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Employment measures during extreme conditions

Mircea-Cătălin Roman
Mircea-Cătălin Roman

I. Employment Contracts in Romania during extreme situation

a) Quarantine or Self-Isolation

i) Suspension of Individual Employment Contracts

When employees enter quarantine or self-isolation at home under the conditions provided by law – i.e. they have had contact with infected persons or they come back from red or yellow zones (other zones that are affected but not yet red) or have come into direct contact with people showing symptoms who have
travelled to a red/yellow zone, as the case may be – these are cases of legal suspension of individual
employment contracts.

ii) Rights and Obligations
– Employees to whom one of the two cases above applies must immediately notify their employer.
– During the suspension, employees have medical leave – the certificates are issued by the public health authorities.
– During this period, employees receive an allowance of 75% of their average income over the last six months, up to a maximum of 12 gross monthly salaries at the national minimum wage. The government pays the full allowance for those in quarantine. The costs of self-isolation are borne by the same entities for medical leave; there is no express provision in this regard.

b) Work from Home

This is specific only in cases of work which implies physical activities of the employee (i.e. in manufacturing). It must be expressly provided in the individual employment contracts, or it may be arranged by a
unilateral decision by the employer in case of force majeure.

In this situation, the employer must ensure that employees are instructed in occupational safety and health.

c) Teleworking

As a general rule, teleworking can be adopted only after the conclusion of an addendum to the individual employment contract and when the duties specific to the position, occupation or profession that the employee holds/exercises involve the use of information and communication technology.

The employer must provide employees with occupational safety and health training.

Note: Considering the Presidential Decree issued on 16 March 2020, regarding the instatement of the emergency state, work from home and teleworking can be unilaterally imposed by the employer, through a decision. Measures from b) and c) above can be agreed upon for a certain period.

d) Temporary Interruption of the Activities

If the employer’s business operations are affected (e.g. due to decreased revenue), it may order the suspension of individual employment contracts due to the temporary reduction or interruption of its business operations. In this case, the employee has the right to receive compensation of at least 75% of his/her basic salary. At the same time, the employer has the option to reduce the work schedule from five to four days per week after consulting the employees’ representatives.

e) Force Majeure

Force majeure constitutes a by-law suspension of individual employment contracts. In such a situation, employees would not be entitled to any compensation.

f) Flexible Work Schedule

With the consent or at the request of the employee, the employer can establish individualized work
schedules. In this case, two periods can be identified: a) a fixed period in which all employees are simultaneously at the employer’s headquarters; b) a flexible period in which the employee can choose the start and end of his/her daily working time. In this situation, the daily number of hours worked remains unchanged at eight hours per day. Such a measure can be regulated by company policy.

II. Legal obligations and other preventive measures for employees in regard to occupational safety and health

– The Ministry of Employment and Social Protection (“MMPS“) states that, as long as there is no clear indication of an infection at work, work must be carried out under normal conditions, with all hygiene and protection conditions for the employees being ensured (including by providing hygienic and
sanitary materials, periodic disinfection of contact surfaces, informing the employees periodically
regarding appropriate hygiene measures, issuing protective equipment – masks, protective gloves, etc.).

– MMPS recommends setting individualized work schedules, with the consent or at the request of the employee concerned, in accordance with the provisions of art. 118 of Law no. 53/2003 – Labour Code, as amended, while complying with the maximum legal duration of working time;

– Determining the nature and level of risk for any activity that may present a risk of exposure to COVID-19 and establishing the following measures:

  • limitation of exposure;
  • establishing a plan of measures based on the recommendations of the occupational physician with whom the company has a contract;
  • immediate notification of the public health directorate competent at the company’s location.

– Use of e-mail and teleconferences to reduce physical contacts and cancellation of business trips that are not absolutely necessary.

– Drawing up a plan to ensure continuity of work in case a significant number of workers become unable to perform their duties at the workplace organized by the employer. The following measures could be taken: identifying the jobs for which continuity must be ensured, identifying workers with qualifications/skills that allow them to be moved from one workplace to another so as to ensure continuity, identifying workers who have the IT infrastructure needed to work from home.

– Employers must keep in mind that employees, as well as any other persons, must keep at least one meter’s distance from other persons in the premises.

– Supermarkets and shops must frequently disinfect shopping carts and surfaces and take measures to avoid crowding, especially at the till.

– The authorities recommend that all companies with more than one hundred employees delay the start of the working day for personnel using public transportation. The recommendation applies in Bucharest and at county seats until March 31 with the possibility of extension.

– Restriction of entertainment activities in enclosed spaces with the participation of over 100 persons until March 31 with the possibility of extension.

Note: In case of a confirmed case of COVID-19 among its employees, the employer must inform the
public health directorate competent for its location so that an epidemiological investigation can begin. Also, employers must inform their employees about the procedure for receiving medical leave in case of quarantine and isolation at home
.

Further useful recommendations can be found under the following links of the competent ministries:
Ministry of Internal Affairs
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Labour and Social Protection
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
National Institute of Public Health in Romania

Mircea-Cătălin Roman, NOERR

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