Coronavirus – are Employers Part of the Risk Group?
In an online article for the Tiroler Bezirksblätter, our lawyer Dr. Herwig Frei explains which measures employers must take to protect their employees from contracting Covid-19 infections. A short version of the article also appeared in the print edition of the Tiroler Bezirksblätter.
Employers are sitting on pins and needles. Increased protection of employees against infections is the order of the day!
As the economy gradually starts to power up, more and more employees in the various sectors are returning to work. However the Corona pandemic is far from over, and employers need to continue to comply with their legal duty of care to protect the life and health of their employees. The risk of Covid-19 infections at the workplace must be minimized as far as possible by organizational safety precaution measures within reasonable limits.
There is a wide range of conceivable protective measures. Adequate hygiene for staff members (disinfectant, soap), more frequent cleaning/disinfecting of the workplace and equipment, increased regular airing as well as clear and documented instructions for observing the rules of hygiene, distancing and handling of objects should be part of the standard protection repertoire in corona times. The relevant recommendations (Ministry of Health, AGES, AUVA etc.) are good guidelines in this respect.
Depending on the field of business, size and local conditions, type of workplace (with or without customers, etc.) and other company-specifics, further protective measures may also be necessary. A few examples are plexiglas protective walls in open-plan offices, the creation or marking of distances, focus on audio and video conferences instead of personal meetings, working hours by schedule, regulations for behaviour during breaks (for use of coffee machines, lounges, canteens), personal protective equipment (mouth and nose protection, gloves, protective suits) and corona tests.
All these protective measures and organizational adjustments must be preceded by a careful risk assessment. It is useful to involve experts and confidants in the company, such as occupational physicians, safety specialists and the works council as well as managerial employees. Compliance with the various protective measures should of course also be monitored by superiors. Employees with a medical Covid-19 risk assessment certificate must take utmost care with regard to protective measures, if they are even working in the company at all and are not in home office.
If the employer acts negligently and does not sufficiently fulfil protective duties, the employee has the right to refuse to work. In the worst case, the employee could even declare premature resignation while maintaining all salary claims etc.
Employers are therefore advised not to take the coronavirus lightly, despite being relieved that the situation has now improved. Your lawyer will be happy to provide you with legal protection!back