The Coronavirus in the International Workplace – How do Multinational Employers React Appropriately? (Update #2)

Orrick - Global Employment Law Group

[co-author: Francesco Brandi]

This updated overview provides multinational employers practical advice to develop their coronavirus response strategy on an international level and to ensure a safe working environment for their employees under local employment and labor laws of UK, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. Stay tuned for updates as new developments occur.

United Kingdom

Whilst the UK population stockpiles toilet paper which is perhaps an insight too far into the British psyche, according to Public Health England three hundred and seventy three people in the UK have tested positive for coronavirus. Six patients who tested positive for COVID-19 have died. All six victims had underlying health conditions. The latest victim is thought to have acquired the virus in the UK. In the absence of effective drugs or a vaccine, control of this disease relies on the prompt identification, appropriate risk assessment, management and isolation of possible cases, and the investigation and follow up of close contacts to minimise potential onward transmission. The Public Health England definition of close contact is being within two metres of the infected person for 15 minutes.

The UK remains in the “Contain” phase of its response to the coronavirus. The government has said it accepted that the virus “is going to spread in a significant way”, however measures to delay the virus’s spread with “social distancing” measures will not be introduced yet. The government has previously said “social distancing” measures to slow the spread of the virus could include a ban on sporting events and other large gatherings and encouraging people to work from home rather than use crowded trains and buses. Such a step would require agreement from Chief Medical Officer, Professor Chris Whitty and Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance.

According to some reports the coronavirus currently has a 3.4% mortality rate which is lower than the outbreak of SARS (10%). One has to be mindful of the data, however, as there will be issues of underreporting of cases where the infected are not tested for the virus. Further, the statistic takes a global approach and covers all demographics meaning it data will be different depending on location and local demographics. It is important that employers have a clear strategy in place to ensure a safe working environment. Whilst the UK Chief Medical Officers have raised the risk to the public from low to moderate, Public Health England do not think the risk to individuals in the UK has changed at this stage, but that government should plan for all eventualities. The government anticipates that up to a fifth of the workforce may be off sick during the peak of a coronavirus epidemic in the UK. As such, it is advisable for companies to have an internal taskforce to think ahead and make contingency plans. HR and managers need to keep up to date on any developments and in particular in relation to remote working, self-isolation and sickness absence and pay.

Traveling to China or Italy or parts of South Korea

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Hubei Province and all but essential travel to the rest of mainland China (not including Hong Kong and Macao). Additionally, the FCO is advising against all but essential travel to Italy. The FCO is also advising against all travel to cities of Daegu, Cheongdo and Gyeongsan in South Korea.

It is therefore advisable for employers to cease work trips to China and Italy for the moment. Where possible, employees should use videoconferencing or teleconferencing as appropriate.

Employees who are sick

In a statement to the House of Commons on 4 March 2020, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that the emergency measures were being introduced to change the rules of statutory sick pay so that this would be available from day one of absence for sickness, rather than after the first three qualifying days of any absence at present. He also stated that SSP would be available to those who are symptom free but unable to attend work because they have been asked to self-isolate. It is likely that such individuals would be eligible for SSP by reason of deemed incapacity even under current legislation, provided they have been issued with a written notice by a medical authority advising them to self-isolate. This was confirmed by Acas guidance which was updated following the government’s announcement.

SSP is paid by the employer and it cannot be claimed back from the government (unlike statutory maternity pay, for example), so this is potentially an additional cost for businesses at what is already a difficult time. In addition, SPP is due to increase from £94.25 per week to £95.85 on 6 April 2020.

The government has also advised employers that they should use their discretion when requiring employees to provide fit notes from their GP which are usually required after 7 days of sickness. Given the strain on the NHS and the potential numbers of sick employees we may have to deal with, what this essentially means is that employers are advised not to insist on fit notes for the foreseeable future.

In response to a question from the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister refused to be drawn on whether the emergency legislation would allow SSP to be paid to those not currently eligible, such as workers on zero-hours contracts.

The emergency legislation has not yet been passed, so watch this space.

What happens if someone gets stuck overseas and cannot return for reasons related to the virus or has to self-isolate after returning from overseas?

It is possible that you could have an employee who suddenly finds themselves unable to attend work due to being on holiday or a work trip and not being able to return, due to cancelled flights or due to the need to self-isolate. If possible, they can work remotely. If that is not possible, then on the question of whether you need to keep paying them, this will depend on a number of factors.

