As organizations around the world adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, employers in many jurisdictions have started preparing for the “beyond” phase. Unlike ever before, key reputational, strategic and human resources questions must be answered about whether the organization can ask all, some or certain employees to resume working from the office or official business premises, either partially or in full.
Collected and consolidated by our labor law professionals in more than 60 jurisdictions, the “COVID-19: Return to office – Legal requirements and considerations tracker (pdf)” captures answers to questions regarding the existing legal framework for returning to the office, enforceability of employment contract obligations, statutory limitations, employees’ rights and obligations, as well as other relevant employment law considerations. It is designed to support organizations in their decision-making at this critical time.
The tracker highlights interesting trends, such as confirming that “high risk individuals” in almost every jurisdiction need specific policy exemptions from returning to the office. While employers may be familiar with certain categories of high-risk individuals e.g., pregnant women and older employees, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted a potentially vulnerable group of employees – those with chronic diseases. Employers need to put in place special plans for these employees, who may have been indistinguishable members of the workforce in pre-pandemic times, to ensure that workplace conditions do not expose such employees to the risk of infection.
All jurisdictions require adaptation and awareness at the workplace including mandatory bio-security measures such as hand sanitizer, social distancing and, in some countries, also wearing a face mask. At the time of writing, jurisdictions such as India and Singapore mandate all employees must download and utilize government-developed applications on their mobile devices. Employees must also be aware that in some jurisdictions, the standard employment contract implies that any refusal to attend the office may constitute grounds for summary dismissal – no matter the ongoing pandemic.
In our latest update, we cover the recent developments arising from the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The Tracker explores employers’ ability to oblige employees to obtain a vaccination before returning to the office. Based on the legal position as reported by local EY Law professionals, the majority of jurisdictions indicate that employers cannot mandate vaccination for their employees. In certain jurisdictions, there is no definitive right for employers to mandate vaccination but the law stipulates that they must consider a number of factors, including the industry or sector in which the employer operates and whether such a condition would be reasonable. A number of jurisdictions indicated that, for example, healthcare sector workers could reasonably expect to be obliged to obtain a vaccination. Only a few jurisdictions report that the employer may bear the burden of directly funding employee vaccinations; Its more likely that, in jurisdictions where government policy promotes mass vaccination, employers will be obliged to allow employees paid leave to attend public health centers to be vaccinated.
We have developed additional trackers on key topics to help you monitor the global situation. You can find them on our EY Tax home page . EY Tax professionals are updating the trackers regularly as the situation continues to develop.
Download our Return to office – Legal Requirements and Considerations tracker (pdf) to understand the regulations governing this area in more than 60 countries.