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Coronavirus in Latvia: FAQs for employers

Written by
COBALT, the full-service law firm in Latvia of choice for local and multinational businesses and global top law firms.
Authors
Toms Sulmanis
Partner - Latvia
COBALT (Latvia)
Latvia
13.03.20
3
Latvia announced a state of emergency on 12 March 2020 in relation to the spread of Covid-19. This article explains the consequences for employers.  

Are employers allowed to require employees provide information on their holiday travel plans?

The Cabinet of Ministers has made an order declaring a state of emergency in Latvia (the ‘Emergency Order’. Taking into account the obligations and recommendations provided in the Emergency Order, an employer’s demand that employees disclose of their vacation travel plans can be considered justified and proportional. Of course, this does not exclude the possibility of an employee providing deliberately false information.

 

  1. Are employers entitled to prohibit employees from travelling to certain countries on holiday?

 

Employers are entitled to recommend employees refrain from travelling to the affected territories, as well as refraining from travel in general by pointing out the consequences if these recommendations are not followed (see question 3). A general prohibition on employees travelling to specific countries would not be acceptable.

 

  1. What measures can be implemented by employers in relation to employees who have returned from territories affected by the virus?

 

The Emergency Order imposes a duty to self-isolate and not to go to work for anyone who has returned from territories affected by Covid-19. This means employers are entitled to deny entry into the workplace for employees who have returned from these countries and have not complied with this duties. If it is not possible to ensure remote work for an employee in this situation, the employer can temporarily suspend him or her without pay.

 

  1. Is it possible to temporarily reduce the number of employees or impose part-time work?

 

As in other situations, employers are entitled to implement redundancies also as a result of consequences of the coronavirus. Whether the redundancy is temporary or permanent is completely at the employer’s discretion. After implementing a redundancy, employer is not obliged to ensure that the employees are rehired after certain time: it is the employer’s choice.

Employers can only switching an employee to part-time work by reducing his or her salary with the employee’s agreement, since these changes entail amendments to the employment contract that are only possible if mutually agreed.

If there are circumstances in which the employer is entitled to terminate employment (for example, redundancy due to economic reasons), it can offer the employees concerned amendments to their employment contracts on the condition that their employment will be terminated if they do not agree. If an employee accepts the amendments and his or her salary is consequently reduced, then the employer must pay the previous salary for one month after the amendments become effective.

 

  1. What are employers’ duties in relation to work safety?

 

Under the Emergency Order, employers have the following duties:

  • to cancel or postpone business trips to areas and countries affected by Covid‑19 as far as possible;
  • to ensure that individuals with acute symptoms of respiratory infections are not admitted to work in positions where they could a pose potential health risk for other individuals (this is in line with the Cabinet of Ministers Regulations No. 477, dated 24 July 2018, ‘Regulations on work related to possible risks for other people’s health, and procedure for performance of mandatory health checks’).

 

Taking into account the employer’s duty to ensure safe and healthy working conditions for employees, it is advisable to consider the following additional measures (though this will depend on the business specifics of the organisation):

  • Provide recommendations for employees regarding compliance with personal hygiene and prevention measures in line with the guidelines published on the Latvian Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (SPCK) website;
  • introduce remote work to the extent possible;
  • implement increased disinfection measures.

 

If an employer suspects an employee has symptoms of Covid-19 or other symptoms, it can send him or her for a health check.