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Coronavirus – travelling and payment of salary

Coronavirus has given rise to a variety of questions and problematic situations. The focus lies in different questions related to leisure-time travelling and returning to work as well as the payment of salary in particular. Below are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

Can the employer prohibit the employee from travelling abroad?

The employer does not have the right to prohibit the employee from travelling on their leisure time abroad or even to coronavirus risk areas. If the employer has instructed or even prohibited the employee from travelling, there can be no consequences to the employee for violating the prohibition. If the employee contracts infection on their leisure-time trip, the employer has the normal obligation to pay remuneration during illness.

Can the employer deny the employee to enter the workplace, if the employee has returned from abroad?

The employer can decide that employees who return from abroad or a specific area must not come to the workplace during a certain period of time. Because it is about the employer’s own instructions and orders, the employer is obliged to pay normal salary to the employee.

Is the employer obliged to pay remuneration, if the employee contracts coronavirus?

If the employee contracts coronavirus, the employer has the normal obligation to pay remuneration during illness in accordance with the Employment Contracts Act or the collective agreement. If the employee is ordered to isolation by virtue of the Communicable Diseases Act, Kela shall pay the employee sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease in the full amount of loss of earnings. For the period that the employer pays salary during illness to the employee, the sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease shall be paid to the employer.

Is the employer obliged to pay remuneration, if the employee’s child contracts coronavirus?

If the employee’s child contracts coronavirus, the employee has the right to be absent from work in accordance with the provisions of the Employment Contracts Act concerning temporary child care leave or the applicable collective agreement. It is usually required e.g. that the child with the disease is under 10 years old. According to the Employment Contracts Act, absence from work can last for a maximum of four days. The employer is obliged to pay remuneration to the employee caring for a sick child in accordance with the applicable collective agreement. If no collective agreement is applied to the employee, according to the Employment Contracts Act there is no obligation to pay remuneration.

The employee also has the right to be absent from work, if the requirements of the Employment Contracts Act’s provision concerning absence for compelling family reasons or a comparable provision of the collective agreement are fulfilled. The requirement of absence is that the employee’s immediate presence at home is necessary because of an illness of the child or their carer. The right to be absent from work ends, when the care of the child can be arranged or the employee’s immediate presence is no longer necessary e.g. due to the child’s state of health. The employer is not obliged to pay remuneration to the employee during absence for compelling family reasons.

An employee caring for their sick child is, however, entitled to receive Kela’s sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease, if their child under 16 has been ordered to isolation at home by the authorities, and the employee is prevented from working because of that.

Is the employer obliged to pay remuneration, if the employee or the employee’s child is ordered to quarantine?

The employer is not obliged to pay remuneration for the duration of the quarantine, unless otherwise agreed in the applicable collective agreement. The employee is entitled to receive sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease paid by Kela. Sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease is full compensation for the loss of earnings.

If the employee’s child is ordered to quarantine, the employer is not obliged to pay remuneration, either. The employee has, however, an acceptable reason for absence. The employee is also entitled to receive sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease if their child aged under 16 is ordered to quarantine, and the employee has to stay away from work because of that.

Is the employer obliged to pay remuneration, if the employee is placed in quarantine abroad?

The employee can be placed in quarantine abroad on a business or leisure-time trip. In case of business travel, the recommendation is that the employer is obliged to pay remuneration also for the period during which the employee is prevented from returning to work and obliged to compensate any costs arising from additional days of accommodation or transfer of flights. The employee is entitled to receive sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease while in the EU area. If the employer pays the salary, the sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease shall be paid to the employer.

The employer is not obliged to pay remuneration, if the employee is placed in quarantine on a leisure-time trip and is unable to return to work at the end of their holiday. The absence is, however, permitted, but unsalaried. If the quarantine is ordered in the EU area, the employee is entitled to receive sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease.

How to act in case of illness or quarantine?

The most important thing in case of both illness and quarantine is to inform the employer immediately about the illness or quarantine, and to keep the employer up to date. In cases of illness it is advisable to ask the employer whether a medical certificate on absence is required in such exceptional circumstances. If the employer requires a medical certificate, the employee should consult occupational health care or health centre by telephone and inquire whether it is possible to get a sick leave certificate e.g. through remote consultation. In cases of quarantine, if required by the employer, a certificate on the quarantine order should be requested from the authorities of the country in question.

For an application for sickness allowance on account of an infectious disease the employee needs a decision made by the doctor in charge of infectious diseases in the municipality or hospital district on the employee’s absence from work, isolation or quarantine. In addition, the employer shall provide an account on loss of earnings.

Katja Halonen, lawyer, Teperi & Co Oy

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