Slovakia: Coronavirus from the employer's perspective
Given the coronavirus crisis impacting the Slovak economy and employment, we have prepared an overview of information on (i) the recent measures introduced by the Slovak public authorities to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Slovak Republic, (ii) recommended prevention, (iii) possible measures to be taken by employers, and (iv) planed measures announced by the government of the Slovak Republic aiming to help business overcome the negative impact of the current crisis.
Should you wish to obtain more detailed information on any of the topics below, please do not hesitate to contact us.
PREVENTIVE MEASURES ADOPTED BY PUBLIC AUTHORITIES
These are the most important preventive measures as adopted by the Slovak government and public authorities:
- Individuals with permanent or temporary residence in the Slovak Republic who return to the Slovak Republic from abroad are obliged to remain in quarantine for 14 days. A breach of this duty may be punished with a fine of up to EUR 1,659.
- All foreign nationals are banned from entering the territory of the Slovak Republic. This does not apply to foreign nationals in the following categories: (i) foreign nationals residing in the Slovak Republic based on a residence permit, including registered stay of a EU citizen and his/her family; (ii) close relatives (spouse, minor child, parent of a minor child) of a citizen of the Slovak Republic; (iii) foreign nationals employed in the Slovak Republic regularly travelling to the Slovak Republic for work (confirmation from the employer must be presented at the border); (iv) holders of a local border traffic permit entering the territory of the Slovak Republic through the border between the Slovak Republic and Ukraine; and (v) personnel of diplomatic missions.
- All international airports are closed.
- International train and bus transport cannot operate from or to the Slovak Republic.
- Domestic train and bus transport is limited.
- Passenger cruise vessels are not allowed to enter a harbour in the Slovak Republic; they can sail through the territory without stopping.
- Freight transport is permitted for domestic as well as international routes. Truck drivers must be equipped with protective equipment.
Retail and services
- Until 30 March 2020, all retail and service provider operations save the following must remain closed: (i) grocery shops, butchers, bakeries, fruit and vegetable shops, grocery stores with food for special nutritional uses for infants and toddlers, and grocery stores with products for special medicinal uses; (ii) pharmacies, shops and dispensaries of medicinal devices; (iii) drug stores; (iv) fuel stations; (v) newspaper kiosks; (vi) shops selling feed for animals, and veterinary practices; (vii) telecommunications operator stores; (viii) restaurant and fast-food shops (only take-away); (ix) post offices, banks and insurance offices; (x) e-shops and home delivery services; (xi) cleaning and laundry services; (xii) car repair services, towing services; (xiii) taxi services (only for providing transport of goods or deliveries – no passenger transportation is allowed); and (xiv) funeral homes, cemetery services and crematoriums.
- Until 30 March 2020, shopping malls must remain closed; however, access to the retail and service operations described above must be ensured.
- All schools and educational establishments are closed.
- Bars, leisure facilities and premises (ski centres, wellness centres, fitness centres, amusement parks and aquaparks) are closed.
- Social and cultural establishments are closed; the organisation of sporting, cultural, social and other mass events is prohibited.
- The opening hours of public offices are limited.
- Visits to hospitals and nursing homes are prohibited.
One of the main obligations of employers is to ensure the health and safety of employees and to apply corresponding prevention measures. Employers are therefore obliged to assess risks at the workplace and, if necessary, to take appropriate measures to ensure the protection of workers' health. Recommended preventive measures include:
- Increased hygiene in the workplace – more frequent housekeeping, provision of disinfectants (gels, soaps), computer wipes, awareness among employees (regular washing of hands with soap and warm water, covering the mouth when coughing, etc.), provision of respirators to employees at risk of infection.
- Restriction/cancellation of business trips; recall of employees who are abroad.
- Recommendation to employees not to travel (however, the employer may not prohibit private trips).
- Implementation of home office, limitation of personal contacts (give preference to communication by phone/email/teleconference/Skype and similar), temporary closing of operations.
- Keeping in mind the higher vulnerability of senior employees and employees suffering from auto-immune diseases or respiratory conditions.
- Provision of information to employees about taken and planned measures.
POSSIBLE MEASURES TO BE TAKEN BY EMPLOYERS
Below is an overview of the institutes of Slovak labour law applicable in the current crisis:
- The employer may agree with the employees that they will work from home if possible with regard to the nature of the work. The employer cannot unilaterally order home office.
Taking of paid leave
- The employer may order employees to take vacation leave, although this request must be communicated to the employees at least 14 days in advance, unless a shorter period is agreed with the employee. When ordering employees to take vacation leave, the justified interest of employees must be considered. Under the same conditions, the employer can order the collective taking of vacation leave for a maximum of two weeks upon agreement with the employee representatives if serious operational reasons occur.
- The employer and the employee can also agree on the taking of compensatory time off for overtime work or work performed during a public holiday or weekend.
Changes of the employment contracts or collective agreements
- Considering the current situation, the employer can agree with the employee on changes to the employment contract, e.g. shortening of working time, salary decrease, etc. The employee's consent to such changes is required. Similarly, employers are free to agree on changes to the collective bargaining agreements with the respective employee representatives.
