How should Greek employers deal with the coronavirus epidemic? What are their rights and obligations? This article gives guidance on appropriate health and safety measures.
General legal framework regarding the spread of coronavirus in Greece
To date there are no mandatory measures provided by Greek law regarding the coronavirus that employers must adopt. A State general order (no 42/Α/25-2-2020) was recently issued, however it concerns future measures to be taken in the event of the emergence of symptoms of the virus and does not refer to employers' obligations in the private professional environment.
Recommendations for Greek workplaces
Nevertheless, the protection of employees' health is one of an employer's primary obligations. As a result, it is suggested that the competent executives in cooperation with the organisation's occupational doctor organise an information day for the workforce, in order to familiarise employees with the situation and educate them on preventive and risk mitigating measures.
Employers are not entitled to generally request employees to provide detailed information on all their personal travels, because this falls within the scope of employee's privacy. However, within the framework of protecting employees' health, it is reasonable to ask employees to inform the employer in good time if they travel to, or return from, regions considered to be a source of the coronavirus outbreak, such as China, South Korea or Italy at the time of writing.
The organisation is entitled to require employees who, for business or personal reasons, travel ti contagious areas, to stay out of its offices for health and safety reasons. However, the organisation remains obliged to pay employees' salary for the period that such precautionary measures remain in force. Furthermore, the organisation must provide all employees subject to these measures with the suitable means and IT equipment (i.e. laptop, mobile phone etc) to work remotely. Otherwise, the employees can reject working from home and request their usual remuneration. In this case, the organisation could propose that employees take paid leave, in addition to their annual paid leave entitlement. In any event, in most cases it is expected that employees would consent to temporarily working from home.
The organisation can require a medical check for employees accessing the office, with the consent of employees' representatives or after a meeting with the employees' Health and Safety Commission (if there is one). Please note that the representative(s)' or commission's decision should be backed up with reasons and follow consultation with the organisation's representatives.
Moreover, such a measure could be applied if a State general order is issued regarding private professional environments or if the organisations's regulations or policies provide for it, for example, to safeguard occupational health conditions. In any other circumstances, the organisation cannot impose medical checks. In any event an employee can refuse a medical check, but his or her refusal could be considered a disciplinary issue in the context of other employees' safety.
Furthermore, any medical check carried out should comply with the principles of respect to human dignity and be carried out individually. Additionally, if an employee has a fever, the employer may ask him or her to leave the office. Ηowever, it is a private decision whether the employee seeks medical care or not. If the organisation has an occupational doctor, he or she can examine the employee(s) upon return to work.
Please note that most of these recommendations require the employee's consent and cannot be imposed unilaterally by the employer.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.