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Frequently asked questions about coronavirus

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The situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak is very exceptional and it should be taken seriously by everyone in order to preserve the safety and health of all of us. Nevertheless, employers do not have any special powers that they do not possess under normal circumstances. The best possible result can be achieved by working together. Everyone must follow the instructions issued by authorities and employers must ensure that their workplace instructions are updated accordingly.

We have created a list of questions asked by the members of YTN and its affiliates. If you have any additional questions regarding the situation, please contact the employment relationship counselling services of your union.

What changes to the labour law has the coronavirus brought?
Has the procedure for temporary layoffs been sped up?
What is the procedure for temporary layoffs in companies with fewer than 20 employees?
What if there is no shop steward or any other personnel representative at the working place?
Can my employer make me work from home?
Is it possible to start working from home on my own initiative due to the risk of infection?
What happens if I am quarantined?
You are allowed to stay home to look after your child if the child’s condition requires your presence.
What are the possible effects of my absence on my annual holiday?
The company is struggling financially due to the current situation, what are the possible scenarios?
How can I guarantee my income if I contract coronavirus?
Can my employer tell me to carry my work equipment on my free time?
Should I travel for business?
I am about to return or I have recently returned from a business trip abroad
I have returned from a trip abroad and my employer is telling me to stay home, am I entitled to my regular salary?

Questions answered by shop stewards
My employer wants to lay off people due to the situation caused by the virus
Does the situation caused by coronavirus count as adequate grounds for applying the crisis clause of the collective agreement?
I am unsure how to act on my employer’s suggestions in these circumstances

 

Can my employer make me work from home?

As a general rule, no, but in these exceptional circumstances, it is advisable to try to agree on a solution. The employer must provide you with a location where you can work if, for one reason or another, you are unable to work from home. Of course, not all tasks can even be performed remotely.

Is it possible to start working from home on my own initiative due to the risk of infection?

Arrangements concerning working from home depend on the guidelines provided by your employer. You are not allowed to work from home simply because you have decided to do so. YTN recommends working from home whenever it is possible.

What happens if I am quarantined?

If you are placed in quarantine by an authority, you will be entitled to your full salary or a daily allowance paid by Kela, which will cover your lost earnings in full. Everyone placed in quarantine will be given a written decision on their case. The content of the decision determines whether you are entitled to your salary or a daily allowance. Guardians of children under 16 are also entitled to a daily allowance if they are unable to work due to their child being placed in quarantine.

If the employer will pay a salary and the employee is healthy, it is possible to make work arrangements. In such cases, employers must provide employees with appropriate work equipment. If the employer will pay a salary, they must be available for the duration of the quarantine. If no salary is paid, the process is the same as in the case of other unpaid absences.

For the daily allowance application, Kela will require:

·        the employer’s statement regarding the loss of income for the payment of daily allowance

·        a statement regarding the absence, isolation or quarantine of an employee/civil servant/public official issued by the chief physician in charge of infectious diseases of a municipality or hospital district.

You are allowed to stay home to look after your child if the child’s condition requires your presence.

However, employers are not obligated to pay salary for any absences due to compelling family reasons.  If you are able to work from home while looking after your children, it is advisable to make appropriate arrangements with your employer. In other cases, it is recommended to make arrangements for applying the hours accumulated in the working hours bank.

A possible interpretation of the Employment Contracts Act enables viewing the situation as a situation in which the employee is unable to work due to a reason outside the control of the company or employee. In such cases, the company is obligated to pay salary for the duration of 14 days. There is no judicial practice regarding this arrangement. The primary course of action is to make arrangements with your employer.

What are the possible effects of my absence on my annual holiday?

According to the Annual Holidays Act (chapter 2, section 7, paragraph 4), the days during which an employee is absent due to an order issued by the authorities aimed at preventing a disease from spreading are considered to be equivalent of days at work.
Consequently, the days during which the employee is unable to work, as well as the days during which the employee is isolated in order to prevent the disease from spreading if a family member has contracted an infectious disease, are considered to be equivalent of days at work.

