Remote work during the emergency situation
We have written about the impact of the state of emergency on the work of courts, public prosecutors and lawyers. In this text we will try to explain how the situation affects the organization of work of the employer. The declaration of a state of emergency in the Republic of Serbia and the introduction of various measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 virus infection. The new situation reflects on all aspects of life, and therefore on the business sphere. In order to protect employees at the same time and to ensure the optimal functioning of the economy, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted the Regulation on Organizing Employers during Emergency Situations (“Official Gazette of RS”, No. 31/2020 – hereinafter: the Regulation).
The Regulation entered into force on the day of its publication in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia, that is, on 16 March 2020, and is intended for all employers as a kind of guidance for organizing business in the light of new circumstances.
Which obligations the employer has during the state of emergency?
- The employer is obliged to enable employees to perform work outside the premises outside of the employers rooms (teleworking and work from home), at all workplaces where such work can be organized in accordance with the general act and the employment contract. The employer may provide for this measure by the following acts (alternatively):
- general act of the employer (eg Decision to send employees to work from home)
- the employer’s decision (for each employee individually)
- annex to the employment contract (for each employment contract individually)
For employers who are employing a large number of employess, the adoption of a general act is certainly the most reasonable solution. Regardless of how employees are referred to work from home, the Regulation obliges the employer to indicate the following:
- duration of working time
- a way of supervising the work of employees
The employer is also required to keep records of those employees who are working from home.
What if work from home is not possible?
An employer engaged in such business in which is not possible to organize work from home must reconcile his business with the state of emergency as follows:
– organizing work in shifts in order to minimize the number of employees who are in the same room at the same time
– holding all business meetings electronically or in other appropriate ways, such as video links, video calls, etc.
– postponement of business trips in the country and abroad, all taking into account valid measures for the prohibition of movement, which are regularly changed in accordance with the assessment of the current situation and the level of contagion.
If the employer is not able to send employees to work from home, or if a certain number of employees, due to the nature of the work they perform, must remain on the regular working place, appropriate protection measures must be taken for both employees and clients and other persons with whom they come to contact.
It is important to emphasize that during the situation, the mentioned changes (work from home, teleworking, etc.) represent the only change in the employer-employee relationship. All other rights and obligations arising from employment are valid in accordance with the concluded employment contract and other acts.
All of these measures are related to the maintenance of personal hygiene and hygiene of the space, all in accordance with the Law on the Protection of the Population from Infectious Diseases and the recommendations of the Ministry of Health and the Clinic for Infective and Tropical Diseases of the Clinical Center of Serbia.
In accordance with what we said above, the employer is obliged to provide sufficient quantities of protective equipment and disinfectants for both employees and persons with whom they come in direct contact. It is recommended for the employer to make an instruction for employees, which will contain the measures they should take on a daily basis, such as:
- regular disinfection of work surfaces and ventilation of working rooms
- washing hands with water and soap and using disinfectants with 70% alcohol
- wearing disposable masks and gloves
- keeping a distance of at least one meter with other employees and other persons with whom they come in contact during their work
We emphasize that the employer is obliged to provide a sufficient amount of protective equipment, disinfectants and personal hygiene products, so that employees and other persons are really protected.
Also, according to the reports of local and foreign experts, chronic patients and persons older than 65 years are the most vulnerable, so for them the employer should provide exemption from the obligation to work.
Employer’s behavior in accordance with the Regulation results in the protection of employees and the preservation of work dynamics as much as it is possible in this new situation. So flexibility and responsible behavior are the best response to the current situation in the world.
Author: Aleksandra Veselinovic, Trainee at Law