The rapid spread of Covid-19 throughout Europe has led to the unprecedented situation of much of the continent shutting down businesses or business premises, with some countries such as Italy going into full lockdown. There has been a wave of emergency legislation produced in a number of EU member states to address these measures. Below is an overview of some examples of jurisdictions that have enacted such emergency provisions.
The DPCM 22 March 2020, in force from 23 March to 3 April 2020, stops all industrial and commercial activities, not considered essential, with the exception of those listed in Annex 1 of the same decree, which may continue to operate with smart work. The activities that continue to operate include, for example, pharmacies, food shops and post offices. The measures necessary for the suspension of the above industrial and commercial activities must be carried out by 25 March 2020. The decree extends, until 3 April 2020, the provisions of the DPCM 11 March 2020, which has suspended all restaurant and personal services activities since 12 March 2020.
The Regions are adopting measures applicable at local level, which transpose in a more restrictive way the national decrees, for example the Decree of the President of the Emilia-Romagna Regional Council n. 45 of 21 March 2020 (in force from 22 March to 3 April 2020), the Order of the President of the Veneto Regional Council n. 33 of 20 March 2020 (in force to 3 April 2020), the Lombardy Region Ordinance n. 514 of 21 March 2020 (in force from 22 March to 15 April 2020), the President Decree of the Piedmont Regional Council n. 34 of 21 March 2020 (in force from 21 March to 3 April 2020) and the Campania Region Ordinance n. 19 of 20/3/2020 (in force to 3 April 2020), that provide limitations on further activities.
On March 13th, 2020, the Government of the Republic declared a state of emergency under the chapter 4 of Emergency Act in connection with the pandemic spread of COVID-19-causing coronavirus. The Prime Minister has been appointed to be the person in charge of emergency situation and the emergency situation will last until May 1, 2020, unless the Government decides otherwise. Emergency legislation can be found on “Riigiteataja” https://www.riigiteataja.ee/viitedLeht.html?id=7
In Belgium, the Ministerial Decree on urgent measures to limit the spread of the coronavirus COVID – 19 has been in force since 18th March 2020.
Important in this respect are (in addition to the other articles) article 2: Teleworking is compulsory for all non-essential companies, whatever their size, for all staff whose position lends itself to it. For those functions where teleworking cannot be used, companies must take the necessary measures to ensure compliance with the rules of social distancing, in particular maintaining a distance of 1.5 metres between each person. This rule also applies to transport organised by the employer.
Non-essential companies that are unable to comply with the above measures must close down. Article 3: The provisions of Article 2 do not apply to companies in the critical sectors and essential services listed in the Annex to the Decision. However, these companies and services are obliged to apply, as far as is possible, the system of teleworking and the rules of social distancing.
Further information can be obtained via the website https://www.info-coronavirus.be/nl/news/.
In Luxembourg, the Grand-Ducal Regulation of 18 March 2020 introducing a series of measures in the fight against Covid-19 has been in force since 18th March 2020. The decree imposes restrictions on the movement of persons. However, relocation to work remains permitted (Article 1). Article 2 sets out the measures concerning establishments open to the public. Article 3 relates to the commercial and craft activities which are open to the public and lists those which must be closed and those that may remain open. Construction sites must also be closed (Article 4). The essential sectors are also listed in Article 5. Further information can be obtained from the website https://msan.gouvernement.lu/fr/dossiers/2020/corona-virus.html
In the Netherlands, the guidelines of the RIVM apply to the control of Covid 19. The guidelines are published on the website of the central government. Wherever possible, employees of companies should work from home or spread their working hours. Furthermore, in the event of complaints such as nose colds, coughs, sore throats or fever, they should stay at home. Further information for employees can be found here. Specific information can be found on the RIVM website.
In Germany, guidelines and emergency legislation has been published mostly on a state by state basis. The federal emergency legislation includes various general instructions on social distancing, border control and access restrictions, travel warnings and bans, financial and other support programs, infection protection laws and related implications. On March 22nd, the German chancellor declared a Germany-wide limited “curfew” (formally no a full curfew but significant restrictions for individuals not allowed to congregate anymore in groups of 3 or more people, both in public places and at home), however with certain deviations in certain states, e.g. in Bavaria or Saxony. Curfews, access restrictions for hospitals, health care facilities, retirement homes, universities, restaurants, various public places etc., bans for events and congregations, operating bans, etc. are all addressed in separate state legislation.
So far, the following jurisdictions have produced Covid-19 related provisions:
- Bund / Federal
- Bayern / Bavaria
- Hessen / Hesse
- Niedersachsen / Lower Saxony
- Nordrhein-Westfalen / North Rhine Westphalia
- Rheinland-Pfalz / Rhineland-Palatinate
- Schleswig Holstein
- Sachsen / Saxony
- Sachsen-Anhalt / Saxony-Anhalt
The legislation is changing rapidly and so it is advised to keep an eye on the relative websites for the latest updates.
