The employee is sent home because you have decided to shut down your activities

However, employees are obviously not entitled to leave work due to fear of infection, problems with public transport, lack of child care or the person's decision to quarantine themselves. In such instances, this would constitute an unlawful absence without a valid reason. For employees who travel to areas which the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against visiting, companies can decide whether it should be regarded as self-inflicted illness if the employee becomes ill during or after such a trip.

IUNO recommends that companies keep travelers and expatriates up-to-date on the development of the situation and that they also have action plans in place in case employees become ill. Companies should carefully assess the specifics of each case before applying employment law consequences to a sick employee.

A number of new questions are currently being raised in relation to how companies should deal with the spread of coronavirus to their employees, including whether it is appropriate to inquire about the reason for absence and whether the employee is entitled to pay during the different types of absence. 

Although the clear general rule in relation to the first question is that it remains the case that companies may not ask about the cause of sick leave, employees have a duty to disclose if they are or suspect they have the infectious disease. Likewise, the employee will be entitled to pay during sickness as usual in cases where:

  • The employee becomes ill with coronavirus
  • The employee is quarantined at your request (for example, after traveling to a hotspot area for the infection)
  • The employee gets sick during holiday leave
  • The employee becomes ill or quarantined during a business trip
  • The employee is sent home because you have decided to shut down your activities

However, employees are obviously not entitled to leave work due to fear of infection, problems with public transport, lack of child care or the person's decision to quarantine themselves. In such instances, this would constitute an unlawful absence without a valid reason. For employees who travel to areas which the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs advises against visiting, companies can decide whether it should be regarded as self-inflicted illness if the employee becomes ill during or after such a trip.

IUNO recommends that companies keep travelers and expatriates up-to-date on the development of the situation and that they also have action plans in place in case employees become ill. Companies should carefully assess the specifics of each case before applying employment law consequences to a sick employee.

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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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