COVID-19 Greece: New measures for the safeguard of the labor market March 2020
The legislative act dated 20.03.2020 has been issued and contains new measures to safeguard the labor market from the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.
The new measures for the support of companies and employees are as follows:
• Operation of businesses with safe operation staff
In the context of emergency and temporary measures in the labor market to combat and limit the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, and for a period not exceeding six (6) months from 20.03.2020, the employer may unilaterally, appoint personnel for the secure operation of the business as follows:
a) Each employee may be employed for a minimum period of two (2) weeks with a reference period of one month on a continuous or intermittent basis,
b) The above way of organizing the work is organized on a weekly basis and includes at least 50% of the business staff,
c) An employer who applies this way of organizing the work should maintain the same number of employees employed at the start of implementation of the measure. The time frame of the obligation to maintain the same number of employees is not clarified. Based on the purpose of the provision, it derives that for the period during which the employee does not work, the employer shall not pay any wages or social security contributions. A following decision of the Greek Minister of Labor and Social Affairs shall regulate every detail necessary for the implementation of the measure.
At the end of each month the employer is obliged to declare the application of the above procedure in a special form in the "ERGANI" Information System of the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. Any necessary details for the implementation of the measure will be regulated by a decision of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.
• Transfer of personnel to businesses within the same group
In the context of emergency and interim measures in the labor market for dealing with and limiting the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, the employer whose business is severely affected or is under ban of operation, may transfer staff from a group business to a business of the same group, following a respective agreement. The group companies that will implement said measure are obliged to maintain, overall, the same number of workers employed prior the transfer. By virtue of a joint decision of the Ministers of Finance and Labor and Social Affairs further details will be regulated.
• Non valid termination of employment
Employers who suspend their business on the basis of a public order and for as long as the COVID-19 coronation measures are in force, are obliged not to terminate the employment contracts of their staff. In case they proceed so, the respective termination of employment is considered as null and void. The date of entry into force of the measure is the 18th of March 2020.
• Suspension of employment contracts and financial support for employees
Private-sector employers who are significantly affected (the list of is determined by a decision of the Minister of Finance), due to the negative effects of the COVID 19 phenomenon, may suspend the employment contracts of part or all of their staff in order to adapt their functional needs to the current unfavorable environment. The suspension of the employment contracts may be applied for up to one (1) month from 20.03.2020, with the possibility of extension following a joint decision of the Ministers of Finance and Labor and Social Affairs, taking into account the development of the crisis.
Private-sector employers making use of said measure are expressly prohibited from terminating the employment contracts of their entire personnel. They are also required, after the expiry of the measure, to maintain the same number of headcount for a period equal to that of the suspension.
Employees whose employment contract is suspended, either because of the prohibition on the operation of a publicly-owned company or because of the application of the abovementioned measure, are entitled to exceptional financial assistance as a special purpose allowance. Employees whose employment contract has been terminated from 1 March 2020 to 20 March 2020 by either termination by the employer or by voluntary retirement are also eligible.
Special purpose allowance is tax-free and may not be offset by any debt.
Analytical Periodical Declarations of employees whose employment contracts are suspended shall be submitted by the employer. The expense of full social security coverage is calculated on their nominal wages.
The expenditure of the special purpose allowance and employee social security coverage shall be covered by the Greek State.
In order the employees to receive from the Greek State the special purpose allowance, the employer is obliged to submit a statement to the "ERGANI", declaring the employees whose contracts are suspended. Private-sector employers are required to include in their statement. Also the employees whose employment contract has been terminated, from 1st of March 2020 to 20th March 2020, either due to termination or due to resignation.
In the event that employers do not submit the above mentioned statement of the foregoing cases, they shall be excluded from being subject to installment suspension measures or partial payment arrangements or facilities for any kind of certified debts towards the Greek State.
Employers are required to notify the above statement, in writing or electronically, to the employee on the same day, stating the "ERGANI" registration number.
Following the above process, the employees, in order to receive the special purpose compensation, should submit a respective statement on a dedicated electronic platform that shall operate for said purpose.
Any detail necessary for the implementation of the measures shall be clarified by a joint decision of the Ministers of Finance, Labor and Social Affairs.
• Forced employment in the event of strike
Until 30.04.2020 the validity of the article 1 par2 of the Law 4325/2015 which provides that “In no case shall political conscription or any other form of personal service be imposed as a response to a strike or similar mobilizations of self-employed persons before or after their proclamation.”
• Food retail shops operating hours
As long as there is an immediate risk of spreading the COVID-19 coronavirus, the absence of which is confirmed by a decision of the Minister of Health, and in case for a period not exceeding six (6) months from 20.03.2020, by decision of the Minister of Development and Investment, the national opening hours of food retailers may be extended by one (1) hour on Monday to Friday and by two (2) hours on Saturday. The Minister of Development and Investment may provide for the obligation to operate retail food stores or categories of these on Sundays, either for the whole of the Territory or for part of it.
• Exemption of employees from the payment of the 40% of the monthly main house rent
Employees of companies subject to specific and extraordinary measures suspending or temporarily prohibiting their operation for preventive or repressive reasons related to the COVID-19 coronavirus, whose employment relationship has been suspended, shall be exempt from the obligation to pay 40% of their main house rent for the months of March and April 2020.
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