The Danish Parliament recently enacted the bill to amend the Sickness Benefits Act. The scheme covers absence in the period from 20 May 2020, which was the effective date of the bill, until 31 August 2020. The new rules will automatically be repealed on 1 January 2021.
The main elements of the measure introduced under the bill are as follows:
- The scheme will cover employees who suffer from one of the conditions and/or diseases that the Health Authority assesses will lead to a higher risk of a serious course of the disease if infected with Covid-19.
- The scheme will also cover employees with a relative at higher risk of a serious course of the disease if infected with Covid-19. It is a requirement that the employee shares a household with and has a family-related connection to the individual at higher risk. Cohabitants will meet this requirement regardless of how long they have lived together.
- The employee must be able to document to the local authorities that subject to a concrete, individual medical assessment based on the Health Authority’s current recommendations for individuals at higher risk they or their relative are in fact at higher risk of a serious course of the disease if infected with Covid-19. In practice, the employee’s documentation for this will be a medical certificate.
- In addition, the employee is required to obtain a statement from the employer confirming that it is not possible to take special precautions at the employee’s workplace or change his or her work tasks, so that the work can be performed in accordance with the Health Authority’s recommendations for individuals at higher risk (or for employees who have a relative at higher risk) if infected with Covid19, including confirmation that work from home is not possible. It is a requirement that the employer and employee agree that ‘it is not possible to take the necessary measures at the workplace.’
- The employer is further required to draw up a declaration confirming that the employee is completely relieved of their duty to work.
- The employee must meet the usual requirements to be eligible to receive sickness benefits, apart from the requirement of being incapacitated by their own illness.
- As a starting point, there is no entitlement to salary during absence from work unless this entitlement follows from an individual contract or a collective agreement, or unless the employee and the employer enter into a separate agreement to this effect.
- If the employer chooses to pay salary, or if an obligation to pay salary follows from, for instance, a collective agreement, the employer will be entitled to sickness benefit reimbursement from the first day of absence according to the amendment to the Sickness Benefits Act.
It is important to note that it is stressed in the explanatory statement to the bill that it is the Health Authority’s current assessment that the majority of employees in the higher risk group as well as employees with a relative at higher risk can undertake their usual work tasks if special precautions are taken, including observing particularly vigilant hygiene and social distancing, as recommended for individuals at higher risk. This means employees will not be eligible for sickness benefits unless it is not possible to take such special precautions at the workplace, or if, according to a medical assessment, the precautions will not sufficiently protect the employee in question, and it is not possible to transfer the employee to other work tasks.
The Health Authority does, however, recommend that employees at higher risk and employees with a relative in the higher risk group who work in the health care, social or senior care sectors do not undertake work tasks involving close contact with individuals with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 infection. If it is not possible to transfer employees in this group to other work tasks, it will therefore be relevant to consider making an agreement on the right to absence. If the other conditions are met, this would make the employee eligible for sickness benefits.