If they cannot work, then the reasons for them being unable to work will be relevant. If they cannot work because they do a job that cannot be done from home, then it may be appropriate to pay them. If they could work but they have not got the relevant equipment (i.e. laptop) with them, despite being instructed to have that with them at all times, then not paying them may be an option, depending on all the circumstances. If they cannot work but are self-isolating or have symptoms, then it looks like they will be entitled to SSP.

We recommend looking at each of these on a case by case basis and keeping an eye out for government updates on the topic.

Working from home/limiting travel

Many employers are running test days, pushing their employees out to work from home for a day to see how their tech holds up, in order to be more prepared in case there is a need to implement working from home across the board. Many employers are encouraging their workforce to work from home already, to keep risks to a minimum. Provided that an employee can work from home and suffers no negative effects from doing so, such as missing important meetings that other attend or somehow being isolated when others are not, then there are few downsides from moving to this model of working for the near future.

Work travel, so far as we can see, has come to an almost complete halt and nothing but completely essential work related trips are taking place and this seems like a reasonable approach, if it is something that can be achieved.

What about fear in the workplace?

Employers should be extra vigilant to ensure that anyone with symptoms stays home or goes home as soon as possible. If you have any employee who refuses to attend work because they are afraid that they may catch the virus, then this will have to be handled very carefully and the context of that fear would need to be considered in deciding your response. Disciplining someone who refuses to attend work could lead to a legal claim, if there are genuine reasons for their fear that you have not properly assessed, before taking such action.

If you find out that you have an employee who has the virus, the current government guidance is that closure of the entire workplace is not recommended. There is no statutory requirement upon employers to disclose that they have had an employee with the virus and this is for the employee to report. The local Health Protection Team should then contact the employer to discuss the case, identify people who have been in contact with them and advise on any actions or precautions that should be taken. If the local Health Protection Team does not get in touch (which is possible, given the pressure they may be under), the employer will need consent from the employee to pro-actively reach out to the HPT because the employee’s health is a matter of privacy for that individual.

A risk assessment of each setting will be undertaken by the HPT and advice provided on the management of staff and members of the public will be based on this assessment.

The HPT will also be in contact with the employee directly to advise on isolation and identifying other contacts and will be in touch with any contacts of the case to provide them with appropriate advice.

Advice on cleaning of communal areas such as offices or toilets will also be provided by the HPT.

Up to the Moment

There was a Downing Street briefing on 9 March 2020, whilst the emergency government response meeting was on-going and the main message from that was that the outbreak, when it hits the UK properly will be ‘significant’ but that for the moment, the advice remains to carry on business as usual and to keep washing your hands (to the tune of Happy Birthday (twice)). Sporting events are not being cancelled at this time.

Conclusion

We continue to learn more about the virus on a daily basis. It is therefore critical that employers continue to monitor and follow government guidance and work in a way which enables employees to be in a safe and calm environment.

France

Has the French government issued guidelines for employers?

As of February 10, eleven cases of contamination have been detected in France.

At this stage, the French government has not issued any guidance specific to coronavirus workplace contamination and has mainly implemented measures regarding people travelling from/to China or who have been in contact with infected persons. Thus, dozens of families have been repatriated from China and are currently quarantined.

For the general population, the government has simply reminded the basic steps to prevent flu spreading, which are in line with the WHO recommendations.

What measures should French employers implement in France to protect their employees from the coronavirus threat?

Under French Employment Law, employers must take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees, including preventive actions, training actions as well as the setting up of an adapted work organization and means. The French Employment Code specifically provides that these measures must be adapted to “take into account the changing circumstance” and “improve current situations“.

Thus, the first step should be to inform the employees of the WHO/governmental recommendations (frequent handwashing with alcohol-based soap, elbow coughing/sneezing, recourse to single-use tissues, avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough, avoid the consumption of raw/undercooked animal product, etc.).

Then, the employer should assess the level of risk incurred and implement additional measures accordingly:

  • A specific coordination with the occupational doctor to handle employees displaying signs of contamination (bearing in mind the employees’ privacy rights);
  • The provision of disposable masks/or and other hygiene protective equipment/products;
  • An increase in workplace sanitation;
  • The implementation of specific health and safety procedures;
  • An increase in the recourse to telework (which is specifically authorized by the French Employment Code in case of an epidemic threat);
  • Etc.

