In response to the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), employers shall establish relevant measures in accordance with the requirements set forth by the competent authorities and shall pay special attention to the following when making human resource arrangements:
1. Granting Leave to Employees
(1) Epidemic Prevention-Related Family Care Leave
The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced that the winter break for elementary and secondary schools will be extended to February 25. During the period between February 11 to 24, 2020, An employee who has a child under the age of 12 in school is entitled to take the “epidemic prevention-related family care leave” to care for his or her child before the end of the extended winter break, without being deemed as absent from work without cause, forced to use his or her personal leave or other leave (e.g., annual leave) instead, terminated for taking such leave, or subject to other unfavorable measures implemented by the employer, and shall still be eligible for receiving the full-attendance award; otherwise, the employer may be subject to relevant penalties imposed by the competent authorities in accordance with the applicable laws. Nevertheless, employers are not required to pay wages to their employees during such leave.
(2) Regular Family Care Leave and Other Leaves
The “epidemic prevention-related family care leave” is a special measure set forth specifically to address the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and to provide another option of leave for employees who need to care for their children under the age of 12. The other leave entitlement (e.g., the regular family care leave, personal leave, annual leave) will not be affected. For instance, if an employee needs to care for a child above the age of 12 or other family members, he or she is still entitled to take family take leave in accordance with the Act of Gender Equality in Employment.
2. Occupational Safety and Health
Employers shall set up measures to prevent the spread of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) in the workplace; in particular:
(1) Employers shall implement measures for checking the temperature of all personnel accessing the workplace and for identifying those who may have been infected by the virus, provide employees with training on preventing the spread of the virus at the workplace,and ensure the proper ventilation and cleanliness of the workplace and conduct regular disinfection on the premises.
(2) Employers shall not prohibit employees from wearing masks and shall not force all employees to wear masks either. Employers shall provide front-line employees (e.g., employees who work at train/bus stations or airports, on transportation vehicles, malls or department stores) with masks and ensure that the employees are properly wearing the masks.
(3) Employees who have recently travelled to the virus-affected areas either for business or for personal reasons shall be closely monitored for their health status and shall be subject to the necessary health tracking and management measures.
3. Overseas Assignments
(1) Employers are advised against sending employees to any work assignment in China. Unless absolutely necessary, employers shall also avoid assigning employees to work in Hong Kong or Macau. Instead, such overseas business activities may be conducted through teleconference or other electronic means, or such work locations or assignments may be adjusted upon discussion with the employees. Despite any such adjustment, the employers shall still pay wages to their employees as usual.
(2) If it is necessary to assign an employee to work in China or other virus-affected areas, the employer shall obtain the employee’s consent and shall evaluate the employee’s health, and shall not send any employee with chronic lung diseases or cardiovascular diseases to such assignment. Employers shall provide employees with training on how to prevent infections and provide them with masks and other protective gears, and shall ensure the cleanliness and proper ventilation and disinfection of any work areas.
(3) If an employer assigns an employee to work in any of the virus-affected areas without providing such employee with the necessary safety and health equipment and safeguard; the employee may refuse such assignment and may also terminate his or her employment contract and request severance pay from the employer.
4. Adjustment to Overtime Restrictions
Where a healthcare institution or relevant suppliers/service providers (e.g., manufacturers, logistics companies or retailers of relevant supplies) needs its employees to work overtime in response to the spread of the 019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV), such overtime may be considered as required due to an act of God, an incident or an emergency. Under such circumstances, employers shall provide the employees with overtime pay in accordance with the applicable laws and shall also comply with the following rules:
(1) Regarding overtime work on a normal working day or a rest day: while the work-hour caps of 12 hours a day and 46 hours a month do not apply, the labor union or the local labor authority (absent a labor union) shall be notified within 24 hours following the commencement of such overtime work.
(2) Regarding overtime work on a public holiday, a day where annual leave has been pre-arranged, and a fixed-day off: while the rule of one fixed-day off out of every seven calendar days does not apply, the employer shall file a report with the local competent authority within 24 hours after the fact and shall give the employees time-off in lieu (compensatory time off).