Leave Policies for Global Employers During the COVID-19 Pandemic

During the COVID-19 pandemic, global employers are working to provide employees with appropriate leave policies that give them the time off they need for illness or caregiving responsibilities.

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During the COVID-19 pandemic, global employers are working to provide employees with appropriate leave policies that give them the time off they need for illness or caregiving responsibilities. For companies that have employees in many different countries, though, it is not as simple as setting a global standard or just deciding what policies are appropriate for their workforce around the world. There are laws and regulations, many new and specific to COVID-19, that differ in each location, and each company is expected to comply with them. The global leave policy, if it exists, must also comply.

Although laws and regulations are subject to change and may be interpreted differently, having a summary of the legal aspects of paid leave related to COVID-19 in several key markets can be helpful. Member firms of the International Lawyers Network have provided such a list here. Summaries and relevant points from the document related to each country are described below.

This should not be considered legal advice. For full details, please see the International Lawyers Network’s document Paid Leave.

Americas

  • Employees are paid normally by their employers during the first 15 days of medical leave. After this period, they receive a medical benefit from the public Social Security system. If the employer provides a medical plan to the employee, this benefit must be maintained during the entire absence period.
  • If an employee is put under mandatory quarantine by the Brazilian Ministry of Health, all compensation and benefits normally provided by the employer remain in place during that time frame.
  • In Quebec, no employer is required to pay for more than 2 days of medical leave taken together. An employee, on the other hand, may be absent from work due to illness for a period of 26 weeks over a rolling period of 12 months, with his or her job protected to the same extent as any other employee continuing to work. This includes continuation of employer contributions to group insurance and pension plans.
  • Illnesses covered by Quebec’s Workers Compensation Legislation are exempted from this medical leave. There have been several COVID-19 infections among workers at long-term eldercare establishments and other industries, which may in time be covered by workers’ compensation. If this is the case, the employer will be obligated to continue payment of wages for 5 days, while a decision regarding workers’ compensation is being made.

The employer may either:

  • Provide employees with their pending vacation days or give them in advance. Employees must consent to this, and the days must be recorded. Employees will receive their full pay during this time; and/or;
  • Provide 15 working days to all employees, even if they do not have enough days to use. During these holidays, the employees receive their full pay.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (“FFCRA”) applies to employers with fewer than 500 employees and provides two key leave provisions: The Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act, or EPSLA, and the Public Health Emergency Leave, or PHEL, under amendments to the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Employees may take EPSLA leave for six reasons, and are eligible only if they are unable to work or telework:
  • 1 | The employee is subject to a federal, state or local quarantine or isolation order related to COVID-19;
  • 2 | The employee has been advised by a health care provider to self-quarantine due to COVID-19-related concerns;
  • 3 | The employee has symptoms of coronavirus and is seeking a medical diagnosis;
  • 4 | The employee is caring for an individual (need not be a family member) who is subject to a quarantine order or has been advised to self-quarantine;
  • 5 | The employee is caring for a son or daughter under the age of 18 whose school or place of care has closed or is unavailable due to the coronavirus; or
  • 6 | The employee is experiencing any other "substantially similar condition" specified by the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in consultation with the secretaries of the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor.
  • Full-time employees eligible for 2 weeks of paid leave under the EPSLA must be paid for up to 80 hours of work. Those working a variable schedule for the number of hours worked during their average work schedule across a 2-week period must be paid up to a maximum of $511 per day for care for themselves (reasons 1-3, above) or $211 per day for care for another person (reasons 4 through 5, above) or for reasons to be determined by future regulations (reason 6, above).
  • The first 2 weeks of EPHL leave are unpaid, and employees may use EPSLA leave to receive compensation during this time. If the employee remains eligible for the additional 10 weeks of PHEL, the employer must pay two-thirds of an employee’s wages, up to a maximum of $200 per day.

Asia Pacific

  • If an employee is diagnosed with or suspected of having a COVID-19 infection, or has been quarantined by the government, that individual is entitled to full paid leave.
  • When medical observation or quarantine ends, or when the relevant emergency control measures have ended, if the diagnosed patient needs further medical treatment and/or recuperation, sick leave will apply.
  • Employees who are unable to resume working due to transportation disruptions or other reasons must use paid annual leave first. When that is exhausted, the employer and employee may negotiate on further leave.
  • The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) released an order on 29th March 2020 (“MHA Order”) that stated that employers in all industries would continue to pay employees’ wages without deductions while establishments were closed and under lockdown due to the pandemic.
  • The Ministry of Labour and Employment advised on 20th March 2020 that all employers of public/private establishments were not to terminate their employees and not to deduct wages of employees/workers during the lockdown period.
  • In addition to the MHA Order and Labour Advisory, many states, including but not limited to Delhi, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, have issued their own orders stating that employers of private and public establishments should consider employees to be on paid leave during the lockdown period and compensate them fully. If employees take quarantine leave during this period, employers are not to reduce or deduct their wages.
  • Employees have the right to leave with pay under the Labour Protection Act b.e.2541, including for sick leave. The employer may also offer other paid leave (such as for preventing the spread of an infectious disease such as COVID-19), but it is not required.

