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Social distancing regulations, safety measures in the workplace, special purpose benefit in May

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A. Social distancing regulations (Ministerial Decision. B’ 1647/03 – 05 - 2020)

For re-opening private businesses (retail shops, hair salons etc.), the maximum number of people in spaces is defined according to m2:  4 people up to 20 m2,  1 person per extra 10 m2 for spaces up to 100m2, 12 people plus 1 person per extra 15m2 for spaces more than 100m2 and 1 person per 10m2 in each floor for spaces bigger than 300m2.

A distance of 1,5 m. should be kept between people, either working personnel or clients, while use of elevators is permitted only in case of real need and only for 40% of the elevator’s total capacity limit. For retail shops in Attica and Thessaloniki, operating hours start at 10 a.m..

For hair and beauty salons, a distance of at least 2 m. is expected to be kept between working positions, while clients may access the salons only after a booked appointment. All workers shall wear face masks. Working hours are 7 a.m. – 10 p.m. during weekdays and 7a.m. – 9 p.m. on Saturdays.

In case of breach of regulations as described in the Ministerial Decision 27815/2020 (Gov.Gaz. 1647/Β/03.05.2020), high administrative fines are imposed, as well as order to suspend business operation for a certain period of time.

Furthermore, wearing a face mask is obligatory for citizens in public transport, hospitals and other health centers, while administrative fines may be imposed in case of non-compliance.

B. Safety measures in the workplace (Circular 17312/Δ9.506/4.5.2020)

The Ministry of Labor issued a Circular providing four (4) categories of special safety measures to be taken in the workplace, with the aim to protect all workers, regardless their working status. The Circular addresses all workplaces, private and public, suspended and currently operating, and it provides specifications for tackling the spread of coronavirus as an occupational hazard, on the basis of the existing legislation for occupational health for workers in Greece.

According to said legislation, the employer, in coordination with the Safety Technician and the Occupational Doctor (where the latter is needed according to the law), shall detect and evaluate the occupational hazards in the workplace and take the appropriate each time measures in order to secure safety and protect workers’ health.

B1. Organizational measures

It is required that minimum distance is kept between working positions and that gathering of many people in the same place is avoided. This may become possible by introducing various ways of organization in the workplace.

Indicatively, the employer may place a part of its working force under different timetable, in order to limit massive arrival and departure to and from the workplace, make use of the option of teleworking and rotation work, where and if possible, provide for technical changes such as placement of plexi-glass between offices, constantly inform its working force regarding safety guidelines and in general supervise the implementation of the measures introduced.

B2. Hygiene measures and personal protective equipment

The employer is required to provide all necessary personal protective equipment to its workers (masks, gloves etc.), as well as appropriate facilities (e.g. washbasins) and products (e.g. disinfectants). The employer shall also train its working force as to the proper use and supervision of use of the personal protective equipment.

On the other side, employees shall adhere to all guidelines for personal protection, inter alia, they shall wash their hands before and after eating and visiting the toilet or using liquid disinfectants regularly, cover their nose and mouth either with a tissue or with their elbow when coughing and sneezing, avoid handshakes and other personal contacts, use appropriately and according to the guidelines given by the employer and the competent authorities the personal protective equipment and, of course, inform the employer in case of presenting symptoms related to COVID-19.

B3. Environmental measures

Ventilation systems in the workplace shall be regularly maintained, while natural airing is of importance. Working facilities (all spaces, including the common areas), surfaces (door handlers, light switches etc.), working tools (computers etc.) shall be cleaned and disinfected regularly, while working clothing shall be regularly cleaned and safely maintained in dedicated places.

B4. Special preventive measures – Monitoring of workers’ health

A plan for managing coronavirus incidents in the workplace shall be introduced, including preparation of all stages and procedures to be followed (employer’s update, quarantine process, contact with the competent medical authorities, tracing the people who came in contact with the coronavirus incident etc.), while the employer shall take special care of the “high-risk” workers who are more likely to present serious symptoms, by taking any kind of appropriate measure for this, for example by placing them under teleworking regime.

A “self-evaluation” form is attached in the Circular, in order to facilitate businesses in taking all the appropriate measures for the protection of occupational health of their working force.

C. Special purpose allowance for May & other labor provisions for private sector businesses (Ministerial Decision B’ 1779/10 – 05 – 2020)

C1. Measures for businesses under mandatory lockdown during May

Suspension of employment contracts, either indefinite or fixed-term, of businesses under mandatory lockdown during May, are extended for an equal period of time.  Employers shall not reduce the number of their employees through dismissals for as long as the lockdown applies; otherwise, such dismissals shall be null and void. Furthermore, employers shall not permanently recall suspension of employees, with the exception of temporary recall of suspension, an option provided to employers in order to tackle exceptional needs of the businesses, as described in more detail below under Section C3.

Employees of businesses who will remain closed for the entire May are entitled to €533 allowance for the month of May. The allowance is net and protected from seizure or sett-off against any debts. For the payment of the allowance, the employer must confirm all the information already available in ERGANI in relation to the employees whose employment is still valid and under suspension, as well as the information about the business lease agreement. Employees do not have to re-submit a declaration unless they need to make any corrections to their IBAN or home lease details. Employers must notify the employees of the above notification in writing or by e-mail and provide the protocol number.

