For many employers, the outbreak of COVID-19 and related measures mean that they cannot currently assign work to their employees in the same extent as before, or are required to order their employees to work from home.
Some employees may be compulsorily quarantined or have to stay home with their children because the schools have been closed down.
An employee taking care of a child younger than 10 years is entitled to time off work for a period of 9 nine days; this care allowance is covered by the state.
We would like to point out that a legislative proposal has been adopted under which the child’s age limit will be increased to 13 years; the period of 9 days will be extended for the entire duration that schools remain closed.
In this case, normal regulations in respect of one’s regular incapacity to work apply. This means that for all days exceeding the first 14 days, the employee is entitled to compensation of 60% of their salary.
According to the newly adopted “Antivirus” programme, the employer shall be entitled to an 80 % reimbursement of this allowance.
What to do with employees for whom there is currently no work?
The employer may order their employee to take his/her vacation time. The employer must request their employee take his/her vacation time at least 14 days in advance unless agreed otherwise with the employee. If an employee had planned his/her leave vacation for a different time of the year (e.g. summer), the dates can be changed. Again, the employee must be notified 14 days in advance (unless otherwise agreed), and bear in mind that in such a case, the employee can claim compensation for any costs incurred due to their having to reschedule any vacation that had been previously approved, such as cancellation costs with travel agents. Therefore, it is advisable to communicate possible vacation cancellation with employees in advance and cancel any vacation that had been previously approved ideally only if no related costs are incurred.
One practical solution may be to ask an employee to use his/her compensatory leave accumulated for overtime work.
In general, there is no need for any special written agreement for an employee to work from home; it is sufficient if the employee grants his/her consent, such as by e-mail, and starts to work without any objections. The situation is different if the employee’s home is located in a place other than the place of work currently agreed to in the employment contract (for example, an employee’s place of work under the contract is the city of Prague, but the employee lives in Mělník). In such a case, from a purely formal perspective, working from home may be interpreted as a change to the place of work (although a temporary one) that requires a written agreement.
We believe that given the current circumstances, labour inspectorates will not strictly interpret the regulation and will not insist on a written form if the place of work is different from the place of work agreed to in the employment contract while working from home.
However, from the legal certainty point of view, we would recommend changing the place of work in writing and entering into an agreement on working from home (including its specifics); such agreement would further define the rights and obligations of the parties.
Prevention from work, partial unemployment (short-time work) In general, a rather strict rule applies to employers that states that if an employer cannot assign work to an employee, the employee is still entitled to their salary. This also applies in situations that were by not caused by the employer. However, certain exemptions apply:
- Downtime: If an employee cannot perform work due to operational reasons (equipment breakdowns, a lack of raw materials), he or she is entitled to 80% of his/her average earnings. This is especially in those cases where the supplier interrupted its work and is unable to deliver key components and/or raw materials.
- Work stoppage due to a natural disaster: According to the Czech Labour Code, employees are entitled to 60% of their salaries if work is interrupted as a result of a “natural disaster”. A discussion is currently under way between employers and the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs as to whether the coronavirus epidemic and related measures can be interpreted as a “natural disaster”, in which case employees would receive only 60% of their earnings. At the moment, we do not recommend employers adopt this approach, mainly because of the above-mentioned state of legal uncertainty.
On the other hand, partial unemployment might be a practical solution. This occurs where an employer cannot assign work to employees due to a temporary restriction of sales of their products or a decrease in demand for its services. This procedure could be very practical, especially for businesses where operations have been banned or restricted by government measures (such as restaurants).
In such cases, the employee also receives only 60% of his/her salary. This scenario requires approval by the trade union if the employer has one; where a trade union has not been established, the employer must issue an internal regulation and inform its employees about it.
At the same time, it is possible to ask the Employment Authority for an allowance of up to 20% of an employee’s average earnings if the employer agrees to compensate the employee for a minimum of 70% of the employee’s salary. Improving the conditions connected with partial unemployment is currently underway – see the “Antivirus Programme for Business” below.
“Antivirus Programme for Business”
From 6 April 2020, it is possible to file a request to the Employment Office for a subsidy within the newly launched programme “Antivirus for Business”. The programme introduces special conditions for employers whose businesses have been affected by the coronavirus pandemia. According to the situation, the employer may receive a subsidy of 60 % or 80 % of the salary compensation paid to the employee – see more information in the infoboxes below. The subsidy can be requested for the period of 12 March 2020 through 31 May 2020. The application can be filed using the website https://www.mpsv.cz/antivirus. We will be happy to assist you with the application filing.