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Coro­n­avirus: New guide­lines for grad­ual re­open­ing of the work­place

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Legal news
calendar 19 April 2020
globus Norway

The government has now decided on a partial re-opening of Norway. Amongst other, this will include a re-opening for companies with one-to-one contact, which have previously been closed. At the same time, the minister of health urges companies who can operate by use of home office continue to do so. Companies and employees who are unable to work from home are encouraged to comply with the authority’s guidelines on infection prevention.

The government’s strategy on a gradual re-opening of Norway leads to more employees being able to attend work physically. Industries with one-to-one contact have previously been forced to close but may now re-open on the condition that there is an industry standard on infection prevention. Companies employing health professionals, like physiotherapists or psychologists, may re-open on 20 April. Other companies with one-to-one contact, like hairdressers or beauticians, may re-open on 27 April.

Companies who are unable to work from home should comply with the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s recommendations on infection prevention at the workplace. Companies that can continue to work from home without significant consequences should still focus on the provisions of the Working Environment Act and the rules on personal data.

How can the company ensure a secure workplace?

The continued re-opening of Norway depends on whether both companies and employees comply with the authority’s recommendations on infection prevention. Companies who are unable to work from home due to a negative impact on the company’s activities should therefore make a risk assessment of all hazards in relation to spread of infection at the workplace. Companies should therefore consider the following:

  • Measures for infection prevention should be discussed with the employees. In companies with more than 50 employees, the working environment committee is to participate.
  • Employees who show symptoms of any kind of infection, even light symptoms, should be sent home.
  • Ensure a distance of minimum two meters between the employees, for example by working in shifts, and between employees and potential customers.
  • Implement flexible work hours and lunchtimes in order to prevent large gatherings at the same time
  • Limit the use of physical meetings, if necessary, companies can use digital systems like Skype, Microsoft Teams etc.
  • Frequent cleaning of the facilities in general and objects who are frequently touched especially, like toilets, door handles, computer equipment etc.
  • Facilitate good hand-hygiene by ensuring that possibilities for hand wash or use of hand rubbing alcohol is visible and easy to access.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s recommendations are frequently updated.

Can the company offer testing at the workplace?

At the moment, several companies are considering offering their employees the possibility to test themselves for the infectious disease due to an increase of access to corona test-kits. As a main rule this will be possible, but the company should be aware that the company has no right to know the result of the employee’s tests. The employee can nonetheless choose to redistribute the information to the company.

Companies may have the possibility to implement health exams as a control measure in order to prevent danger to life and health. The corona outbreak is a new situation, but the great danger of infection may constitute a just cause to both demanding testing and to know the result of these test, provided that this is proportionate.

The handling of employees who are showing symptoms is another question. The main rule is that the company can and should send employees showing symptoms home, by virtue of the 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 for the duration of the employer period, which has been reduced to three calendar days when the illness is in connection to the coronavirus.

IUNO recommends

As the virus outbreak is a completely new situation, it is important that the company ensures that the workplace is secured to prevent an unproportioned spread of infection through frequent measures and dialogue with the employees and potentially the working environment committee. In this regard, companies should keep themselves updated on and comply with the recommendations from the authorities.

IUNO recommends that companies make frequent risk assessments and develops clear policies for the re-opening of the workplace, especially if the company at the same time offers coronavirus tests.

The government’s strategy on a gradual re-opening of Norway leads to more employees being able to attend work physically. Industries with one-to-one contact have previously been forced to close but may now re-open on the condition that there is an industry standard on infection prevention. Companies employing health professionals, like physiotherapists or psychologists, may re-open on 20 April. Other companies with one-to-one contact, like hairdressers or beauticians, may re-open on 27 April.

Companies who are unable to work from home should comply with the Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s recommendations on infection prevention at the workplace. Companies that can continue to work from home without significant consequences should still focus on the provisions of the Working Environment Act and the rules on personal data.

How can the company ensure a secure workplace?

The continued re-opening of Norway depends on whether both companies and employees comply with the authority’s recommendations on infection prevention. Companies who are unable to work from home due to a negative impact on the company’s activities should therefore make a risk assessment of all hazards in relation to spread of infection at the workplace. Companies should therefore consider the following:

  • Measures for infection prevention should be discussed with the employees. In companies with more than 50 employees, the working environment committee is to participate.
  • Employees who show symptoms of any kind of infection, even light symptoms, should be sent home.
  • Ensure a distance of minimum two meters between the employees, for example by working in shifts, and between employees and potential customers.
  • Implement flexible work hours and lunchtimes in order to prevent large gatherings at the same time
  • Limit the use of physical meetings, if necessary, companies can use digital systems like Skype, Microsoft Teams etc.
  • Frequent cleaning of the facilities in general and objects who are frequently touched especially, like toilets, door handles, computer equipment etc.
  • Facilitate good hand-hygiene by ensuring that possibilities for hand wash or use of hand rubbing alcohol is visible and easy to access.

The Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health’s recommendations are frequently updated.

Can the company offer testing at the workplace?

At the moment, several companies are considering offering their employees the possibility to test themselves for the infectious disease due to an increase of access to corona test-kits. As a main rule this will be possible, but the company should be aware that the company has no right to know the result of the employee’s tests. The employee can nonetheless choose to redistribute the information to the company.

Companies may have the possibility to implement health exams as a control measure in order to prevent danger to life and health. The corona outbreak is a new situation, but the great danger of infection may constitute a just cause to both demanding testing and to know the result of these test, provided that this is proportionate.

The handling of employees who are showing symptoms is another question. The main rule is that the company can and should send employees showing symptoms home, by virtue of the 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 for the duration of the employer period, which has been reduced to three calendar days when the illness is in connection to the coronavirus.

IUNO recommends

As the virus outbreak is a completely new situation, it is important that the company ensures that the workplace is secured to prevent an unproportioned spread of infection through frequent measures and dialogue with the employees and potentially the working environment committee. In this regard, companies should keep themselves updated on and comply with the recommendations from the authorities.

IUNO recommends that companies make frequent risk assessments and develops clear policies for the re-opening of the workplace, especially if the company at the same time offers coronavirus tests.

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Anders

Etgen Reitz

Partner

Sofie

Aurora Braut Bache

Associate

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