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15 April 2020
The appearance and spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Hungary has made extraordinary measures necessary. As such, on 11 March 2020 the government declared a state of emergency and introduced numerous preventive measures, with practically immediate effect.
Primarily, the handling of the pandemic and disease prevention is the task of state institutions. In that regard, the authorities have already introduced various measures.
Since 11 March 2020, additional new measures have been adopted. For example, on 18 March 2020 the government partially modified the employment rules.
This article summarises the key information for employers brought about by the introduction of the new rules.
Employers must maintain a healthy and safe workplace. This includes:
Preliminary protective measures
In order to take preliminary protective measures in the workplace, employers should:
In response to COVID-19, employers should take the following preventive measures:
For the purpose of organising a healthy and safe workplace, employers should inform employees about:
The National Authority for Data Protection and Freedom of Information has addressed the implications of COVID-19 on employers' handling of personal data.
Employers may process employees' personal data as follows:
If an employee is asymptomatic, they must be present at their workplace. The fear of infection does not serve as a legal basis for them to refuse their duty to perform work and the availability obligation.
Employees also have a duty to cooperate and provide information to their employer regarding circumstances which may be relevant for their health and safety and work performance.
If an employee is healthy (asymptomatic) but must be exempt from work for safety reasons according to company procedure, they may be entitled to their base salary (stoppage time).
If the competent authority orders home quarantine in respect of an employee and they perform work from home, they are entitled to their salary. If there is a lack of work, they may be entitled to a sickness benefit.
If an employer orders an employee to work from home and the employee performs work from home, the employee is entitled to their salary. If an employee cannot work from home (eg, if they have a factory job), they are entitled to their base salary (stoppage time).
If an employee is unable to work due to the closure of schools or childcare facilities, but the employee performs work from home, they are entitled to their salary. If an employee is unable to work from home, they may agree with their employer to take their annual leave or unpaid leave. Otherwise, such absence is regarded as an absence due to personal or family reasons, which deserves special consideration, or unavoidable external reasons and no compensation is payable by the employer.
If a workplace is closed or tasks are stopped due to a reduction of capacity, the situation must be examined to determine whether employees are entitled to compensation (base salary for the stoppage time) or – if the stoppage or closure is due to unavoidable external circumstances (ie, force majeure) – whether employees are not entitled to compensation.
Under the new rules, employers may order home office or remote work without employees' consent.
Employers bear the duty and liability to ensure that the technical conditions for the purpose of work are satisfactory and that the working conditions are healthy and safe. In practice, the latter may cause problems as, in principle, employers must inspect the place of work and this may be impossible under the circumstances.
Employers are still responsible for determining employees' work schedule and working hours, but individual agreements may be concluded (eg, a partial or flexible work schedule).
Notably, the new rules allow agreements between employers and employees to derogate extensively from the provisions of the Labour Code. In view of this unusual situation, it is likely that the authorities and the courts will be more permissive in assessing the content of these agreements.
The above article is based on laws enacted and promulgated until 31 March 2020.
For further information on this topic please contact Dániel Gera or Dorottya Gindl at Schoenherr Hungary by telephone (+36 1 8700 700) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Schoenherr website can be accessed at www.schoenherr.eu.
The materials contained on this website are for general information purposes only and are subject to the disclaimer.
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