Employee in quarantine: is the employer obliged to continue the payment of wages?
Yesterday, the travel advice for all of Croatia was changed from “code yellow” (only security risks) to “code orange”. As a result, vacationers must be quarantined for 14 days after their return. A equal situation can of course occur in other countries.
Many employers wonder whether wages should continue to be paid if an employee is quarantined after his or her vacation?
The employee is not working, but receives wages
The main rule is that the employer must continue to pay the wages, even if the employee is not working. There is one exception to this: if the employee does not work and the cause of the non-work lies within the employee's sphere of risk, the employer is not obliged to continue to pay wages. This is the case, for example, in the situation where the employee refuses to go to work without valid grounds. In that case, the obligation to continue to pay wages will lapse.
In fact, the main rule reads as follows: The employee is not working, but does receive wages, unless….
Each travel advice has a classification that indicates how safe a country is. This is made visible with a color code on a map:
Green: there are no special security risks
Yellow: warning, there are security risks
Orange: travel only if necessary
Red: do not travel
Note: going on holiday is not a necessary travel as referred to in code Orange
If an employee goes on holiday to a country with a yellow code and the situation changes (orange code/red code) during the holiday with the result that he or she must be quarantined back home (or even in the relevant country itself), that circumstance cannot be regarded as a circumstance that is defined in the risk sphere of the employee. The employee has followed the applicable rules, but the situation has changed. If the employee is unable to work for two weeks after returning from vacation, the employer is obliged to pay the wages of the employee in this situation. If possible, the employer can (of course) let the employee do his/her work at home as much as possible.
Code orange and red
If an employee goes (against the travel advices) to a country with an orange or red code and then has to be quarantined, it can be said that the cause of the inability to work lies within the employee's risk sphere. In that case, the aforementioned main rule does not apply and the exception applies so that the employer does not have to pay the wages.
Inform employees in a timely manner
If this has not already been done, inform employees in advance and make clear that traveling to a country with an orange or red code is at the expense and risk of the employee himself. Point out to employees that if they cannot work after the holiday due to, for example, a (mandatory)quarantine, they are not entitled to continued payment of wages. In this way, the employee cannot take the position afterwards that he or she was not aware of the risk and then still claim the wages.
We are in a unique era because of COVID-19. It is precisely for this reason that it is important to continue to communicate well with employees. It is not inconceivable that judges will decide differently or more flexibly in the current situation. Every case is tailor-made, whereby judges look at all relevant circumstances of the case, especially when it comes to stopping wages. If employees are properly and clearly informed, you are one step ahead as an employer.
Dutch Legal Experts is ready to assist you with COVID 19 related issues. Feel free to contact us for more information or via the free Corona Helpdesk.
July 13, 2020