The coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads rapidly around the globe. Europe has been ‘locked down’ for a large part and the consequences of the virus are also becoming more visible in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On St. Maarten, Curacao and Aruba the first people who are infected are identified and the tourism is, merely because of the measures local governments are taking to protect their residents, decreasing in large numbers. In this article we will inform you on what is expected from you as employer and what you can expect from your employees in this situation.
What is expected from you as employer?
As an employer you have the legal duty of care to secure a safe work environment for your employees. This means that you have to take hygiene- and precautionary measures to, where possible, prevent your employees of getting sick and the disease spreading amongst your employees. You can inform your employees on what to do to prevent infection. You can stimulate them washing their hands on a regular basis, to stay home with a cold or the flue, to keep their distance from customers and to not shake hands. As a precaution you can also ask your employees to work from home (when possible) and to postpone or cancel business travel.
What can you expect from your employees?
Primary your employees have to follow your instructions. This means that you can obligate your employees to follow the hygiene- and precautionary measures, to work from home and/or to delay or cancel their business travels. In addition to that, your employees are obligated to inform you about matters that can endanger the working environment, such as a sick family member that might be infected with the coronavirus, or about a recent visit to one of the risk areas. This gives you the possibility to take measures, such as instructing the employee to work from home. The instruction right is however limited. You cannot, for example, ask your employee to cancel their holiday (private matter). Traveling through or to a risk area, whilst going against a travel advice of a local government, can influence the right of continued payment of wages at the moment he or she gets infected.
We can imagine that you have more questions concerning the coronavirus, such as whether or not your are obligated to continue the payment of wages in the case of illness or infection of the coronavirus or what you can do when you no longer have sufficient or no work at all anymore for your employees due to the coronavirus. The answer to these questions strongly depends on the circumstances of the particular case, such as the island you are located on, the sector your organization operates in and what you agreed on with your employees (in their contract) and what is included about this in a manual, business regulations or collective labor agreement. We therefor advice you to contact us about these questions, so we can answer them and work with you on a tailor made solution.
Do note that for this article we answered what is expected of you and your employee in the case of corona-outbreak on a general level. The employment law consequences can vary per island and per case.