Depending on the extent of such measures, the employer may have to inform and consult the company’s Social and Economic Committee and amend its internal regulations and risk assessment documentation.

If France’s exposure to the coronavirus threat was to increase, the French government would certainly encourage companies to prepare a wider outbreak. In this regard, in 2009, employers were asked to set up business continuity plans to ensure the stability of their business in case of a wider spread of the H1N1 flu.

How are quarantined employees handled from a social security standpoint?

Employees who are subject to quarantine/isolation measures (and who thus cannot work/be paid) resulting from their contact with an infected person or their stay in a high-risk area where they might have been exposed to the virus are entitled to social security-funded daily allowances pursuant to a 31 January governmental decree.

Such allowances can be paid from the first day of absence, without the employee having to meet the conditions for entitlement relating to minimum periods of activity, minimum contributions and waiting periods.

Can French employer still request employees to go on business trips to China and do they have to call back their employees working in China?

On February 8, the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs has flagged the Hubei Province as a “red area” and China as a whole as an “orange area”, which means that:

  • The government strongly advises against travelling to Wuhan and throughout Hubei province;
  • All non-essential travels to China should be postponed;
  • French citizens who are in a position to do so should consider temporarily interrupting their stay in China.

Based on these governmental recommendations as well as the employers’ obligation to protect the employees’ health and safety, business trips to China should be temporarily avoided, and employees currently stationed in China should be repatriated (it being specified that such employees may refuse their repatriation if the concluded a local employment contract and if their French employment contract is suspended).

If the employer has essential reasons to maintain such trips, extensive measures should be taken to protect the employees: failing to do so, such employees could invoke their right to stop working (“droit de retrait”) if they have a reasonable cause to believe that their life or health are facing a serious and imminent danger.

Must employers protect their employees from corona-related discrimination/harassment?

While designing their response to the coronavirus threat, employers should keep in mind that an employee may not be discriminated against based on his/her medical condition.

Finally, employers should prevent any form of discrimination or harassment targeted at employees of Asian descent that may arise from the coronavirus anxiety.

Germany

Coronavirus (2019 – nCoV) has broken out in Germany mainly through contacts at the workplace. 16 coronavirus infections in Germany are known until now of which 14 occurred among employees (and their family members) of the automotive supplier company Webasto in Bavaria. The infection wave at Webasto began during a meeting in Germany which was also attended by an infected employee from the company’s location in China.

Employers trying to determine their coronavirus response strategy face many questions as to which measures are permissible or even obligatory under labor and employment law to prevent infections at the workplace. Here are our answers to the questions most commonly asked.

What are the general health and safety rules employers should observe in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak?

The Working Conditions Act (Arbeitsschutzgesetz – ArbSchG) and the employer’s general duty of care towards employees requires employers to provide a safe working environment for employees which includes protection against infectious diseases. Employers must carry out a hazard assessment in order to determine the necessary health and safety measures. Depending on the degree of the specific hazard, it is advisable to inform the staff and conduct employee awareness training, adopt strengthened hygiene rules, instruct employees to report symptoms and positive diagnoses, conduct medical examinations within the company, change the working organization, etc.

In special sectors where the risk of coronavirus infection is increased (e.g., healthcare industry, airline and other travel industry), the employer may take further protective measures which are appropriate to prevent a coronavirus infection (e.g., instructing employees to wear a protective mask).

Can an employer screen the employees for fever?

Employers may consider fever screening employees, especially in sectors where there is an increased risk of a coronavirus infection. Only if there is a direct threat of coronavirus infection at the workplace, the employer’s instruction to employees to undertake a medical examination is recommended. This would be the case if, for example, one of the employees was diagnosed the coronavirus or the likelihood of coronavirus exposure is given because employees return from the officially declared risk area of Hubei Province in China. However, in the absence of any initial suspicion of a coronavirus infection at a company in Germany, instructions in connection with medical examinations at the workplace are likely to be disproportionate.

Can the employer send employees home if they display coronavirus-like symptoms and if so, must the employer continue remuneration for sick leave?

