Several measures adopted by the Romanian authorities related to the initiation of the state of alert. These include Resolution no. 24/2020 and Government Emergency Ordinance no. 70/2020, both of which entered into effect on 15 May 2020. Also, the Romanian Parliament adopted Law no. 55/2020, which will enter into force on 18 May 2020 and which provides the legal framework of the state of alert and consists of several other measures and obligations.
I. Work from home. Work from office, only if necessary
As a general rule, employers are required to ensure that employees work from home wherever possible. This entails an obligation on the part of employers to ensure that employees are properly instructed in occupational health and safety, and provide their employees with written instructions.
Employers must also have their employees' consent to working from home and to working from a different workplace and/or with different responsibilities.
If work cannot be performed from home, employers may request that employees come to work, but must take several measures:
- ensure epidemiological triage, i.e. checking the body temperature of staff and visitors at the access points to the premises;
- require disinfection of hands before entering workplaces;
- observe the rules on activities in offices with common areas (open space);
- set up individualized work schedules for entities with more than 50 employees so that the working hours begin and end at intervals of at least 1 hour, for at least 3 hours, for groups of at least 20% of the staff. The individualized work schedule and the manner of its distribution by days must be established by an addendum to the employees’ employment agreements.
Companies having direct interaction with consumers within their premises must:
- organise access so as to ensure a minimum area of 4 m² per customer/person and a minimum distance of 2 meters between any two people;
- refuse access to people whose body temperature, measured at the entrance to the building, exceeds 37.3oC;
- ensure that exposed areas are disinfected and prevent crowds of people, especially near the cash registers.
Employees must always wear a mask that is replaced every 4 hours at the most. Employers must provide masks for employees, as well as hand disinfection liquid at the entry area of the premises. Customers must wear protective masks and comply with distancing rules at cash registers.
II. Technical unemployment
The provisions of article XI regarding suspended employment contracts (“technical unemployment”), which were introduced in Government Emergency Ordinance no. 30/2020 and which grant employers financial aid from the state as reimbursement for the mandatory payments to their employees in technical unemployment, have been prolonged until 31 May 2020.
Consequently, employers whose business has been reduced or interrupted due to the effects of the measures taken/imposed by the authorities can continue to receive the state aid granted for technical unemployment during the state of alert under the same conditions and limits as regulated for the state of emergency period.
III. Free paid days for parents
Considering the current context, the Romanian government decided to prolong the applicability of the provisions of Law. no. 19/2020 until the end of the school year 2019-2020. Thus, the working days until the end of school year will be considered paid leave, which will be granted to one of the parents upon request.
We would like to emphasise here that such paid days off are only granted if the work performed by the employee cannot be performed from home. Moreover, persons in technical unemployment, those who are on leave to care for their child, and employees whose spouses do not report any income do not receive this paid leave.
IV. Other measures
The National Institute of Public Health has also published a set of public health recommendations on general measures to relax public restrictions imposed during the state of emergency in order to limit the spread of the SARS COV-2 virus infection. These include a number of recommendations for working in premises with common areas (open space).
The recommendations were approved by Joint Order no. 832/2020 of the Health Minister and the Minister of the Economy, Energy and the Business Environment, thereby becoming rules to be observed by employers and employees.
In this regard, employees will comply with universally valid precautions for avoiding the spread of the new coronavirus, and accordingly, employers shall adopt the following recommendations, such as:
- Individualized work schedules to avoid congestion at the entrance/exit of the premises and to limit the number of employees present at the same time in the same premises;
- Observational triage of employees and forbidding the presence at work of employees having respiratory infection symptoms (cough, sneezing, runny nose, fever, altered general health condition);
- Employers must take their employees’ temperature at the beginning of the working day. Employees having a temperature above 37.3oC will be required to go home, with clear instructions to consult their primary care physician.
- Ensuring a minimum distance of 1.5 m between employees working in front-to-back and back-to-back offices;
- For face-to-face offices, separation of employees is to be ensured with partitions which must be disinfected daily with alcohol-based solutions;
- Disinfection of work surfaces at the beginning of the work day and then once every 4 hours;
- Staggered meal breaks, respecting the physical distance of at least 2 m;
- Periodic ventilation of the rooms;
- Nebulising air-conditioned rooms with recirculated air once a week, preferably at the end of the week, and disinfecting the air conditioning system according to the manufacturer's instructions.
V. Mandatory health and safety measures for employers
Under Order no. 3577/2020 on measures to prevent contamination by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 and to ensure health and safety conditions at the workplace issued by the Labour and Social Protection Minister and the Health Minister, employers must take several other measures for the entire duration of the state of alert, from a health and safety perspective, in the current context. Disregarding such measures can be sanctioned by the competent bodies, according to the legal provisions in force.
By Alexandru Ene, Partner, and Mircea-Catalin Roman, Senior Associate, Noerr