Phase two: State of Alert. New measures and facilities for employers
According to the framework regulation (Emergency Ordinance no. 21 of 15 April 2004 on the National Emergency Management System) a state of alert represents the reaction of the authorities to emergencies of magnitude and intensity, the state of alert being characterised by a set of measures necessary to remove threats to human health, environment or major material and cultural values and threats that led to the exceptional situation. These measures are essentially temporary and in line with the severity of the phenomenon underlying the alert.
The state of alert was declared with effect from 15 May 2020 by means of Decision no. 24 dated 14 May 2020 (Decision 24), issued by the National Committee for Emergency Situations and lasting for a period of 30 days.
Pursuant to the Law no. 55/2020 of 15 May 2020 regarding measures to prevent and fight the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which entered into force as of 18 May 2020, the state of alert shall be declared by the Government’s decision, following the proposal put forward by the Minister of Interior and subject to the approval of Parliament within 5 days, if the measure will target at least half of the Romanian territory. The Parliament’s rejection of the Government’s decision under the above-mentioned conditions is tantamount to ending the state of alert. As for the period of the state of alert, Law 55/2020 establishes a maximum duration of 30 days, which can be extended, by the same procedure and for good reason, for up to a further 30 days.
In the Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, No. 410 of 18 May 2020, the Government’s Decision no. 394 (GD 394/2020) was published, instituting a state of alert for Romania for a period of 30 days, starting from 18 May 2020.
By virtue of GD 394/2020, Decision 24 itself ceased to be effective but the acts issued pursuant to Decision 24 remain applicable insofar as they do not contravene the provisions of GD 394/2020 regarding the proposed measures, and until adoption of acts under Law 55/2020.
On 20 May 2020, as per Decision no. 5/2020 (Decision 5), published in the Official Gazette of Romania No. 421, Parliament, on the grounds of the provisions of Law 55/2020, approved the state of alert.
Below, we summarise some relevant provisions regarding the obligations of employers and employees during the period of the state of alert.
1. Health rules and good coordination
1.1. The Decision of the National Committee for Emergency Situations
A set of measures, regulated by the Annex to Decision 24 and by Law 55/2020, must be taken into consideration by employers including:
- wearing protective masks is mandatory at work, whilst indoors, as well as inside any commercial premises;
- it is mandatory for the employer to check the temperature of personnel and visitors before allowing access to the premises and to prevent access to individuals whose body temperature, measured at the entrance to the premises, exceeds 37.3°C
- compulsory disinfection of hands before entering work spaces;
- in the common spaces of offices (open plan spaces) the observance of physical distancing of employees (Order 1721/2020 gives further details in this regard);
- during the state of alert the employer may, with the consent of the employee, arrange for the performance of the work by teleworking or working from home, including amending the workplace or the work tasks;
- throughout the state of alert employers with more than 50 employees may establish individualised working schedules without the employee's consent, in order to ensure the existence of 1 hour intervals, from start to finish of working hours, between employees within a 3 hour period;
- economic operators carrying out public activities are required to organise access to premises in a manner that ensures a minimum area of 4m2 per customer/person and a minimum distance of 2m between any two individuals, so as to avoid overcrowding;
- the provisions of Emergency Ordinance no 30/2020 which amends and supplements previous enactments, and establishes measures for social protection in the context of the spread of COVID-19, shall continue to be applied uninterrupted from the end of the state of emergency for all areas of activity where restrictions are maintained until lifted, but no later than 31 December 2020. Consequently, the state will continue to provide technical unemployment settlements;
- during the state of alert, parents will benefit from days off to supervise children due to temporary closure of educational units under Law no. 19/2020 until the end of the school year; and
- the validity of collective employment contracts and agreements is extended for the duration of the state of alert and for a further period of 90 days after it has ended. The parties are required to initiate negotiation of the aforementioned contracts and agreements within 45 days from the end of the state of alert.
Furthermore, according to GD 394/2020, during the state of alert, the organisation and conduct of rallies, demonstrations, processions, concerts or any other gatherings in open spaces, including those of the drive-in type, as well as cultural events, scientific activities, artistic events, sports activities, entertainment, gambling, fitness activities, swimming pool activities and indoor spa activities are forbidden. Additionally, outdoor swimming pool activities remain suspended.
