The corona virus (COVID-19) is spreading rapidly at the moment, and we have now seen the first cases of infection in Denmark, just as more than 100 healthy Danes have currently been put under home quarantine. The outbreak and spread of corona virus raise a number of employment law issues which employers need to consider. In the below, we have described a number of the issues that one needs to pay attention to.
May an employee refuse to report for work for fear of getting infected?
As a general rule, it will not amount to legal absence if an employee fails to report for work for fear of becoming infected with the corona virus.
We will in such case be talking about illegal absence (with the risk of being summarily dismissed), unless the factual circumstances are of such a nature that appearance at the place of work entails a material risk of the employee becoming infected, e.g. if the business in question has experienced an outbreak of the virus.
What applies if the employee is put under quarantine?
If an employee fails to report for work as a consequence of being put under quarantine or in isolation by a doctor or public authority, this will hardly amount to legal absence within the meaning of the Danish Salaried Employees Act (funktionærloven), unless the person in question has actually contracted the corona virus. Employees put under quarantine who are not infected will accordingly hardly be entitled to salary during their absence.
The Government has, however, called on Danish businesses to pay salary to employees deciding to stay at home for two weeks after having visited areas affected by the corona virus.
Is an employee entitled to insist on working from home?
The employee is not entitled to demand to work from home, if this has not been agreed with the employer.
Is an employee entitled to refuse to go on business-related travels?
If one is employed in a position in which the work involves business travels, one is as a general rule not entitled to refuse to travel unless we are talking about countries/areas where one’s life and health are at risk.
In case we are talking about a destination where the risk of being infected with the corona virus is present such that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark advises against travelling to these areas, the employee will be entitled to refuse to go without this having any employment law consequences for the person in question.
Is an employee entitled to receive salary, if the employee is prevented from returning from a business-related trip due to the corona virus?
As a general rule, the employer is responsible for the employee's stay while the employee is on business trips.
If the employee in this connection is prevented from returning home on account of the corona virus, the employer is under an obligation to pay salary to the employee during the extended stay.
How to handle employees returning from areas where the corona virus has been detected?
As part of the employer's managerial authority, the employer is entitled to order employees returning from areas where the virus has been detected to not report for work for a limited period (which will typically be two weeks).
As the decision to order the employee not to report for work lies with the employer, the employer will thus be under an obligation to pay salary to an employee ordered not to report for work during such limited period.
How to handle employees reporting for work despite of showing symptoms of being infected?
Within the managerial authority, the employer may out of consideration for the life and health of the other employees decide that an employee is not to report for work if the employee e.g. shows symptoms of being infected with the corona virus.
In such case, the employee will be sent home due to illness, and accordingly the employer will be under an obligation to pay salary according to the general rules on illness.
Is the employer entitled to ask the employee about recent travels abroad?
The employer is entitled to demand that the employee discloses whether the employee has stayed in countries/areas to which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark advises against traveling to.
In case an employee has visited countries/areas exposed to the virus, the employer may demand that the employee contacts the employer in connection with the employee's return with a view to working out whether the employee is to be put under home quarantine.
Is the employer entitled to prohibit an employee from going on holiday in an exposed country/area (e.g. Italy or China)?
An employer is not entitled to prohibit an employee from going on holiday in a country/area exposed to the virus.
What do non-Danish employees (non-EU/EEA citizens) have to do if prohibited from leaving Denmark due to the corona virus?
The Danish Immigration Service has just extended the deadline for leaving Denmark with up to 30 days for visitors from China who apply for an extension of their short stay visa due to the coronavirus.