On 30 January 2020 the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a global health emergency of international concern. Two months later, the pandemic presents a number of issues for Cyprus employers and threatens the survival of many businesses.
This article addresses some of the immediate issues which Cyprus employers are facing.
1. Best practice for maintaining a safe workplace
Employers should follow the latest Cyprus Government advice in maintaining as safe workplace during the pandemic. The advice should promptly be communicated to employees.
2. Asking employees to stay at home – employees entitlements
Employees who are unwell may be entitled to statutory sick pay in addition to any benefits which are provided by employers for illness.
Employees who are required to work from home should be paid in full.
Employees who are not ill but whose role is not appropriate for home working, should continue to be paid their wages unless there is an express contractual right for the employer to suspend without pay. Employers should consider offering such employees annual leave or considering whether the business or the employees can take advantage of any of the financial support schemes announced by the Cyprus Government. (https://www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus/en/press/fin.pdf)
If the situation escalates, keeping employees at home on full pay for a long and uncertain period of time will not be an option for most businesses. Employees should consider whether the financial support schemes, or any new schemes announced to replace or extend these, provide a solution. Failing this, employers will need to consider options such as redundancies or offering temporary solutions such as voluntary special leave under which employees choose whether to take paid or unpaid leave
3. Employee refusing to attend the workplace due to concerns about contracting the virus
Current government advice is that well employees are not required to stay at home unless they are have been in close contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus or belong to those persons who have genuine health concerns which make them more vulnerable, or they live with vulnerable family members. The press release issued by the Ministry of Health on the 16 March 2020 lists “vulnerable groups” in relation to the coronavirus.
From an employment law perspective, employees are bound to obey reasonable and lawful management instructions. Unless employees have a good reason not to attend the workplace, employers are be entitled to discipline employees for refusing to attend work.
4. Preparing for escalation
Employers are advised to update or develop an emergency contingency plan. The plan should asses the level of exposure to any increased or prolonged period of disruption to their business. The plan should consider alternative ways of continuing to work, if face to face contact at the workplace is prohibited and the nature of the business allows this. At the same time the plan should also deal with possibilities of reduction in business or staff shortages.
Where can employers and employees access further advice?
Cyprus Government – https://www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus/en/index.html
How can we help?
As the situation evolves we are continuing to provide up to date and practical advice to help our clients prepare and respond to the the COVID-19 pandemic. We are available to assist employers with this and all workplace issues.
Theodorou Law is a Cyprus law firm with Cyprus lawyers and other legal experts on legal matters involving Cyprus law, EU law and international law. The above should be used as a source of general information only. It is not intended to give a definitive statement of the law.
If you have a query or wish to receive further information, please contact us using [email protected]