The Austrian Federal COVID-19 law was officially issued on March 15, 2020, with the aim to avert and restrict the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country and to handle the economic fallout from the pandemic. It includes measures to support employers and employees affected by COVID-19 through a financial stimulation package, along with tighter restrictions on entering public places. It also includes regulations that prohibit citizens entering non-vital company premises to buy goods or services, with a penalty of up to €30,000 fine for the company who does not adhere to the rules.
The Government of the Republic of Croatia has provided a list of Coronavirus protection measures on their official website, including both legislative measures taken by the Government on a Federal level, along with recommendations for all sectors of society. The National Civil Protection Headquarters has recently introduced new rigorous isolation measures, along with multiple measures to prop up the economy throughout the coronavirus epidemic, the main goal of which is the preservation of jobs and enabling payment of wages.
There have been multiple legislative Acts published since the start of the crisis, including Measure No. MZDR 5503/2020-9/PRO by the Ministry of Health Protection, Government Resolution No. 208/2020 Coll, and Government Resolution No. 211/2020 Coll. The main aim of the legislation has been to enforce a national quarantine through the closure of services, social distancing measures, restrictions on sale of medical devices and the implementation of a curfew. There are also economical support measures for companies impacted by the crisis.
General information and recommendations on coronavirus within France can be found here, whilst specific recommendations for employers and employees can be found here. The French Government has raised the risk to France to “stage 3” (final stage – active circulation on the territory). Following the transition to stage 3 of the epidemic, teleworking becomes the standard for all positions that allow it.
The Labour Code requires the company to take the necessary measures to ensure the safety and health protection of its personnel. As such, it must carry out an assessment of the professional risk. This assessment must be renewed due to the epidemic to minimize the risk of contagion in the workplace or at work through measures such as prevention actions, information and training actions as well that the implementation of suitable means, in accordance with the instructions of the public authorities. The updating of the single risk assessment document provided for in article R. 4121-2 of the Labour Code is also necessary due to the current epidemic linked to the COVID-19 virus.
Hungary has adopted Decree no. 47/2020. (III. 18.) Korm. r. in order to lessen the effects of Covid-19 on the economy. The Decree sets forth a general suspension of payments for all credits, loans and financial leases. Article 6 of the Decree sets several rules that enable flexible employment, including free modification of the work schedule, teleworking, and medical screening measures to check the health status of employees. All companies have health and safety obligations to keep employees informed about health risks that can arise in carrying out their work duties and to ensure that working practices do not create any risks to their workers.
The Act of 2 March 2020 on extraordinary measures aimed at preventing, counteracting, and combating COVID-19, other infectious diseases and the crisis situations caused by them, (the Crisis Act) allows companies to order any employee to work remotely without their consent. The Ministry of Development is also currently working on an aid package for companies, which will be effective from 1 April 2020. Further up-to-date information can be found on the following websites: National Labour Inspectorate, the Main Sanitary Inspectorate, and the Social Security Institution.
Council of Ministers have recently approved a set of extraordinary measures to combat the effects of COVID-19, including the Decree-Law n.º 10-A/2020, Resolution of the Council of Ministers n.º 10-A/2020, and Ordinance n.º 71-A/2020, of March 15th 2020. The Laws allow for an amended sickness allowance that is not subject to a waiting period, guaranteed payment of 70 % of the salary of employees, along with additional support measures to help reduce the impact on the economy. The latest list of Covid-19 related legislation can be found here.
The Slovakian government have adopted tough measures to stop coronavirus infection from spreading. More specifically, the Slovak Ministry of Finance and the Slovak Ministry of Economy introduced measures such as the extension of filing deadline for tax returns, exemption of social insurance and health insurance charges, and the postponement of fines. This is published in Regulation of the Government No. 48/2020, along with more recent legislation that can be found here.
Slovenia have issued several government directives aimed at containing COVID-19, including a ban on gatherings and socialising. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) have proposed a stimulus package of up to 4 billion euro for companies to avert an economic crisis. Companies can expect the government to cover the cost of the temporarily inactive workers, defer tax liabilities, take actions to secure liquidity and to set up a one-stop website offering topical information for companies. The full list of legislation related to COVID-19 can be found here.
Spain has declared a state of emergency (Estado de Alarma) with legislative measures taken by the Government on a Federal level introducing remote working and measures to preserve employment. Social Security will provide additional benefits for companies to enter into in permanent-temporary employment contracts. All companies have health and safety obligations to keep employees informed about health risks that may arise in carrying out their duties and to ensure that working practices do not create undue risks to employees. Further information can be found in Royal Decree-Law 7/2020 of 12 March 2020 on urgent measures to react to the economic impact of COVID-19 virus, Royal-Decree Law 8/2020 of 17 March 2020 on urgent measures to address the economic and social impact of the COVID-19 virus, and Royal-Decree 463/2020 of 14 March 2020 declaring the state of emergency to manage the health crisis caused by COVID-19 virus.