Coronavirus and Work: What to Expect

These are certainly unusual and challenging times for us all. The coronavirus is impacting our lives in ways we never expected. However, the impact this pandemic will have on jobs and businesses has been one of biggest concerns so far. 

Fortunately, there is good news. The Dutch administration is specifically concerned with supporting businesses in order to protect jobs. At the same time, the rights and working standards for employees in the Netherlands must also be protected – though there is a lot of uncertainty as to how this translates in the actual workplace. 

We’ve received a lot of questions from our clients and candidates in these past weeks. In this article, we are going to share what we’ve learned. 

An Employee Tests Positive for the Virus 

In the worstcase scenario, yourself or somebody at your workplace catches the virus. The infected persons’ priority is to get well and isolate so as not to spread the virus. Likewise, it may take time for a person who does feel ill to take the coronavirus test and receive results. During that period, it is still important for that person to prioritise their health. 

Disclosure Rights 

First of all, an employees’ right to privacy regarding their health remains. Employees may disclose as little, or as much, information about the nature of their illness as they prefer. Employers only need to know the amount of time they need as “sick leave.” As such, employers should not screen employees who appear ill or are at risk.  

That being said, concerned employers may request coronavirus tests for specific employees by the company doctor. Employees should be fully honest about their illness with a company doctor and participate in testing if it is requested of them.  

If an employee does test positive for the virus, the company doctor will inform the GGD. A GGD consultant will collaborate with the employer to determine the next steps to protect the workplace. 

Expectations of Employers 

It is the responsibility of employers in the Netherlands to maintain and provide a hygienic workplace. Employers are expected to provide instructions, provide means of staying hygienic, or order employees to work remotely. At minimum, employers should ensure their workplace follows the rules set in place by the RVIM.  

Salary while Ill 

Regardless of the nature of the illness, whether an employee goes down with common flu or the coronavirus, wages will be paid. In most cases, employers will pay at least 70% of an employees’ wages while ill. There may be exceptions depending on the type of contract or collective labour agreement. Refer to the Sick/Illness clause of the employment contract. 

It is also possible that employers request employees to take unpaid time off, fewer paid hours, or use their vacation days in order to alleviate salary obligations. Employees are not required to accept these terms but may negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement.  

Vacation and Holiday Pay 

Springtime has always been a popular time to take vacation. It just so happens to also be the most popular time for companies to pay out vacation allowances (vakantiegeld). Delays in receiving this allowance are possible, and depending on the support your employer receives, they may choose to delay payment. You can always ask your employer what to expect. 

However, the coronavirus has left many would-be travelers with disappointment. Unfortunately, if you had any approved days off during this period, in principle, you cannot take them back.  

At the same time, employers may request certain employees to take unpaid time off, use their vacation days, or work fewer hours in an attempt to save money. It may be requested, but employees do not have to oblige. 

Workplace Environment

One of the most significant adaptations people have had to make in past weeks is that of their actual workplace. Working from home is a viable option for many, but not for everyone. Not to mention, working from home presents enough challenges in its own right.  

Working from Home 

In principle, as long as you are healthy, employers are still allowed to call upon their employees for work. If you’re working from home, you must (at least) remain responsive during your agreed upon “working hours”. If the workplace is still open, employers may request employees to be physically present in the office.  

If working from home is the solution for now, employers should support their employees in creating a conducive work environment from home. Just as employers are expected to provide accommodations for their employees in the office, the same should be done for the new “home office.” In these times, communication between employee and employer is essential. 

How to get tailored advice 

The Coronavirus pandemic presents unique challenges for everyone. It is a challenging time for employers as they are caught up between keeping healthy workplaces and minimizing business disruptions. Many employees, meanwhile, are wondering what measures will be taken to prevent the spread – as well as whether those will result in their leave or loss of work. 

Despite the uncertainty, we are dedicated to supporting our clients and partners solve their business challenges through these difficult times.  If your business needs help navigating these measures, or simply need advice to help your employees cope with their new work environment, reach out for a consultation to learn how we can help.

To learn more about some of the information in this article, go here: https://business.gov.nl/the-coronavirus-and-your-company/ 

 

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