As the situation develops on an ongoing basis, it is advisable to follow the statements released by authorities: THL’s latest updates

The company is struggling financially due to the current situation, what are the possible scenarios?

If an employee is unable to work due to a reason the employer has control over, such as material supply disruptions, the employee is entitled to their full salary for the duration of the disruption, provided that the employee is available to the employer and ready to work if required.

The employer may also consider laying their employees off temporarily if the employer is temporarily unable to offer work. The lay-off notice must be provided at least 14 days before the beginning of the lay-off period. Certain collective agreements (the technology industry agreement, for example) include a clause that specifies a longer notice period than the statutory 14 days. Associations are currently negotiating the possibility of making exceptions to these arrangements during the ongoing crisis.

If a workplace is included in the scope of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings (a minimum of 20 employees), co-operation negotiations must be held before a lay-off notice can be given.

Employees who have been given a lay-off notice should register as jobseekers at the Employment and Economic Development Office on the first day of unemployment at the latest. Earnings-related daily allowance can be applied for in the eService of the Unemployment Fund for Highly Educated for two weeks from the beginning of the lay-off period. If the lay-off period is shorter than two weeks, the daily allowance can only be applied for after the last day of the lay-off. More information is available on the Unemployment Fund for Highly Educated website.

How can I guarantee my income if I contract coronavirus?

Employees, civil servants and public officials who have contracted coronavirus are entitled to sick pay for the duration of their incapacity for work as in any other case of illness. The obligation to pay sick pay is defined in legislation and the collective agreement of the industry.
If an employee has contracted coronavirus and a chief physician in charge of infectious diseases of a municipality or a hospital district has ordered them to stay home for isolation, the employee must inform their employer immediately.

Can my employer tell me to carry my work equipment on my free time?

As a general rule, no, but if this is the employer’s recommendation, you should consider very carefully if this actually causes any inconveniencies. If you cannot return to your workplace due to the situation caused by coronavirus, you may benefit from having access to your work equipment in your current location.

Should I travel for business?

All modes of travel should currently be avoided. The Government has issued a recommendation according to which travelling should be limited to absolutely necessary work-related travel. If your employer says that you should travel for work, you should review all matters concerning the trip together, including the necessity of the trip, any risks related to the trip and how to act in any exceptional circumstances occurring during the trip.

I am about to return or I have recently returned from a business trip abroad

According to the recommendation issued by the Government, you should not visit your workplace for two weeks. You should work from home if such an arrangement is possible. If your job cannot be performed remotely, you should make arrangements concerning your absence and the possibility to complete corresponding working hours at a later date.

I have returned from a trip abroad and my employer is telling me to stay home, am I entitled to my regular salary?

If your employer says that you should stay home after a trip, the employer is obligated to pay you a full salary. Depending on your job description, you may be obligated to work from home. It is advisable to make separate work arrangements in times of crisis.

If you decide to stay home on the basis of a recommendation issued by an authority without the request of your employer, the employer is not obligated to pay you salary. In such cases, it is recommended to make arrangements about applying the hours accumulated in the working hours bank.

Questions answered by shop stewards

Shop stewards may also be contacted in matters concerning coronavirus and their duties. A few examples of possible questions are listed below:

My employer wants to lay off people due to the situation caused by the virus

The situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak can be a valid argument for cutting the costs of a company on a temporary basis. In such cases, it is recommended to hold co-operation negotiations in order to determine alternative ways to avoid and transfer costs, for example, by exchanging holiday bonuses for leaves or scheduling these leaves in the spring.

Applying exceptional annual holiday periods should be discussed, as well as everyone’s personal willingness to go on a voluntary unpaid leave. Shop stewards should aim to help companies overcome this exceptional situation without any terminations of contracts. Excessive measures should not be agreed to even in these circumstances, however.

