Astrid Caporali June 15 2022 Covid-19: business as usual as vigilance phase ends? ALTIUS | Employment & Immigration - Belgium Astrid Caporali Employment & Immigration IntroductionWhat does this mean for employers?CommentIntroductionSince 11 May 2022, several obligations that had been in place to prevent the spread of covid-19 in the workplace have been removed.In particular, employers are no longer required to implement the specific prevention measures that were set out in the Generic Guide to Working Safely in the Event of an Epidemic or Pandemic (the Generic Guide). As of 11 May 2022, employers must comply only with the preventive measures provided for in the Codex on Well-being at Work, as was the case before the pandemic.Moreover, the prerogatives of occupational doctors, which were enhanced during the pandemic, were abolished on 11 May 2022 by royal decree on 15 May 2022 (for further details please see "Occupational doctors' enhanced role in combating covid-19: contact tracing, quarantine certificates and testing").What does this mean for employers?Article I.2-27 of the Codex on Well-being at Work required employers to implement the basic level of protection during the so-called "vigilance phase" for two months following the end of the epidemic state of emergency (ie, until 11 May 2022) (for further details please see "Back to the (pre-pandemic) future – but not for employers?").(1)This basic level of protection is described in the latest edition of the Generic Guide. However, such protection is no longer only limited to the covid-19 pandemic and includes the now well-known principles of:social distancing;ventilation;telework;hygiene measures; andmask-wearing.Since 11 May 2022, employers are no longer obliged to apply these measures in the workplace, only the "classic" prevention measures on security and safety from the Codex on Well-Being at Work apply. Moreover, telework has not been recommended for combatting covid-19 since 5 March 2022.As part of this change, occupational doctors have lost the enhanced prerogative entrusted to them. Therefore, they will no longer be:responsible for identifying workers' high-risk contacts in specific situations;allowed to provide quarantine certificates to any worker whom they consider to be a high-risk contact. Workers will now have to obtain such certificates from their general practitioner;allowed to refer specific categories of workers for testing; andallowed to conduct testing on workers themselves.As a consequence of these prerogatives being repealed, occupational doctors have resumed their usual tasks related to health surveillance, which can no longer be postponed to focus on covid-19 issues.CommentEmployers now need to update their current risk analysis procedures and assess whether specific covid-19 prevention measures may still be needed within the organisation to ensure general well-being at work (eg, in the event of an increased risk of infection). Company health and safety committees (or a trade union delegation) should be consulted about this updated risk analysis and the employer's intention, if relevant, to abolish the specific prevention measures that were set out for the end of the vigilance phase. Employees should also be kept informed.Employers should consider introducing a general framework of structural telework if their employees are still (partly) working from home. In any event, working from home on a structural basis, now that covid-19 teleworking is no longer recommended, requires an addendum being added to the employment contract.For further information on this topic please contact Astrid Caporali at ALTIUS by telephone (+32 2 426 1414) or email ([email protected]). The ALTIUS website can be accessed at www.altius.com.Endnotes(1) As introduced by the royal decree of 21 February 2022 on prevention measures at work in the event of an epidemic or pandemic.