The above-mentioned notification is to be submitted from 18.5.2020 to 31.5.2020 for the period of 1.5.2020 until 31.5.2020. Employees may submit their request for amendment from 19.5.2020 up to 1.6.2020. The allowance for the month of May will be paid from 5.6.2020 until 10.6.2020.

C2. Measures for a) businesses severely affected and currently using the option of suspension of employment contracts and b) businesses re-operating in May after lifting of mandatory lockdown

[i] Extension of suspension

Businesses either severely affected or re-opening after the lifting of the mandatory lockdown in May may extend the suspension of 60% of their already suspended employees (any calculation results above 0.50 are rounded up). The extension cannot exceed 30 days and, in any case, cannot extent beyond 31.5.2020.

Said extension of suspension as per above paragraph may be applied during May in stages and for a variable number of employees, provided they do not exceed 60% per Solemn Declaration to be submitted to ERGANI by the employer. In case employers place under suspension more than 60% of their labor force, they shall pay wages of the employees exceeding this maximum percentage. The exact number of days of extension depends on the date the initial suspension ends and is reflected in Table 1 of the relevant Ministerial Decision.

Moreover, as far as employees who have not been placed under suspension up to 10.5.2020 are concerned, it is no longer possible to be placed under suspension by the employer. It is noted that employers who make use of the right to extent the suspension and in any case up to 31.5.2020, shall refrain from dismissals for their entire personnel, otherwise, terminations are null and void.

Employers who elect to extent the suspension of their employees shall maintain after the end of the suspension and for a period of 45 days the same number of employees and with the same type of agreement (full time, part time, rotation employment). The term “same number of employees” does not include (a) those resigning, (b) those retiring and (c) fixed term employees whose employment expires within the 45 days restrictive period. For fixed-term employees who do not fall under the exception under (c), employers may extend the suspension of their contracts. After the end of the suspension the employment continues for the agreed period of time.

[ii] Permanent recall of suspension

(a) Businesses severely affected

Businesses severely affected which have placed all or some of their employees under suspension may permanently recall at least 40% of their suspended personnel under the condition that suspension before revocation had lasted for at least 15 days.

(b) Businesses re-operating in May

Businesses re-operating in May after lifting of mandatory lockdown may permanently recall at least 40% of their suspended personnel.

(c) Provisions applied to both (a) businesses severely affected and (b) re-operating businesses

Specific categories of businesses, as listed in the Annex to the Ministerial decision, may extend their employees’ suspension above 60% and may recall suspended employees below 40%, while still remaining under the scope of the provisions of the Ministerial Decision. Such businesses include, among others, retail stores located within outlets, malls or outlet villages, excluding supermarkets and pharmacies, provided that they have a separate entrance for the consumers, stores operating within hotel unions and airports and more.

Employers who recall suspension for part of their employees as per above, may apply rotation employment schemes for at least 50% of the employees recalled. Furthermore, it is no longer possible for recalled employees to be placed under suspension.

[iii] Special purpose allowance

(a) Businesses severely affected

Employees who are under suspension for a part of May only, are entitled to the allowance pro-rated: 17.8 Euro/suspension day (=€534 : 30).

For the payment of the allowance, the employer must confirm all the information already available in ERGANI in relation to (a) the employees whose employment is still valid and under suspension, (b) the employees whose suspension of employment is permanently recalled and (c) information about the business lease agreement. Employees do not have to re-submit a declaration unless they need to make any corrections to their IBAN or home lease details. Employers must notify the employees of the above notification in writing or by e-mail and provide the protocol number.

The above-mentioned notification to ERGANI as well as any request for amendments by employees are to be submitted from 1.6.2020 to 7.6.2020 for the period of 1.5.2020 until 31.5.2020. The allowance for the month of May will be paid from 10.6.2020 until 12.6.2020.

(b) Businesses re-operating in May

Suspended employees are entitled to an allowance pro-rated to the number of suspension days, in accordance to table 3 of the Ministerial decision.

For the payment of the allowance, the employer must confirm all the information already available in ERGANI in relation to (a) the employees whose employment is still valid and under suspension until the date of re-operating, (b) the employees whose suspension of employment is permanently recalled (c) information about the business lease agreement and (d) the date of re-opening of their business.  Employees do not have to re-submit a declaration unless they need to make any corrections to their IBAN or home lease details. Employers must notify the employees of the above notification in writing or by e-mail and provide the protocol number.

The above-mentioned notification to ERGANI as well as any request for amendments by employees are to be submitted from 1.6.2020 to 7.6.2020 for the period of 1.5.2020 until 31.5.2020. The allowance for the month of May will be paid from 10.6.2020 until 12.6.2020.

C3. Temporary recall of suspension as a supporting measure for all categories of businesses

All categories of businesses, i.e. businesses under mandatory lockdown during whole May, businesses severely affected by the crisis and businesses re-operating in May, may temporarily recall suspension of part of their employees to address unexpected, temporary and urgent needs.

In these cases, the days of recall are paid in total by the employer and extent the term of suspension accordingly. Employers who make use of this option need to notify ERGANI and justify the suspension, by stating the unexpected urgent needs which emerged.