15 minute read 27 May 2020
a-checklist-for-employers-reopening-the-workplace

COVID-19: A checklist for employers reopening the workplace

Authors
Svetlin Adrianov

EY Bulgaria, N. Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo Associate Partner, Law Leader

Law Leader. Competition & Antitrust specialist. Keen photographer and devoted audiophile.

Soena Foto

Manager, Other tax, Corporate Law, Law Country Leader - Albania

Krisela Qirushi

Senior, Attorney–at–law

Krisela is a Tax Senior in the Law department of Ernst & Young Albania and Kosovo.

15 minute read 27 May 2020

Deciding whether and when to reopen a workplace

A company must determine whether it can legally reopen its physical workplace, based on the order of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection listing the allowed and prohibited commercial activities. Upon such verification, the company should apply online via e-Albania portal for obtaining a certificate evidencing that the business entity is entitled to operate its activity during the period of emergency due to COVID-19 outbreak. The certificate should be kept at the business premises and should be available for inspection. Moreover, the company should display at its entrance and in conspicuous places inside the premises the yellow/red protocol, as per its classification, as well as the informational posters against the spread of COVID-19 in the approved format by the Ministry of Health and Social Protection.

Health and safety — related considerations

Based on the level of risk (i.e. low risk (green protocol), medium risk (yellow protocol) and high risk (red protocol), each business should comply with the respective Protocols of Hygienic – Sanitary Measures as well as with the measures set out in the Guideline. Below you may find a list with some of the measures:

1. Limiting number of employees and others in the workplace 
  • Making sure that employees respect the social distancing measures which will be carried out according to a plan drafted by the companies, and if the capacity of workers exceeds the allowable norm for surface area in m2 respecting the distance of 2 m, companies should work in two shifts according to the allowed hours
  • During the breaks, the gathering of persons in the premises of the company as well as in public premises should be avoided (applicable to entities that qualify under the yellow and red protocol)
2. Physical Distance at Work
  • Recommending the avoidance of handshakes and hugs between employees
  • Placing physical distancing elements with visible signs on the floor
  • Encouraging the installation of physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass partitions)
3. Limiting physical contact & Interpersonal Interactions
  • Prohibiting the sharing of tools, equipment and places of work between employees
4. Worker and Workplace Hygiene
  • The employer should provide, at the entrance of the premises, a hand sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol that is regularly refilled
  • Ensuring employees have access to soap and water, alcohol-based sanitizer with at least 60% of alcohol, disposable paper towels or towels, paper and disinfectants for cleaning surfaces and closed bins for waste disposal
  • Employees should always use (i) protective gloves which are changed daily; (ii) a protective mask covering their nose and mouth, which is changed every 3 days (or daily in case of masks made out of fabric), both to be provided by the employer
  • Asking the employees to wash their hands or use disinfectants when they are contaminated or after removing the mask and gloves
  • Encouraging their employees to cough and sneeze by putting the elbow hole in front of the mouth and nose
  • Any business that has more than 5 people is recommended to install CCTV cameras to observe whether the specified hygiene and care measures are respected
  • Cleaning – by using personal protective equipment– on a continuous basis the surfaces and other elements of the workplace with the adequate products
  • Ensure ventilation at least between 3 to 5 times/day (the frequency depends on the level of risk) and consider improving the building ventilation system
  • The company must perform disinfection of the workplace before opening and after closing, especially of high contact items (e.g. tables, telephone devices). In addition to the above the companies qualified under yellow and red protocol should disinfect the workplace at least 3 and 5 times/day, accordingly.
5. Preventing sick employees from being at work
  • Every employee should declare whether he/she has had contact with persons who have tested positive for COVID-19
  • Any employee who notices clinical signs while at home, he/she should abstain from showing up to work and should immediately notify the employer, the family doctor and at the same time call 127
  • Performing temperature check to every employee and any third person entering and exiting the business premises with infrared thermometer and proceeding with the required notifications to the competent authorities in case of a temperature higher than 37.5 (applicable only to entities that qualify under the yellow and red protocol)
  • The person appointed by the administrator or the natural person should perform a daily self-assessment as well as an assessment of the company’s employees with regard to the COVID-19 symptoms according to the approved checklist. In case of symptoms, the respective employee should be asked to go home 
  • Having an isolated environment for an employee, who may show clinical signs of the disease.

Failure to comply with the above may expose the business entities to administrative and/or penal measures as per the Penal Code.

Reporting obligations

The business entities that qualify under the red protocol, should notify both the Labor Inspectorate and the Health Inspectorate with regard to the personal identification information and license number of the person responsible for health at work.
Moreover, in case that an employee shows clinical signs, the administrator of the company should immediately notify the Public Health Institute, the Local Healthcare Unit and the Health Inspectorate.

Personal data considerations

With the guidelines issued by the Information and Data Protection Commissioner, in the light of the measures adopted against COVID -19, it is restated that the personal data processed for the prevention of the spread of the virus, are subject to the requirements of the existing legal framework (i.e. Law 9887/2008 “On protection of personal data”, as amended and the respective by-legal acts). The employer, in the quality of the controller, is responsible for ensuring that:

(i) the data subjects are duly informed, inter alia, on the purpose of the processing for which the          personal data are intended and the categories of personal data concerned;
(ii) personal data are processed as per the adequate legal basis;
(iii) personal data are not excessive in relation to the purposes for which they are processed;
(iv) personal data are kept only for the duration of the incubation period of the virus (i.e. 14 days) or      longer provided that the processing is justified by specific legal provisions; and
(v) personal data are properly destroyed when they are no longer necessary.

Development of internal policies and procedures

Albanian Government has urged private employers to adopt working — from — home (“WFH”) arrangements to minimize the risk of contamination. In this regard, it is important that companies are equipped with effective WFH Policies and Procedures that address the mandatory and optional WFH arrangements (as applicable), and considerations related to security, privacy, health and safety obligations as well as use of company equipment.

Financial support for current employees and laid — off employees

The employer bears the responsibility of verifying whether an employee or a former employee that has been laid – off for COVID - 19 related reasons, is eligible for the governmental financial support. The Albanian Government has announced so far 2 (two) financial packages aiming to support employees affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
The criteria set out by the Decisions of the Council of Ministers pertain to both the employer (e.g. annual income, nature of activity performed by the business entity, closure of the business as a result of the Order of the Ministry of Health and Social Protection) as well as to the employee (e.g. dismissal date, reasons of dismissal, annual income).

The business entities whose (former) employees although qualified for benefiting from the financial assistance, fail to comply with the obligation of submitting the financial support request to the General Tax Directorate are subject to a fine amounting to ALL 50,000 (approx. EUR 400). From the scope of the above fine are excluded the employers that have paid the employees or the former employees full salary.

Summary

Although the Albanian Government has started to relax COVID – 19 lockdown measures, especially in the direction of allowing businesses to reopen, by using a phased – opening approach, particular emphasis is placed on the requirements that should be observed by the business entities during their operation. The alert presents a comprehensive guide of the main issues that the employers should take into consideration before returning to the workplace as well as during the operation of their businesses under the rules of Covid-19.

About this article

Authors
Svetlin Adrianov

EY Bulgaria, N. Macedonia, Albania and Kosovo Associate Partner, Law Leader

Law Leader. Competition & Antitrust specialist. Keen photographer and devoted audiophile.

Soena Foto

Manager, Other tax, Corporate Law, Law Country Leader - Albania

Krisela Qirushi

Senior, Attorney–at–law

Krisela is a Tax Senior in the Law department of Ernst & Young Albania and Kosovo.