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10 June 2020
Turkey has not been immune to COVID-19: it announced its first case on 11 March 2020 and businesses have inevitably been affected. Turkey is currently going through the so-called 'normalisation phase'. On 28 May 2020 the president announced that as of 1 June 2020:
If the circumstances change, these conditions will be re-evaluated.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, measures and restrictions were progressively brought into force to combat its negative impact. Before the Ministry of Internal Affairs imposed a two-day curfew on all citizens living in metropolitan cities on 10 April 2020, a curfew was put in place for citizens who were under the age of 20 or over the age of 65 or had chronic illnesses. In parallel with the warnings to stay at home to minimise the risk of transmission, the private sector implemented several measures – notably, remote working.
For workplaces that remained open during this process, on 20 March 2020 the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services published its Guideline on Measures to Combat the New Coronavirus (COVID-19) Outbreak at Workplaces. Five days later, the ministry published its Guideline on Measures to be Taken by Occupational Health and Safety Professionals at Workplaces in Scope of the New Coronavirus Outbreak. The latter includes recommendations on measures to be taken for:
Both guidelines introduced general principles to be adopted in workplaces in regard to hygiene and highlighted the importance of the social distancing rules.
On 26 May 2020 the Scientific Advisory Board issued its Guidance on Outbreak Management and Working Principles for workplaces in various sectors, including:
Pursuant to the president's 28 May 2020 announcement that restaurants, cafes, patisseries and similar workplaces offering food and beverage services would be reopened as of 1 June 2020, an updated version of the Scientific Advisory Board's guidance was published on 30 May 2020. In addition to the measures to be taken in workplaces, measures to be taken in personnel service vehicles were also introduced in this update.
The Scientific Advisory Board's new guidance differs from the previous guidelines as it specifically stipulates measures on a sectoral basis, rather than providing general principles to be embraced in workplaces. Key measures highlight abiding by social distancing principles, the proper use of medical masks and complying with hygiene rules, all of which aim to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.
The General Directorate of Occupational Health and Safety, established under the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services, has also provided checklists and information sheets as to the measures to be taken to combat COVID-19 on a sectoral basis.(1)
All of the guidelines set out by the governmental authorities should be implemented in workplaces and employers should ensure that they comply with the principles set out therein. Employers should take additional protective measures (where possible) in regard to their industry, number of employees, working environment and organisational structure. With businesses starting to reopen during the normalisation process, occupational health and safety inspectors will likely conduct regular workplace inspections to ensure that employers are complying with their occupational health and safety obligations. If employers violate the abovementioned guidelines, they may be subject to an administrative fine depending on the nature of their breach. In certain cases, such penalty may partially or fully interrupt business operations.
For further information on this topic please contact Beril Yayla Sapan or Asena Aytuğ Keser at Gün + Partners by telephone (+90 212 354 00 00) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Gün + Partners website can be accessed at www.gun.av.tr.
Kardelen Özden, legal trainee, assisted in the preparation of this article.
(1) The ministry's information for combating COVID-19 in the workplace is available here.
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