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What an employee should know about how the corona virus outbreak affects work

19.03.2020 | News, SAVALnews


Please note that general policies might change on a daily basis. The following guidelines are based on our most up to date information

Working from home, insurance, layoffs and other issues raised due to the coronavirus
As a rule, either salary or sickness allowance is paid during an illness and an infectious disease allowance paid during a quarantine. Should an employee get infected with the coronavirus, the normal pay obligations during an illness will apply.

A quarantine is not a basis for terminating employment, and the employee’s absence because of quarantine is justified due to so-called force majeure.

Should an employee’s child (see below for children under the age of 16), other family member or close loved one become infected, he or she has the right to have an unpaid absence on the grounds of a family emergency, and, for example, for seeing to the special treatment of that person. The employer must try and arrange work so that the employee can temporarily be away from his or her job, and both parties shall agree upon the amount of time off and other arrangements.  

Salary or infectious disease allowance
If the employee winds up being quarantined, as ordered by the authorities under the Communicable Diseases Act (Tartuntatautilaki), due to the coronavirus pandemic, he or she shall be safeguarded in case of a loss of income. If the employee ends up being away from work because of a quarantine, he or she will be paid an infectious disease allowance during that period, which will be determined according to the salary, based on what the employer reports.

In order to fully be compensated for a loss of income, Kela can pay the infectious disease allowance without a waiting period or any maximum period. A municipal physician specialised in infectious diseases must issue you a decision on being absent from work. The infectious disease allowance the employee gets from Kela will not use up the maximum amount of sickness allowance entitlement nor will any waiting period be applied. If the employer pays a salary for this period, he or she has the right to get an allowance from Kela.
If a child under 16 years of age has been ordered to be under home quarantine, his or her guardian may get the infectious disease allowance. A physician specialised in infectious diseases in the municipality or health care district must order the quarantine, whereupon Kela will compensate the loss of salary.

According to our current best knowledge:

  • If a school or daycare closes down without putting the children into quarantine, no infectious disease allowance will be paid.
  • If the teachers, for example, or even some of the students at a school are put into quarantine and then the whole school closes down, those who were put into quarantine will be entitled to infectious disease allowance.
  • An employer is not liable in these circumstances to pay an employee any salary unless the employee is able to work from home. Of course, it is possible to try to agree on using annual holiday days, flex time hours etc. The employee however is permissibly entitled to be absent from work without having to terminate the employment contract if there are small children concerned who cannot be left home alone.

Layoffs due to the corona pandemic
Layoffs may be another consequence of the coronavirus, for many reasons – for example due to a drop in order intake or travel restrictions.

According to law, the employer must give notice 14 days prior to the effective date of a layoff. Businesses with a staff of least 20 employees require the start of layoff talks (YT-procedure). The collective agreements or your personal contract might diverge from this practice, so you should review your situation with your shop steward or YTY. For example, a collective agreement for senior workers in technology shows 14 days for layoff notification, as long as the employee has worked there for up to one year. If the employee has worked there for more than a year, the layoff period is one month. Under an extreme emergency, the layoff talks may altogether be dismissed, and the decision on it may immediately be made. 

A member of the unemployment fund is entitled to earnings-related unemployment allowance during a layoff, as long as the requirements for paying it have been met. If you agree to a layoff voluntarily, you will relinquish your rights to unemployment benefits. This usually applies if the employee accepts to make a layoff-package agreement with the employer.

If you are laid off, register online as an unemployed jobseeker right away on the effective date HERE. Apply for earnings-related unemployment allowance through the KOKO eService within two weeks of the start of the layoff. If your layoff is for a short time, apply for the allowance at the earliest after its end date.

You can find further information on getting an allowance during a layoff on the KOKO website at THE KOKO UNEMPLOYMENT FUND WEBSITE.
Due to exceptional circumstances there may be changes that will entitle the employer to more extensive rights than in normal circumstances. You should always check the validity of these changes before agreeing to the employer’s decision.

Working from home is recommended
Everyone who has the possibility is most likely already working from home. However, you should take note of the following concerning insurance. Workplace insurance does not necessarily cover accidents that may happen at home. Workers' compensation is statutory insurance, and reimbursement is determined by law. In terms of remote working, workers’ compensation only covers damages occurred while carrying out your duties. If a laptop falls on your foot and a toe gets broken, this insurance will cover the accident. However, slipping and falling in the bathroom will not be covered. The reason for this is that the employer has no control over the safety and working conditions at home. As a YTY member, however, you are entitled to off-work accident insurance.
YTY members also have IF travel insurance. You can read the IF WEBPAGE concerning the coronavirus and travel insurance.

Annual holidays
Annual holiday days shall be accrued during a quarantine under the Annual Holidays Act (Vuosilomalaki).

A quarantine does not allow you to rearrange your plans while taking your annual holiday. A quarantine is not an illness. There are grounds to postpone your holiday, if you become infected with the coronavirus. The employee and employer can always, of course, agree on possibly rearranging holiday days if the employee would, for example, work from home while under quarantine.

A person ordered to go into quarantine will not get his or her salary or earnings suspended, as he or she will be paid the infectious disease allowance from Kela. The allowance will be equal to his or her salary amount and there will be no waiting period. The employer can pay the salary and apply for compensation from Kela.

Please contact us for consultation in employment issues Mon-Fri 08.30-13.00 tel. (09) 2510 1350,

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