Employers can place employees on a leave if they show obvious symptoms of an illness (fever, cough, etc.). In this case, the Continuation of Remuneration Act (Entgeltfortzahlungsgesetz – EFZG) applies according to which the ill employee does not lose the claim to remuneration for a period of up to six weeks. The employer’s right to send the employee home results from the obligation to protect the health of the employee concerned, but also the health of all other employees working at the operation.

Also, if the employee does not demonstrate any symptoms but returns from an area which has officially been declared as a coronavirus risk area, the employer can order the employee as a precautionary measure to stay at home to avoid possible infection of other employees. Remuneration must be continued in such cases.

Can the employer still request employees to go on business trips to China?

There is no general right of the employee to refuse a business trip due to the current coronavirus outbreak in China. However, by asking an employee to go on a business trip, the employer must observe the general duty of care towards its employees. The employer should, at its reasonable discretion, weigh the employees’ interests against the company’s interests and assess every case by its individual circumstances.

Either way, employers should observe the Federal Foreign Office’s travel warnings. For now, only a travel warning for Hubei Province has been issued. The arrangement of business trips to this region would therefore not be appropriate and the employee would have the right to refuse without risking sanctions under labor law. The Federal Foreign Office also advises to postpone not necessary trips to China. In general, considerable restrictions on mobility within China can currently be expected. Fever screenings are possible as well as controls during travel within the country; quarantine measures are to be expected in case of symptoms.

In other cases, the employee’s individual situation, such as a pre-existing illness, may play a role in the weighing process and result in the employee being able to refuse the business trip.

Are employers obliged to call back their employees working in China?

The employer’s duty of care also applies to employees who are currently working in China for their German employer. More than 28,000 people in China are already infected with the coronavirus. The employer must observe the situation abroad and, if necessary, take action to protect its employees. Adequate measures can range from instructions on behavior (e.g., taking the taxi to work instead of public transportation, work from the home office) to calling the employee back.

Can employees ask to work from home because they fear a coronavirus infection?

Considering the currently low risk level in Germany, the fear of an infection at the workplace or on the way to work does not entitle the employee to stay home, even if the employee offers to work remotely instead. If the employee does not appear, the employer can issue a warning letter and ultimately even terminate the employment contract. Whether or not its employees have the right to work from home during the coronavirus outbreak is at the employer’s own discretion.

Can the employer order overtime work if many employees are absent?

If the coronavirus spreads increasingly wider throughout Germany and causes a significant part of the workforce to be absent from work, overtime for the remaining employees is practically unavoidable. In exceptional cases, employers can oblige employees to work overtime with the consequence that the permissible maximum working time is exceeded according to section 14 of the Working Time Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz – ArbZG). An exceptional case could be that understaffing results in significant economic disadvantages for the employer. This will have to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Must employers protect their employees from corona-related discrimination?

According to current media reports, more and more Asian looking people report to be victims of racial discrimination and even physical assaults have been reported. The General Equal Treatment Act (Allgemeines Gleichbehandlungsgesetz – AGG) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, ethnical origin, gender, religion or ideology, disability, age or sexual identity. Therefore, coronavirus protection measures should focus on all employees and not just individuals from China unless the unequal treatment can be justified by a reasonable ground. This would be the case if, for example, an employee travelling back from Hubei Province would receive special instructions by the employer as described above. Since employers are also obliged to prevent employees from any discrimination by other employees or customers, employers should respond to any racial or origin-based harassment of individuals belonging to certain nationalities where the coronavirus is most prevalent.

Are there employee privacy rights to be observed?

Employee privacy rights should be considered when evaluating whether and how to notify other employees about ill co-workers. Employees are generally not obliged to disclose any health information or specifically explain their illness neither to employer nor co-workers. However, in exceptional cases disclosure may be permitted if there is a true risk of an employee infecting others with coronavirus. Since the Public Health Department in Germany must be notified by doctors in case of any (suspected) coronavirus infection, it may be assumed that employers may be informed of the infection as well to be able to take protective measures.

Conclusion

Depending on the individual circumstances, employers have numerous possibilities to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. Should an employer become aware of a particular risk, it is obliged to take protective measures and can exercise its right to give special instructions to employees.

The current situation with coronavirus in Germany does not entitle employees to stay at home. However, where possible, business trips to China should be postponed or replaced by video conferences. Employers are advised to consult with their liability insurance association (Berufsgenossenschaft) if they want to take further health and safety measures, or in cases infections occur.