Obstacles on the part of the employer
- If the employee is unable to perform work due to operational reasons (breakdown of machinery, disruption in the supply of primary materials or power, etc.) and the employee is not upon agreement transferred to another job, or if the employer is unable to assign work to the employee for other reasons (e.g. the employer had to close its operations due to preventive measures introduced by the government or voluntary close of operation due to health and safety concerns), this will constitute an obstacle on the part of the employer. In such a case, employees are entitled to compensation in the amount of their average earnings.
Substantive operational reasons
- The employer can determine in a written agreement with the employee representatives substantive operational reasons that prevent the employer from assigning work to employees. Such operational reasons then constitute an obstacle on the part of the employer for which employees are entitled to wage compensation in the amount stipulated in the agreement, but in any case, at least 60 % of average earnings. Such an agreement can only be introduced at employers where employee representatives operate.
Working time Account
- Employers who have introduced a working time account upon agreement with the employee representatives or in a collective agreement can benefit from it in the current crisis. When applying a working time account, the employer may allocate working time so that in the event of a greater demand for work, the employee works more hours than their set weekly working hours, which is not considered overtime, and during times of lower demand the employee works less hours than their established weekly working hours or does not work at all. The agreement with employee representatives must include an agreement on the balancing period of the working time account so the difference between an employee's set weekly working time and actual time worked is balanced. The balancing period must not exceed 30 months. Be advised that such an agreement can only be introduced at employers where an employee representative operates.
- The employer may ask employees to take days off (unpaid), but only if the employee agrees. This can be agreed, for example, if the employee requests voluntary quarantine.
- In case of obligatory quarantine imposed on the employee, the employer is obliged to excuse the absence of the employee from work. The employee is obliged to inform the employer about the quarantine and prove it by submitting a document issued by the respective healthcare facility. Under the social security legislation, the employee is entitled to wage compensation during the quarantine. For the first 10 days the compensation is payable by the employer and amounts to 25 % of the daily assessment base during the first three quarantine days, and 55 % from the fourth to the tenth day of quarantine. From the 11th day, the employee is entitled to sickness benefit of 55 % of the daily assessment base, which is paid by the Social Insurance Agency.
Absence due to taking care of a child
- In a situation where an employee stays at home to take care of his or her child because the school attended by the child has been closed by decision of the competent authorities in connection with COVID-19, the employer is obliged to excuse the absence of the employee from work. The employee is not entitled to wage compensation from the employer, but if he or she is taking care of a child under 11 years of age, a care-giving allowance payable by the Social Insurance Agency can be claimed.
PLANNED MEASURES ANNOUNCED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC
In response to the current crisis, the government of the Slovak Republic prepared an outline of measures with the aim to help business. The measures have yet to be finalised or imposed. These are some of the proposed measures:
- Provision of short-term interest-free loans for businesses – to bridge the emergency period through the Slovak Guarantee and Development Bank and EXIMBANKA SR.
- Postponement of the obligation to file a tax return for both natural and legal persons from 31 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 based on the notification of the tax entity (this measure has already been imposed).
- Postponement of the obligation to pay tax by all taxpayers until 30 June 2020.
- Postponement of VAT returns and deadlines for payment of VAT upon notification by the taxpayer.
- Reprieve on late payment of advance payments of income tax if the delay occurred during these months and is paid by the end of the year.
- Postponement of all mandatory social and health payments for the period from March 2020 to June 2020 (three months) for legal entities and self-employed persons. The amount of temporary deferred payments will then be divided over the next 18 months – starting from July 2020 at the latest until December 2021.
- Total exemption of employees' wages from social, health and income taxes for those employers who are unable to allocate work to employees because of closure of operations due to preventive quarantine measures or a decrease in orders directly related to quarantine measures.
- Extension of the period for payment of the customs debt to 30–45 days for importers of raw materials for production from third countries.
- Negotiations to be held with the banking and financial sector on the options for deferring repayments of loans, mortgages and leases without impacting the debtor's credit score and on the options for deferring interest and principal repayments for both natural persons (employees) and legal entities.
- Negotiations to be held with energy suppliers to exempt business entities from paying penalties for non-compliance with the agreed electricity consumption diagram.
- Exemption of companies from the payment of fines if they cannot fulfil a public contract in time.
- Restrictions on the performance of new and planned audit activities at businesses and sole traders until at least June 2020 (except for audits directly related to compliance with COVID-19 obligations). This is also related to the suspension of fines.
- Adjustment of the conditions of entitlement to sickness benefit so that the entitlement to sickness benefit in case of ordered quarantine is paid from the first day of temporary incapacity for work by the Social Insurance Agency (currently for the first 10 days the employee is entitled to compensation paid by the employer).
Authors: Peter Devínsky, Denisa Užáková
This article is part of our coronavirus-focused legal updates – visit our coronavirus infocorner to get more info!