✓ Do not panic and do not overreact
✓ Stay informed and follow the official guidelines
✓ Use common sense
The current outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) disease is a phenomenon having implications on almost every aspect of our everyday life. Given the globalization and the freedom of services, every employer should consider supplementary measures to prevent its employees from catching and spreading COVID-19.
Under Romanian legislation, employers must ensure the health and safety of employees in all aspects of their work. Taking into account the novelty of the COVID-19 and, consequently, the limited information regarding the means of spread and the development of the related health conditions, all employers should consider putting in place efficient methods not only to prevent the exposure of their employees to COVID-19, but also to react to any situation in which such exposure has taken place.
2. WHAT PREVENTIVE MEASURES MAY AN EMPLOYER CONSIDER?
a. Information is key
Even though it may sound like a cliché, proper information is key to prevention. In this sense, Romanian public healthcare authorities prepared various materials on the prevention against the infection with COVID-19. Employers should correctly and completely inform themselves on the COVID-19 related aspects and, in their turn, help their employees get informed, including by way of distributing the materials that the public authorities have developed and, where the case, carrying out their own information and consultation with the employees.
Romanian authorities have also set up a COVID-19 dedicated hotline that can be accessed at the phone number 0800 800 358. In addition, the website of the World Health Organization also provides information regarding the COVID-19 outbreak. These are sources of valuable information that both the employer and the employees can access to get informed.
b. Business trips and other events
Fortunately, Romania has registered just four cases of COVID-19 infections so far, out of which one has already recovered. However, considering the globalization and the free movement of services, but also the high degree of infectiousness, every employer should carefully consider any business trips that its employees must take. When considering planning such trips, employers should assess whether they involve a high risk of COVID-19 infection by reference to the country/area the employees are travelling to. In making such an assessment, employers should consult the website of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs that includes travel alerts containing details on the risk of COVID-19 infections implied by various countries/areas. As an alternative, employers may also consider replacing any physical meetings with virtual ones or even cancel non-critical events.
c. Action plans
Employers should also consider putting in place action plans that may be implemented to prevent and, if necessary, to cope with COVID-19 infections among their employees. Depending on the actual business carried out, such action plans may imply, for instance, availability of sanitary materials (e.g. hand sanitisers, napkins), transport facilities, backup scenarios for replacing key employees affected by infection, a dedicated taskforce for prevention, monitoring and dealing with the COVID-19 issues.
3. WHAT IF ONE OR MORE EMPLOYEES HAVE BEEN (ALLEGEDLY) EXPOSED TO COVID-19?
If one or more employees have been exposed to COVID-19 (by way of travelling to high risk areas or otherwise), employers should consider measures to prevent the potential spread of the virus to other employees.
The Romanian Ministry of Health has recently passed a piece of legislation concerning the quarantine and self-isolation measures that should be taken in relation to the persons exposed to COVID-19 or traveling to high risk countries/areas:
The quarantine is established for all persons who do not have specific symptoms, but who have returned from the areas with extended community transmission of the new COVID-19 (so called red areas). The quarantine will last for 14 days. During such period, the concerned person must stay in specially designated spaces provided by local authorities in collaboration with Public Healthcare Departments.
The self-isolation is established for persons who do not have specific symptoms, but: (A) have travelled within the last 14 days to areas affected by COVID-19, other than red areas (so called yellow areas); (B) have come into direct contact with persons presenting symptoms and who have travelled to red areas; (C) have been in direct contact with persons who have been confirmed as being infected with COVID-19; or (D) family members of a person who falls into one of the above cases.
Such persons must self-isolate at home for a period of 14 days as of the date of their return from the trip or from the date of the last contact with a symptomatic/ confirmed person. During this time, they will be monitored by the family doctor or by the relevant Public Healthcare Department.
The list of red areas and yellow areas can be consulted on the website of the National Institute of Public Healthcare.
As regards the employees falling into one of the above-mentioned cases of quarantine or self-isolation, employers are entitled to prohibit such employees from entering their workplaces.
If any of the employees are confirmed as being infected with COVID-19, employers must cooperate with the competent authorities in order to identify all the other employees with whom the infected one came into contact and must undergo the healthcare measures imposed by the competent authorities.
Are the quarantined/ self-isolated employees entitled to any kind of leave and remuneration? Yes, they are entitled to paid medical leave or, as the case may be, quarantine leave.
4. WHAT ABOUT EMPLOYEES NOT FALLING INTO THE QUARANTINE OR SELF-ISOLATION CASES?
What if any of the employees have COVID-19 like symptoms but do not fall into any of the quarantine or self-isolation cases and have not been diagnosed as infected with COVID-19 or having other medical conditions requesting medical leave/isolation? Employers may consider work from home/ telework, if possible and subject to the applicable contractual arrangements. However, if such employees show up at work, it is difficult to prevent them from doing so.
*This ePublication is provided by Radu Taracila Padurari Retevoescu SCA and is for information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice or an offer for legal services. The distribution of this document does not create an advocate−client relationship. If you require advice on any of the matters raised in this document, please call your usual contact at Radu Taracila Padurari Retevoescu SCA at +40 31 405 7777.