EMEA

  • The government introduced a form of short-time work related to COVID-19. Employees work 10%-90% of their regular working hours and receive 80%-90% of their previous net salary, subsidized by the state.
  • Employees who work 5 days/week are entitled to 25 days of paid leave per year. Those who work 6 days/week are entitled to 30 days of paid leave. The employer and the employee must agree on the time taken.
  • In case of illness, the employee has a right to sick leave. The employer pays for a certain period, based on how long the employee has worked for the company, then the sickness insurance fund pays. Employers may ask for a sick leave confirmation from a doctor, which may be done by telephone during the current pandemic.
  • If an employee is officially quarantined by the authorities, the employer must continue to pay them under the Epidemics Act. However, the employer can file a claim with the federal government for reimbursement of these costs.
  • The Labour Code as usual applies during the COVID-19 pandemic. Any employee’s request for paid leave must be approved by the employer. If an agreement on paid leave is not reached for whatever reason, the parties can agree on remote working or taking unpaid leave.
  • An employer is not obligated to excuse an employee’s absence at work, except if an employee is caring for a child younger that 13 years old or a disabled person living in the household who is home because the school or care center has closed.
  • If an employee is caring for a child older than 13 years old, they may make an agreement with the employer to work remotely or take leave, but the employer is not obligated to excuse the absence.
  • If any employee is not able to arrive at work due to public transport disruptions, they may take unpaid leave.
  • Employees who are quarantined or unable to work based on a medical statement are entitled to 60% of average reduced earnings for the first 14 days. After that, the employee is reimbursed through sickness insurance.
  • The entitlement to pay during a period of leave depends to some extent upon the rights set out in the employment contract, as well as on the reason for the employee being unable to attend work.
  • If the employer is a non-essential business following government guidance to shut down operations and employees are unable to work from home, they may receive their contractual pay and benefits during such periods, provided they remain fit and able to return to work.
    • An employer may have the option to impose a period of layoff or short-time provided this caveat is included in the employment contract. Otherwise, the employer and employer must agree to a variation of the contract that allows for furlough, salary reductions, reduced working hour or mandatory holiday.
    • If the employee is unable to attend work because they have symptoms and/or are required to self-isolate, they are eligible for statutory sick pay. They also may be entitled to receive contractual sick pay if covered in their employment contract.
    • An employee who is unwilling to work to avoid exposure to COVID-19 will not be entitled to statutory sick pay or generally be able to claim a salary during their period of leave. However, it is important to carefully examine the reason for an employee’s refusal to attend. Employers have legal obligations to provide a safe working environment and should consider if it can make reasonable adjustments to the employee’s working arrangements.
    • If an employee is unable to work as a result of caring responsibilities, they should continue to be paid in full if they are able to work from home. If not, they may be furloughed if they do not undertake any work for at least 3 weeks or if the employee’s requirement to take leave is a short-term emergency until alternative cover can be arranged (i.e., 1 or 2 days). Under those circumstances, the employee would be entitled to take unpaid leave
  • Employees retain their existing employment rights, including to paid holiday.
  • Many companies had to cease or drastically reduce their activity due to COVID-19. Many are using the partial activity system, which allows them to stop totally or partially stop work, and the cost of salary is reimbursed by the French State.
  • Employees may also use medical leave or paid holidays, which they earn at a rate of 2.5 hours per month.
  • Executives for whom working time is computed in days instead of hours benefit from additional days off (so called “RTT”) depending on their company and applicable collective bargaining agreement.
  • The employer may mandate that employees take paid leave within the limit of 6 days, under the condition that it is provided in a company or branch agreement. A company or branch collective agreement is necessary.
  • The employer may mandate that employees take rest days or working time savings account days (RTT or CET collectively) of up to 10 days without a company or branch collective agreement.
  • Employees have guaranteed salary continuation during the first 6 weeks of sick leave.
  • After 3 days of sickness, employees must visit a doctor to receive a certificate of incapacity for work. If the illness is related to COVID-19, doctors are entitled to issue this certificate by phone. The certificate is valid for up to 14 days if a patient describes mild complaints in the upper respiratory tract.
  • If employees are quarantined by health authorities due to probable or confirmed COVID-19 infection, they are entitled for salary continuation for up to 6 weeks. If the restriction lasts longer, employees receive reduced payments equal to sick leave payments from the public health insurance.
