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Protection of vulnerable groups against COVID-19 in private-sector entities

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

A ministerial decision dated 17.09.2020 issued by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, provided for definitions of “vulnerable groups”, by publishing a list of health conditions which are considered to be either of high – risk or of medium-risk against COVID-19. 

Recently, a second Ministerial decision was issued, determining the obligations of private-sector employers when it comes to employees belonging in such vulnerable groups.

> For the purposes of this regulation, high-risk and medium-risk groups are treated equally.

> The force of the below legislative measures expires in 31.12.2020.

(a) Remote working

Employees belonging to vulnerable groups are entitled to request by their employer to work under remote working status, by filing a relevant query and submitting it to the employer via any appropriate means, such as telephone, e-mail etc. The employee shall also present a medical certificate proving that it belongs to a vulnerable group. The employer is obliged to accept the employee’s query for remote working, provided, of course, that the job can be performed under these circumstances.

(b) Re-positioning

If remote working is not possible, the employer shall make sure that the employee is positioned in a job post where no contact with people other than co-workers is made. The employee shall accept the option of re-positioning, except for the case that said change is not acceptable for objective reasons, which shall be presented in written form to the employer.

(c) Suspension of employment

If none of the above options is applicable for any reason, the employer shall suspend the employee’s contract, as an “ultimum refugium” means of protection of its health. The duration of suspension may be equal to what was asked by the employee, but it cannot last further than 31st December 2020.

Suspended employees are entitled to receive State aid, unless they hold a dependent employment contract with another employer. The State aid is pro-rated to the days of suspension, calculated on the basis of €534 corresponding to thirty (30) days, whereas social security contributions are covered on the basis of their contractual nominal wage. The State aid is not subject to any tax, concession or seizure in the hands of the State or of third parties, fees or contributions, withholdings, offsets.

Employers shall submit a declaration to ERGANI on the first days of the month that follows the month of reference, stating (a) the necessary data of the employees who belong to vulnerable groups and (b) that options of teleworking or re-positioning was impossible to apply to the cases in question. Then, employers shall share the submitted declarations to their employees, along with the protocol number of the application to ERGANI, so that the employees may access ERGANI as well and file their own application.  

Another obligation of the employer is to maintain all documentation which is relevant to the procedures described above (medical certificates, written queries etc.) for a period of two (2) years starting from the date of suspension of the employment contracts of the vulnerable employees.

In any case, employers shall ensure that all possible means of protection of the employees’ health in the workplace are applied and taken, in accordance with the national labor legislation.