Legal alert for Poland: COVID-19

According to data provided by the Polish Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS), the number of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases in Poland is increasing day by day. Due to the rate of its spread throughout the world, employers in Poland are taking preventive measures in their workplaces.

The scope of the employer's responsibility in taking preventive and protective measures is not clear. Under Polish labour law provisions, specific and temporary measures are set out under OHS regulations. In addition, some employers' rights result from ad hoc legal acts (e.g. the possibility of referring an employee to epidemiological and sanitary examination, or ordering remote work (the bill adopted by the Sejm on 2 March 2020 (Project)).

Due to the significance of the situation and the reality of the threat, employers are justified to adopt a number of preventive measures to reduce the risk and appropriately manage the situation in the workplace internally, i.e. information campaigns, disinfection of office rooms, providing additional antibacterial agents.

Regardless of preventive measures, it is recommended to create a legal and organisational framework for a temporary way of work management by introducing an in-house procedure regulating this specific issue in a given workplace for the duration of the risk of contagious disease. In the procedure, the employer may adjust the measures used (e.g. forced remote work, collecting voluntary statements about stay within the territory of countries with a high incident rate, preventing work in justified cases) according to the needs of the organisation, applying the proportionality principle.

While implementing the procedure and determining the actions, compliance with the provisions on personal data protection should be considered. From the employee's perspective, privacy would be systematic and daily collection of mandatory statements about the employee's health and exact locations of his/her private stay could be too far-reaching. However, personal data protection law goes hand in hand with the employer's general preventive goals in the field of health and safety, because it does not prohibit the employee from being directed to work remotely, voluntary measurement of the employee's temperature by the employee themselves, introduction of procedures prohibiting entry to the workplace, especially production plants, to persons who in the last 14 days have been in areas at risk, or admitting persons who clearly show symptoms of COVID-19 for medical care.

Bird & Bird can support your organisation in preparing and implementing internal procedures, including in special situations, i.e. counteracting the spread of COVID-19.

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