  • All employees are entitled to annual paid leave, with the exact periods mutually agreed upon with the employer. During this time, the employee is entitled to receive their usual salary and an additional leave allowance. This applies to the pandemic as well.
  • If employees are ill, they may be absent from work without penalty. This time off is not deducted from annual paid leave. For an illness up to 3 days, the employer pays the employee half of the daily wage unless there was an agreement otherwise that favors the employee. After 3 days, the employee is paid by the Social Security Institution (EFKA), with the difference between the wage and the sickness benefit paid by the employer.
  • If an employee is asked to stay home due to COVID-19- related symptoms in themselves or a household member, they should be entitled to their salary during the reasonable time of incubation (14 days).
  • If an employee self-isolates due to his/her fear related to the virus, he/she is not entitled to salary. The absence can be considered unjustified and consequently as resignation. This does not apply to employees in high-risk groups.
  • All employees who have children in compulsory education, are disabled and/or hospitalized in special care institutions may ask for a special purpose leave of at least 3 days. Every 3 such days, the employee must take 1 more day of his/her annual leave. In case both parents are employed, only one of them will benefit from this right. Two-thirds of the salary is covered by the employer and one-third by the state.
  • According to the Labour Code, employees are entitled to at least 20 working days as paid leave. Extra vacation time between1 and10 days applies, depending on the age of the employee. Additional days must be granted in certain cases (i.e., employees with disabilities). Employees with children under the age of 16 receive an extra 2, 4 or 7 days depending on the number of children.
  • If employees are asked not to come to work because the employer stops operations, they are entitled to their salary and must be ready to take on work when asked. However, if the employer is unable to continue operations due to a governmental regulation or decision related to the pandemic, the employee is not necessarily entitled to a salary payment.
  • The Dutch government has created a temporary emergency measure that encourages employers not to dismiss their workers and grants wage subsidy to them for the payment of salaries. The subsidy amount depends on how many employees stay on. In the most favorable scenario (there is a turnover decrease of 100%), the employer receives 90% of all wage costs, which means that 10% must be paid by the employer himself.
  • If the employer dismisses any employees for financial reasons during the pandemic after receiving the wave subsidy, the employer must repay it with a 50% penalty.
  • The right to annual paid leave is guaranteed under the Romanian Labour Code to all employees with individual labour agreements and it cannot be subject to any waiver, assignment, or limitation. This remains true under the pandemic situation.
  • Parents, legal guardians and representatives of children up to 12 years of age or up to 18 years of age with a disability whose school facilities are closed may take leave for the entire duration of the school closing and receive 75% of their salary upon meeting certain conditions (i.e., individual working schedules, shift work, work from home and teleworking are not feasible, etc.). This is paid by the employer but incurred from a state-owned salaries’ guarantee fund.
  • Employees were provided with non-working paid leave days until May.
  • Annual paid leave continues as is typically provided (generally 28 calendar days per year). If during the COVID-19 pandemic employees do not want to use the paid leave that has already been scheduled, they can ask the employer to change the leave dates; that decision is up to the employer. Unused annual leave rolls over to the next year; however, employers cannot fail to provide annual paid leave for two consecutive years.
  • Anyone who has arrived from another country and their household member, should be quarantined. If these persons cannot perform their job duties remotely, they can take sick leave for 14 days.
  • Persons ages 65 years and older who must self-isolate and cannot perform their job duties remotely can receive temporary sick pay based on a disability certificate.
  • During the first 14 days of absence due to illness, an employee is entitled to receive sick pay from their employer at 80% of their salary. During the COVID-19 pandemic (through July), the government has enacted temporary legislation so that employers are fully compensated for providing sick pay during these first 2 weeks.
  • After day 15, the obligation to compensate the employee is taken over by the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. The employee is entitled to 80% of their salary; however, there is a cap of SEK 804 per day.
  • Employees who have probable or confirmed COVID-19 but do not have a diminished working capacity may receive a disease carrier benefit if they provide a doctor’s certificate that proves they are infected with a disease that is considered a public health hazard. The disease carrier benefit is 80% pay with a cap at SEK 804 per day.

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