Italy

In the last few days there have been several legislative actions aimed at dealing with the current health emergency due to the sudden and significant spread of coronavirus (Covid-19).

Please find below a summary of the main issues that, from a labour law point of view, might produce particular critical profiles, as well as an indication of the tools available to employers in order to manage as far as possible the relationship with their employees, with a view to a necessary productive continuity.

The following observations and assessments are updated to the provisions promulgated by the competent Authorities as of today (10 March 2020).

1. First and necessary clarifications on the measures provided by the Decrees of the President of the Council of Ministers («DPCM») dated 8 and 9 March 2020.

First of all, the DPCMs dated of 8th and 9th March 2020 expressly deprived the previous DPCM of 1st and 4th March 2020 of their effectiveness, thus replacing the previous so-called «red zones» with a «protected zone» corresponding to the whole Italian territory.

Within the whole Country, as far as here concerns, art. 1, paragraph 1, letter a) of the above- mentioned DPCM dated of 8th March 2020 is necessary «to avoid any movement of natural persons entering and leaving the territories […] as well as within the same territories, except for movements motivated by proven working needs […]».

Also in the light of the declarations made by the Deputy Minister of Health, this measure is not intended to prevent the working activity from the company’s premises but to limit it as far as possible (also in the light to encourage the employers, according to the statement of such DPCM, to «promote the use […] of periods of ordinary leave and holidays» in addition to the use of smart working for all those activities that, according to the employer’s assessment, can be performed remotely).

In the light of the above, Italian employers are not obliged to suspend their working activity, although they are free to do so by making use of the common institutions set forth by the law (e.g. holidays, paid leaves, wage supplementary funds).

2. Management of employees’ absences from the workplace: In order to properly manage the employees’ absences from the workplace due to the epidemiological emergency caused by Covid-19 in the whole Italian territory, it is possible to identify several cases:

  • In case of absence from the workplace by employees following to an order from the Public Authority, which prevents the employees from reach the workplace (e.g. because they are subject to quarantine or tested positive to the virus), there is a temporary impossibility to perform the working activity which is not imputable to the employer, consequently this latter will no longer be obliged to pay the salary to the involved employees. However, if it is possible in respect of employees’ tasks, it would be advisable to (i) assign the employee to a remote working (so-called smart working); alternatively, where possible (ii) order the use of holidays and/or paid leaves; or make use of (ii) the Ordinary Wage Supplementation Fund (so-called «CIGO») or, if the conditions are met, the notwithstanding wage supplementation Fund or through the so-called «FIS» (i.e. Wage Integration Fund);
  • In case of absence from the workplace by employees (who are not sick) because they are in trusty custody, such absence must be considered justified (without prejudice to the employee’s obligation to promptly notify his/her absence from the workplace) once the employer receives the appropriate certification from the Social Security Body, as provided for by the DPCM dated 8th March 2020. This absence looks to be assimilated, also for salary purposes, to sick leave;
  • In case of absence from the workplace arbitrarily determined (i.e. in the absence of specific measures provided by the Public Authorities that prevent his/her presence) by employees on the basis of their mere fear of being infected by the virus, such absence cannot be considered justified with consequent unlawfulness of the relative refusal to perform the working activity.

3. Employment relationships management: Throughout the national territory it is possible to make use of the smart working in a simplified way (i.e. without individual agreement and with information on H&S risks via e-mail by the form available on the National Insurance against injury at the workplace – «INAIL» – website) until 31st July 2020. In addition, from 4th March 2020 the mandatory communication to the Public Authority of the smart working can be made through the online procedure on Cliclavoro simultaneously for all employees concerned, and not for single employee.

In addition, as far as here concerns, all companies operating in the tourism and hotellerie sector, travel and tourism agencies and tour operators, which are located in Italy, are suspended from 2nd March 2020 until 30th April 2020: (i) the deadlines for the payment of withholding taxes; and (ii) the deadlines for the payment of social security contributions and premiums for compulsory insurance.

