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Coronavirus and employees - What should companies do?

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Legal news
calendar 6 March 2020
globus Sweden

In line with the ongoing coronavirus developments (COVID-19), both Norwegian 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:

With regards to compensation, the employee has the right to statutory sick pay when the employee gets ill with the coronavirus, whether it is at work, during leisure time, on business trips or during holidays that the employee gets ill with the coronavirus.

When the employee is not sick, the employee is still entitled to pay when:

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

It is noteworthy that the employee can be entitled to pay when the employee is imposed a quarantine due to suspected danger of infecting others, despite the fact that the employee has not been diagnosed with the disease in question. This is however provided that measures cannot be reached at the place of work, for example enabling working from home, to prevent infection.

However, employees are obviously not entitled to leave work due to fear of infection, problems with public transport or the person's decision to quarantine themselves. In such instances, this would constitute an unlawful absence without a valid reason.

Further, you can under certain circumstances have the possibility of temporary lay-offs due to lack of work. In this instance, the employees will be entitled to pay from NAV.

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:

With regards to compensation, the employee has the right to statutory sick pay when the employee gets ill with the coronavirus, whether it is at work, during leisure time, on business trips or during holidays that the employee gets ill with the coronavirus.

When the employee is not sick, the employee is still entitled to pay when:

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

It is noteworthy that the employee can be entitled to pay when the employee is imposed a quarantine due to suspected danger of infecting others, despite the fact that the employee has not been diagnosed with the disease in question. This is however provided that measures cannot be reached at the place of work, for example enabling working from home, to prevent infection.

However, employees are obviously not entitled to leave work due to fear of infection, problems with public transport or the person's decision to quarantine themselves. In such instances, this would constitute an unlawful absence without a valid reason.

Further, you can under certain circumstances have the possibility of temporary lay-offs due to lack of work. In this instance, the employees will be entitled to pay from NAV.

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

Sofie

Aurora Braut Bache

Associate

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