New changes and various new pieces of legislation are coming into force in Romania. Without intending to provide an exhaustive overview of the relevant changes, a few key points employers should consider include:
New COVID-19 regulations
1. COVID-19 Green Certificate
The on-going state of alert has been extended from 9 November 2021 for another 30 days and due to the high surge of COVID-19 cases over the past couple of weeks new restrictions have been implemented. As of 25 October 2021, the COVID-19 Green Certificate is required to access public institutions, companies, authorities and private companies in office buildings with more than 50 individuals on site.
Green Certificate requirements
The Green Certificate may be obtained through one of the following (a) full vaccination (10 days after completing the vaccination scheme), (b) recovery from COVID-19 (if it is within 15 to 180 days after the positive COVID-19 test) or (c) negative COVID-19 testing (based on rapid antigen tests within 48 hours, or RT-PCR tests within 72 hours).
What does this mean for employees?
The above applies primarily for visitors as employees are expressly excluded (because restrictions to their right to work can only be achieved by law). So, employers cannot condition employees’ access to the workplace upon showing a Green Certificate.
However, further legal developments are expected. There is a draft law on employment Green Certificates, that was discussed Senate but ultimately not approved, that is now under debate in the Chamber of Deputies who have the final say. We shall monitor the situation for developments, but offer no certainty on the outcome yet.
With this in mind, employers should give careful consideration to:
- the difference between "employee" and "visitor" – more specifically, to answer the question: does my employee become a visitor when their job - by its nature - requires them entering other buildings than my premises? In most cases the answer is yes. But, in the absence of clear legal provisions, the answer might need to be nuanced in particular situations, for example, in for temporary employees made available by an authorized temporary work agency. Also, when the answer is yes, employers should factor whether they or the employees will bear the costs of the COVID-19 testing;
- the 50 employees threshold and how this should be calculated (for example, by the headcount of each private company functioning in an office building or by individuals who are simultaneously present in an office building at any given moment?).
Remote work remains the priority
During the state of alert the general rule is that employers must prioritize remote work, where possible. However, there is a new requirement that enforces remote working for at least 50% of the employers headcount, where possible. It is not clear whether the intention was to further emphasize the existing rule or make it more permissive, but employers should analyze their workforce on a case-by-case basis, depending on the nature of activity / job, especially before rolling out return-to-work schemes.
2. Leave for COVID-19-related events
For parents or other legal representatives
Parents who have children at school may, upon request, take days-off work to supervise their children when face-to-face school activities are suspended or limited and are continued online. This applies to:
- parents with children up to 12 years (including); and
- parents / legal representatives caring for children / disabled adults.
This support is available during and after the state of alert, but no later than the end of the academic year 2021 - 2022, and it excludes vacations and remote working employees. However, it may be extended for the vacations in the proposal by the Romanian National Committee for Emergency Situations.
For COVID-19 vaccination
Employees in both public and private sector may request one day-off (not included in the annual leave) for every dose of the COVID-19 vaccine received, subject to submitting the vaccination certificate to the employer, as proof. There seems to be no clarification or limitation regarding how the employer should grant this paid day off.
The same applies for a parent or legal representative, who accompanies:
- their child under 18 years old; or
- a disabled person in their care under 26 years old.
Though, in this case, the day-off can only be granted on the day of the vaccination.
3. State support for technical unemployment
Similar to last year, state support for technical unemployment has been re-enforced until 31 December 2021. It is only available if the employer's activity is:
- temporarily interrupted or reduced, due to economic, technological, structural or other reasons, as a result of the effects of the coronavirus – basically, under the measures enforced by the competent authorities; or
- suspended as a result of the epidemiological investigations carried out by the competent public health authority.
In brief, employees whose individual employment agreements are suspended as a result of the above may benefit from technical unemployment allowance supported from state budget, under certain limitations and conditions.
Other Employment hot topics (you might have missed in the pandemic-related news flood)
1. Under-declared work
The Romanian Labour Code now expressly regulates and sanctions under-declared work - paying the employee a net salary higher than the one provided in the payroll and fiscal statements provided to the tax authorities.
As of 20 October 2021, employers may be sanctioned with administrative fines of up to EUR 2,000 per employee identified by the competent labour authorities (such fines being capped at approx. EUR 20,200).
On a related note, a new separate fine - up to EUR 2,000 per employee - may be applied, as a rule, to employers for exceeding the due date of salary payment for more than one month (no cap is provided).
2. Overtime compensation deadline
Overtime compensation via corresponding paid time off should now be made within 90 calendar days (formerly 60 calendar days) by the employer, which arguably applies with priority before compensation via overtime bonus. As there is no transitory legislation, employers should analyse their approach, especially in the likely context of the internal regulations providing for the previously applicable shorter term.
3. Minimum Salary in 2022
Starting 1 January 2022, the minimum gross base salary is established at RON 2,550 (approx. EUR 515) vs. the current (generally applicable) one of RON 2,300 (approx. EUR 470). In this sense, there will no longer be a different amount depending on the employees’ education and/or length of service.