4. Health and safety at the workplace: The employer has an obligation, according to art. 2087 of the Italian Civil Code, to adopt any necessary measures to protect the physical integrity of its employees; in addition, according to the Italian Legislative Decree no. 81/2008, the employer (with the collaboration of the competent doctor, where appointed) is responsible for the protection of its employees from exposure to biological risk. In light of the above, we believe that the employer is required to:

  • update the Risk Assessment EvaluationDVR») with particular reference to the “new” biological risk deriving from Covid-19 contamination;
  • based on the risk assessment resulting from the updated DVR, the employer, jointly with the competent doctor and the H&S manager, must identify (and provide its employees with) appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) such as face masks and gloves; and also
  • implement the health and hygiene prevention measures specified in the recent governmental provisions;
  • adapt its policy to the measures exposed above.
  • Furthermore, the employer must continuously train and inform its employees about the new specific risk to which they are exposed.

5. Privacy: As clarified by the Italian Data Protection Authority, employers must refrain from collecting, in advance and in a systematic and general way, including through specific requests to the single employee or unauthorized investigations, information on the presence of any flu symptoms of the employee and his/her closest contacts or otherwise falling into the extra-working sphere.

Additionally, the Authority has specified that the aim of preventing the spread of coronavirus epidemic must be carried out by individuals who institutionally exercise these functions in a qualified manner.

Japan

Government Guidance / Requirements

Effective February 1, 2020, the Japanese government identified the COVID-19 virus as a designated infection under the Infectious Disease Law. Now, ministries of all prefectures may order employees who have been infected to be hospitalized and to be suspended from work, and the general rules for sick employees under the Industrial Safety and Health Act does not apply to the extent that the Infectious Disease Law is applicable. If employees are suspended from work under the Infectious Disease Law, absence is treated the same as ordinary absence for sickness. Paid sick leave is not mandatory in Japan, and if no paid sick leave is granted at a company and employees are unpaid, the employees’ health insurance pays accident and sickness benefits to the employees at the rate of 2/3 of their daily base salary. If the employees desire to use their annual vacation days during such absence so that they are fully paid, employers may apply annual vacation days for such absence. However, it is employees’ option whether to use their annual vacation days or not and employers are not allowed to force employees to use their annual vacation days for such absence. This may come into play all the more for employees with childcare obligations based on the Japanese government’s announcement that all public elementary schools, junior high schools, and high schools will be closed from March 2 to the beginning of spring break in early April. On February 26, 2020, the Japanese government announced that large scaled sports and cultural events should be cancelled or postponed until March 10, 2020, and on March 10, the government announced extension of this measure until March 19, 2020.

If doctors confirm that such employees are not infected and able to work in the workplace but employers choose to keep them suspended, employers must pay them the statutory leave allowance at a rate of 60% or more of base salary during suspension, as this situation falls under the statutory leave allowance requirement of “suspension due to reasons attributable to companies.”

Additional Best / Common Practices

The Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare also issued a Q&A with respect to COVID-19 virus workplace contamination on February 7, 2020 and the Q&A has been updated frequently. This also accords with the government’s latest announcement that the country’s main objective is to delay the widespread transmission of the COVID-19 virus and minimize the number of critically ill patients and death. Some specific measures based on that Q&A are:

  1. Foreigners who have been in Hubei in the last 14 days and people who have Chinese passports issued in Hubei are generally barred from entering Japan. Effective from March 9, all persons (including Japanese citizens) who are entering Japan from China and South Korea must self-quarantine themselves at designated places (home or hotels) for 14 days and use of public transportation is prohibited.
  2. It is an employee’s responsibility to contact a local healthcare center and see a doctor if they have had contact with people who have been infected or if infection with coronavirus is otherwise suspected. Employers must ensure that sick employees do not report to work and if employees who may have been infected report to work, employers must refuse to permit such employees in the workplace so as not to put other employees at risk of infection. Many companies make public announcements when their employees are infected to alert people about possible contact with infected people.
  3. The government has recently asked companies to take measures to keep employees away from congested public transportation and gatherings by using remote working, shifting work hours, and allowing employees to take annual paid vacation to the extent possible. These requirements are not mandatory at the moment, though. Due to elementary school closure, many employers become unable to work to look after their children and the government is providing subsidies to companies which give special paid vacation days to those employees.

Summary

The right response to the coronavirus outbreak depends on the specific circumstances and should be tailored to the company’s needs. Employers are advised to monitor government guidance, consult competent bodies for more information and involve legal counsel as needed.

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Orrick - Employment Law and Litigation
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