Following the loosening of restrictions adopted at the beginning of the pandemic the Czech government declared a further countrywide state of emergency on 5 October 2020 in response to the deteriorating epidemiological situation and increased number of hospitalisations. The state of emergency is currently anticipated to last until 14 February 2021, but, it is likely to be extended. As a result, a number of restrictions have been adopted.
Understandably, this may be creating concern for employers and their workforces. Below we answer some key questions to clarify employers' legal obligations and to support you in protecting your business and people.
On 13 November 2020, the Czech government introduced a 5-colour stage anti-epidemic system (the "PES") as one of the tools being used to evaluate and deal with the epidemic in the Czech Republic. PES is based on an index of epidemiological risks (on a scale 0-100) to indicate the level of COVID-19 emergency in the Czech Republic, and the corresponding measures that need to be put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Currently, the Czech Republic is in stage 5 of PES, which is the highest stage with the most stringent restrictions. Following the announcements of government officials, a shift to lower stages of PES I is not expected for several weeks. The government is, however, now working on an amended version of the PES system that would allow more businesses to be open (especially in stage 4), if a number of additional protective measures (e.g. a maximum number of customers per square meter of the sale area) are observed.
As of 27 December 2020, all restaurants, shops (except from grocery stores, drug stores etc.), entertainment facilities and many others are temporarily closed to the public. Following the forced closure of certain businesses, the government has been adopting various measures to support affected employers in order to prevent the dismissal of employees and the bankruptcy of employers.
In general, employers should ensure that they are taking all necessary steps to protect their employees. All employers are obliged to inform their employees about health risks that may arise in connection with the performance of their duties and to ensure that working practices do not create undue risks to employees.
Employers should carry out ongoing risk assessments and consider any factors that may make employees particularly susceptible to infection. Currently, it is recommended that remote working arrangements are put in place in all businesses (if that is possible). Employees are required to wear face masks and to keep a distance of two meters. In addition, regular testing of employees is recommended where possible. All these measures correspond to stage 5 of PES. Employers should also consider circulating up-to-date information on good hygiene practices and provide any necessary equipment to facilitate this, such as hand sanitiser.
We further recommend notifying employees where they can access more information if they are concerned. Relevant information can be found on the web portal administered by the Czech Ministry of Interior at https://covid.gov.cz or at the website of the Czech Ministry of Health (https://onemocneni-aktualne.mzcr.cz/pes).
The question of whether employees can be asked about their exposure to the COVID-19 virus, or to provide information to an employer for further sharing with its customers sits firmly in the crossover between data privacy and employment.
Any such data must be processed in line with the applicable privacy requirements. Information about an employee's health (such as whether the individual has tested positive or is suffering from any symptoms) is considered as special category of personal data under the applicable legislation, and stricter data protection requirements apply to the processing of such data. Despite the GDPR being EU-wide legislation, the position is complex from the European data privacy perspective. Employers will find that the type and extent of the information they can process, and the legal basis for doing so, may vary from country to country. As regards the Czech Republic, we summarize the main points:
Employers may also face situations where a customer/client requires travel or health information relating to their employees when visiting the customer/client's site.
In addition, the position regarding European data privacy rules and how they impact information relating to COVID-19 is developing. A number of EU governments have issued further guidance and more of them are still considering whether emergency legislation may be required, particularly if the situation escalates. The position will need to be kept under review as the situation evolves and further guidance becomes available.
Employees are obliged to inform employers about any risk of their possible infection in order to prevent further spread of COVID-19 to other employees. Thus, employees should notify their employer about any contact with infected individuals. In this case, employers can request that employees immediately contact their general practitioner by phone or other means without personal contact. If there is any risk, the general practitioner will order 10 days quarantine. Employees travelling from certain countries (depending on the level of risk of infection), must provide medical COVID-19 test certificate and in certain cases also have to undergo 10 days quarantine.
Employers are obliged to ensure the occupational safety and health protection of all employees at work with regard to risks which might endanger employees' life and health during their performance of work. Thus, if the employee refuses to contact a general practitioner the employer should notify the local Health Station which would consider imposing the quarantine on that employee.
Employers are not empowered to unilaterally order testing of their employees for COVID-19. However, if the employer suspects an employee of being infected, it can notify the Health Station which may consider doing appropriate tests. If the employee is found to be COVID-19 positive, the local Health Station is responsible for further investigation of recent contact of the sick employee with other employees, customers or third parties. The local Health Station will then further evaluate the risks and it can also take appropriate measures to help prevent further outbreaks of COVID-19. However, given the large number of individuals who have tested positive, the contact tracing has repeatedly failed, and so the public Health Stations are not always able to trace adequately (i.e. to trace all the relevant contacts).
To manage the absences of employees (caused due to the isolation, quarantine, taking care of children or infected relatives etc.), employers should inform employees about their absence policy and clarify the position regarding COVID-19. From the perspective of Czech law, employers will typically face the following situations regarding the COVID-19 outbreak:
Employers who are not able to provide employees with work are obliged to reimburse them with a compensatory wage amounting to their average earnings.
According to a number of exceptions stipulated in the Czech Labour Code, the reimbursement might be lowered to 80% of employees' average earnings if the office/factory operations have been suspended due to problems with the material or power supplies, or due to some other operational reasons.
Furthermore, the reimbursement might be lowered to 60% of employees' average earnings (for any time within working hours when the employees does not work) in situations where an employer is unable to provide an employee with work within weekly working hours due to a temporary drop in sales of the employer's products or due to a drop in demand for services rendered by the employer (known as "temporary lay-offs" or "short time working"). The amount/level of the compensatory wage shall be discussed between the employer and trade unions (where applicable), and where no trade union operates, it shall be stipulated within the employer's internal regulation.
Every reduction of employees' reimbursements must be well reasoned as it is expected that it will be subject to employees' claims.If the closure of the business results from the anti-epidemic measures, employees are entitled to 100% compensation of their wage. The affected employer may, however, apply for financial support, the details of which are described below.
The Czech Government extended and amended the "Antivirus" program which details how the state will use public funds to provide financial support to employers. The program currently applies until 28 February 2021.
A. Reduction of business operation and/or quarantine ordered
Employers will be provided with financial support from the public funds for up to 80% of the super-gross wage (i.e. the amount paid by the employer, including social and health insurance contributions) up to a maximum amount of CZK 39,000 (with regard to each employee). This applies to the following situations:
B. Related economic difficultiesEmployers will be provided with financial support from public funds of 60% the wage + social and health insurance contributions paid by the employer up to a maximum amount of CZK 29,000 (per employee for the respective month). This applies in the following situations:
The Institutions that provide current general and employment-related information regarding the COVID-19 in the Czech Republic are:
- Ministry of Health (http://www.mzcr.cz/);
- Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (https://www.mpsv.cz/);
- The National Institute of Public Health (http://szu.cz/).
The government has also launched a new website with detailed information on COVID-19 and FAQs with respect to the current measures imposed (https://covid.gov.cz).
The PES system has also a dedicated website with an overview of all the 5 stages and the respective measures (https://onemocneni-aktualne.mzcr.cz/pes).
Last reviewed 26 January 2021
Jun 01 2023