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Coronavirus: New guidelines for gradual reopening of the workplace

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Legal news
calendar 17 April 2020
globus Denmark

The Danish government has announced that Denmark is ready for a more rapid reopening than first expected. For some companies, employees will therefore already return to work during the upcoming weeks. However, companies must, at the same time, be aware that to the extent possible, the home office should be maintained. For those employees who are unable to work from home and, therefore, will return to work, guidelines on a safe and secure arrangement of the workplace have been introduced.

Pursuant to the strategy of the Danish government on the gradual re-opening of the country, employees could in principle already have returned to the workplace after Easter. However, the decision is currently only aimed towards companies which have experienced a decrease in productivity as a result of remote working and presumes that the workplace is reopened in a safe manner. 

Companies deciding to reopen the workplace, must therefore be aware of the new guidelines of the Danish government. Oppositely, companies that can continue operations using home offices without substantial consequences should still ensure focus on compliance with the Danish Working Environment Act as well as the applicable data protection rules. We have previously described the requirements here.

The new guidelines have been drafted by the Danish government in consultation with the corporate sector and the social partners. They overall aim to ensure a secure workplace before employees return to work again.

How can companies safely arrange the workplace before reopening?     

Reopening remains subject to compliance from both companies as well as employees with the measures set out by the Danish authorities to avoid spreading of the infectious disease. Companies that cannot maintain remote working arrangements due to the negative impact on the company’s activities should therefore thoroughly consider the new guidelines. This entails that companies must consider:

  • Ensuring at least two meters distance between employees, for example by working in shifts
  • Implementing flexible working hours to avoid congestion in public transport
  • Limiting use of physical meetings and instead applying digital solutions
  • Limiting business trips, course activities etc.
  • Implementing guidelines on the use common rooms, such as canteens, meeting rooms etc.
  • Arranging a safe canteen, for example by closing the buffet, distancing tables, arrange range markers etc.
  • Closing areas of seated dining where employees risk meeting across departments
  • Complying with the guidelines of the Danish Health Authority on good hygiene

The Danish Working Environment Authority has confirmed that its supervision will increase in selected industries to prevent accidents and limit spreading of the infectious disease. These selected industries include construction sites, farming industry and companies covered by the social dumping-effort. The Danish Working Environment Authority it will take the current extraordinary circumstances into account considering the challenges companies are facing due to coronavirus. Decisions on formal violations of occupational health and safety legislation, for example APVs or the working environment organization will therefore not be made.

Can companies offer testing at the workplace?

As the access to test-kits for coronavirus is currently increasing, several companies are considering offering employees the possibility to test themselves for the infectious disease. As a main rule this is possible, but in light of the Danish rules on health information, companies must neither request, obtain nor otherwise gain access to the result of the employee’s test. Employees will of course receive the result of the test themselves and may hereafter choose to redistribute the information to the company.

The question on how to handle an employee who is showing symptoms of coronavirus is another question. As a main rule, companies can and should send employees showing symptoms home, by virtue of its managerial right. This is in order to prevent further infection at the workplace and to secure potential employees in the risk group. Employees who are sent home due to illness will be entitled to full pay from the company as usual, read more about coronavirus and the employees here.

IUNO’s opinion

The current situation has no precedent, and companies must therefore through the introduction of ongoing efforts and measures as well as dialogue with employees, ensure that the workplace is organized safely to avoid disease spreading. In this connection, companies must make sure to comply with the rules under the Danish Working Environment Act and the Danish Health Information Act.

IUNO recommends that companies introduce clear guidelines for reopening of the workplace in accordance with the gradual reopening announced by the Danish Government, namely if companies consider offering testing at the workplace in this connection.  

Pursuant to the strategy of the Danish government on the gradual re-opening of the country, employees could in principle already have returned to the workplace after Easter. However, the decision is currently only aimed towards companies which have experienced a decrease in productivity as a result of remote working and presumes that the workplace is reopened in a safe manner. 

Companies deciding to reopen the workplace, must therefore be aware of the new guidelines of the Danish government. Oppositely, companies that can continue operations using home offices without substantial consequences should still ensure focus on compliance with the Danish Working Environment Act as well as the applicable data protection rules. We have previously described the requirements here.

The new guidelines have been drafted by the Danish government in consultation with the corporate sector and the social partners. They overall aim to ensure a secure workplace before employees return to work again.

How can companies safely arrange the workplace before reopening?     

Reopening remains subject to compliance from both companies as well as employees with the measures set out by the Danish authorities to avoid spreading of the infectious disease. Companies that cannot maintain remote working arrangements due to the negative impact on the company’s activities should therefore thoroughly consider the new guidelines. This entails that companies must consider:

  • Ensuring at least two meters distance between employees, for example by working in shifts
  • Implementing flexible working hours to avoid congestion in public transport
  • Limiting use of physical meetings and instead applying digital solutions
  • Limiting business trips, course activities etc.
  • Implementing guidelines on the use common rooms, such as canteens, meeting rooms etc.
  • Arranging a safe canteen, for example by closing the buffet, distancing tables, arrange range markers etc.
  • Closing areas of seated dining where employees risk meeting across departments
  • Complying with the guidelines of the Danish Health Authority on good hygiene

The Danish Working Environment Authority has confirmed that its supervision will increase in selected industries to prevent accidents and limit spreading of the infectious disease. These selected industries include construction sites, farming industry and companies covered by the social dumping-effort. The Danish Working Environment Authority it will take the current extraordinary circumstances into account considering the challenges companies are facing due to coronavirus. Decisions on formal violations of occupational health and safety legislation, for example APVs or the working environment organization will therefore not be made.

Can companies offer testing at the workplace?

As the access to test-kits for coronavirus is currently increasing, several companies are considering offering employees the possibility to test themselves for the infectious disease. As a main rule this is possible, but in light of the Danish rules on health information, companies must neither request, obtain nor otherwise gain access to the result of the employee’s test. Employees will of course receive the result of the test themselves and may hereafter choose to redistribute the information to the company.

The question on how to handle an employee who is showing symptoms of coronavirus is another question. As a main rule, companies can and should send employees showing symptoms home, by virtue of its managerial right. This is in order to prevent further infection at the workplace and to secure potential employees in the risk group. Employees who are sent home due to illness will be entitled to full pay from the company as usual, read more about coronavirus and the employees here.

IUNO’s opinion

The current situation has no precedent, and companies must therefore through the introduction of ongoing efforts and measures as well as dialogue with employees, ensure that the workplace is organized safely to avoid disease spreading. In this connection, companies must make sure to comply with the rules under the Danish Working Environment Act and the Danish Health Information Act.

IUNO recommends that companies introduce clear guidelines for reopening of the workplace in accordance with the gradual reopening announced by the Danish Government, namely if companies consider offering testing at the workplace in this connection.  

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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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