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03-03-2020

The Coronavirus in The Netherlands. What is expected of you as an employer?

The Corona-COVID 19 virus outbreaks are now worldwide; in the Netherlands, too, the first Corona cases are a fact. For you as an employer, it is important to carefully think what you are expected to do.

Dutch law expects employers to provide a safe working environment. This means that employers must inform and instruct their employees about working in a safe and healthy manner. For the most recent updates you should, therefore, always check the website of the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) (www.rivm.nl), the GGD or your company doctor.

According to the RIVM there is no need yet to take special measures at work. The RIVM states that the most important measures to take to prevent spreading the coronavirus are the same as for preventing the spreading of viruses that cause the flue or a cold. These are:

  • Wash your hands regularly;
  • Cough and sneeze into your elbow;
  • Use paper tissues;

We advise employers to make their employees aware of these guidelines and to ensure that disinfecting soap is available in the sanitary facilities in the workplace. If employees work in an environment where they run a risk of infection, employers must provide protective material for the employees. The RIVM recommends the use of mouth caps for medical personnel only.   

Other facts you should take into consideration as an employer:

  • Obviously, employees should not be sent to areas for which a negative travel advice applies. If safety risks exist, employers should consider if the business trip is really essential, or if there are alternatives. If the trip is indeed essential, please instruct employees properly about safety measures to be taken. For the latest updates, please go to  https://www.nederlandwereldwijd.nl/reizen/reisadviezen.
  • If employees are sick, at home or abroad, the normal rules regarding sickness apply. Based on the information of the RIVM this means:
    • If employees have no symptoms of sickness (despite having visited risk areas) there is no reason to keep those employees away from work.
    • As long as employers have complied with all obligations regarding safeguarding a safe working environment, employees are not allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to work from home. If they have concerns about the safety of their working environment, they should contact their employers or the GGD.
    • Employees’ refusal to come to work without their employer’s consent qualifies as unlawful refusal to work. Employers are then allowed to stop paying salary to the employees concerned. Employers are advised to warn employees of this consequence should they not show up at work without consent.
    • If employees show symptoms of sickness within 2 weeks after returning from a visit to risk areas, they should call their GP or the GGD. They should also inform their employers, who can then consult the GGD. Employers will then decide whether or not employees who have been to risk areas may come to work.
    • If employees must stay in quarantine at home, employers may ask them to work from home if possible, and if the employers have taken the measures required by the law on employment conditions regarding working from home.  
    • For employees who are absent from work due to the Coronavirus, the decision whether they are entitled to continued payment of salary must be taken on a case-by-case basis. In principle, employers must continue to pay salary, unless the reason for the absence from work should be for the account of the employee by the standards of reasonableness. An example is an employee who cannot return home from a holiday trip due to measures taken in connection with the Coronavirus. This is beyond the employee’s control, but also beyond that of the employer. However, in case of a business trip, the risk is likely to be the employer’s responsibility.  This may be different in case of an employee's holiday trip.  

In the meantime, the Dutch government has answered some frequently asked questions about the implications of the Coronavirus for employers and employees.  Please see: https://www.rijksoverheid.nl/onderwerpen/coronavirus-covid-19/veelgestelde-vragen-over-coronavirus-voor-werkgevers-en-werknemers (in Dutch only).

The above provides a general and non-exhaustive overview and is based on the information published by the RIVM. For the most recent updates, please always check the websites of the RIVM, the Dutch Government, the GGD or your company doctor.

If we can be of any help or if you have any questions in relation to the above, please contact Suzan van de Kam or one of our other employment law specialists.

Key contacts

Suzan van de Kam

Partner | Lawyer
Send me an e-mail
+31 70 318 4297

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