Has the procedure for temporary layoffs been sped up?

Yes, in all Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff (YTN) sectors that have a valid collective labour agreement, the period of notice for layoffs is temporarily shortened to five days. In addition, the minimum duration of cooperation negotiations regarding temporary layoffs will also be shortened to five days. These changes to the collective labour agreements also apply to companies that do not belong to a union.

All Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff (YTN) parties have agreed with the relevant employer associations on the implementation of temporary changes to collective labour agreements concerning the negotiation periods and periods of notice of temporary layoffs. As for the members of Service Sector Employers Palta, in the sectors where several parties are involved in the collective labour agreements, the entry into force of the changes requires the acceptance of all parties. It is still possible to determine a different period of notice for temporary layoffs with a local agreement. Further information

The changes are temporary and they will be valid until 31 December 2020 or no longer than the validity of the labour legislation changes implemented due to the financial crisis caused by the coronavirus.

This means that the changes are bound to the proposal made by the central organisations to the Government on 18 March, which proposes changes to the unemployment security legislation, such as the abolition of the qualifying period for unemployment benefits. If the proposal is not adopted by the Parliament by mid-April, the aforementioned changes will no longer be valid.

What changes to the labour law has the coronavirus brought?

In addition to the aforementioned expedited temporary layoff procedure agreed to in collective labour agreements, the following changes came into force on 1 April, and they will be valid until 30 June 2020. The employer has a right to lay off employees with a temporary employment relationship under the same conditions as they would lay off employees who have a permanent employment contract. The regulation regarding the probationary period has been changed in such a way that the employment contract can be terminated also on economic or production-related grounds during the probationary period. Moreover, the obligation to take back an employee who has been temporarily laid off will be extended to 9 months (normally 4–6 months depending on the duration of the employment relationship).

What is the procedure for temporary layoffs in companies with fewer than 20 employees?

Even in a company with fewer than 20 employees, it is not possible to temporarily lay off personnel without negotiations of some kind.

If the regular number of people in an employment relationship in the company is fewer than 20, the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings does not apply to the company. In this case, instead of the Act on Co-operation within Undertakings, the temporary layoffs in the company are conducted according to the Employment Contracts Act (chapter 5, section 3) or the collective labour agreement observed by the company. If you work in a company with fewer than 20 employees and a collective labour agreement is observed, check the content of the collective labour agreement.

According to the Employment Contracts Act, the employer should present the employee or their representative with an advance explanation of the temporary layoff. After presentation of the explanation, the employer must give employees an opportunity to be heard.

After the opportunity to be heard, the employer must give a layoff notice. In a normal situation the layoff notice should be given a minimum of 14 days before the temporary layoff begins. However, The Federation of Professional and Managerial Staff (YTN) sectors have temporarily agreed on a shortened period of notice for temporary layoffs. The layoff notice must be given a minimum of 5 days before the temporary layoff begins.

If the notice cannot be delivered in person, it can be delivered by letter or by electronic means, observing the same period of notice. The notice has to include the grounds for the layoff, the date of commencement and the duration or estimated duration of the temporary layoff.

What if there is no shop steward or any other personnel representative at the working place?

In the absence of personnel representatives, it is particularly important to select them now, in order to ensure dialogue between the personnel and the employer. Pleasee see the instructions (in Finnish).

Does the situation caused by coronavirus count as adequate grounds for applying the crisis clause of the collective agreement?

The situation may well provide adequate grounds for applying the crisis clause and initiating collective agreement adjustment negotiations. In such circumstances, agreements on possible measures may be achieved more quickly than through co-operation negotiations. This alternative should be presented to the employer if they are considering the possibility of initiating co-operation negotiations.

I am unsure how to act on my employer’s suggestions in these circumstances

Please contact the employment relationship counselling of your YTN affiliate union. Let’s overcome this situation together!

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