COVID-19 is spreading. According to publicly available information to date, there are two registered cases of infection with the virus in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and one registered case in Serbia. There are no registered cases in Montenegro, yet. However, taking into account the developments in the neighboring countries, no one can exclude that infection will come to this country as well. Institutions in Serbia have not issued any special instructions for employers regarding the measures to be taken in the work environment. The Institute for Public Health of Montenegro has issued Temporary guidelines for companies and employers for planning and reacting to coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Public Health Institute of the Republic of Srpska has issued certain guidelines for employers as well. With or without guidelines, companies and employers are dealing with numerous questions related to their rights and obligations, as well as the rights and obligations of their employees, in the context of COVID-19 epidemics.
Below are some of the questions the employers should take into account as part of the crisis management:
- Can employees be sent on garden leave during the risky period? Can the employer shut down offices? Are employees entitled to a remuneration during that time, how much is the remuneration and who takes the cost?
- Can the employer send employees on a collective annual leave?
- Is the employer entitled to ask people to temporarily work from home or to do teleworking?
- What kind of safety measures employers need to implement at the place of work? Can employees refuse to come to work if they are not satisfied with implemented safety measures? Can employees refuse to travel on business to affected areas?
- Is the employer entitled to control where its employees go to vacation?
- Can the employer impose on its employees an obligation to undergo medical exams?
- Should the employer request medical certificate from the employees who call and sick citing COVID-19 symptoms?
- How to assure confidential exchange of information about symptoms and infection between employees and employer while respecting data protection regulations?
- How to treat the absence of an employee who is stuck in a quarantine while returning from a business trip or a private trip?
- What if schools temporary close and employees stay at home to take care of their children? Is such leave justified and is the employer obliged to pay salary during that period?