The serving and consuming of products is temporarily suspended in the common dining areas inside restaurants, hotels, motels, guesthouses, cafes or other public places, as well as on the terraces outside these locations except for food preparation activities and the marketing of food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, which do not involve customers remaining in these spaces, such as “drive-in”, “room-service”, “customer-take-away” or “take-away” activities.
1.2. Order 3577 on ensuring the performance of activities in line with health and safety at work
Order no. 3577 on measures to prevent contamination with COVID-19 and to ensure, during the state of alert, the performance of activities in line with health and safety at work was published in the Official Gazette of Romania, Part I, No 403 and entered into force on 16 May 2020 (Order 3577).
1.2.1. Measures for employers
During the state the alert, the provisions of Order 3577 regulate the following measures for employers:
- employers are required to retrain employees who stayed at home during the state of emergency in the field of health and safety at work and those who benefited from technical unemployment, as well as those who carried out their work by teleworking or working from home. The retraining must be adapted to the new conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic and must be carried out during normal working hours;
- employees’ representatives with specific responsibilities in the field of health and safety at work have the right to proper training with regard to the new risk represented by COVID-19;
- employers are required to establish the activities which can be continued and/or adapted and take all measures for resuming or maintaining that activity in compliance with the conditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including teleworking and working from home, the latter being a priority for the performance of the activity;
- employers must display rules of compulsory conduct for employees and third parties entering the employer's premises at the entrance, and in the most visible places within the unit, regarding the prevention of infection with COVID-19;
- employers must inform all employees regarding the risk of infection and spreading of the virus, protection measures and social distancing rules applicable within the unit, as well as rules for handling situations in which employees or third parties present symptoms of COVID-19;
- employers must inform employees of the universally applicable precautions:
(i) maintaining a social distance of at least 1.5 m in all public places;
(ii) maintaining thorough hand hygiene with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or with approved disinfectants, whenever needed;
(iii) avoiding face touching with unwashed hands;
(iv) maintaining respiratory hygiene, ie. cough or sneeze into your elbow fold or into a disposable tissue, rhinorrhea into a disposable tissue;
(v) limiting contact with other people to a maximum of 15 minutes and at a distance of at least 1.5 m.
- employers must provide employees with specific protective equipment against the spread of COVID-19, such as protective masks and gloves, after consulting with the person in charge of occupational health and safety, and depending on the employee’s activity;
- employers must ensure communication with the doctor/occupational health service at all times, in order to monitor the health of their employees and to prevent and fight the virus by any means necessary;
- employers must provide special colour access routes in their offices and for employee traffic, as well as limiting access to any common areas to avoid overcrowding in the work place;
- a person responsible for checking the temperature of everyone entering the premises must be appointed;
- in workplaces where working with the public takes place, it is necessary to apply marking strips for the recommended 1.5 m distance between individuals;
- employers must install disinfectant dispensers at the entrance to the unit, as well as in every sector of the work place;
- specially designed spaces can be created for vulnerable employees (eg. people with chronic illness and the elderly);
- lunch breaks can be granted in shifts, respecting the minimum distance of 1.5 m between co-workers;
- the use of air conditioning systems should be avoided or, if the use is necessary, the nebulization and disinfection of the air conditioning system must be ensured according to the manufacturer's instructions, and carried out outside working hours;
- limiting travel outside the workplace to circumstances when it is strictly necessary for the performance of the work;
- document sharing within the company should be done mainly by electronic means;
- reviewing the prevention and protection plan, according to the above mentioned measures; and
- reviewing one's own occupational health and safety instructions, according to the above-mentioned provisions and informing employees in this regard.
1.2.2. Obligations for employees
Pursuant to Order 3577, employees have the following obligations during the state of alert:
- to follow all the instructions received from their employers;
- to wear protective masks at work;
- to accept body temperature checks at the entrance to the premises or whenever necessary;
- to immediately notify their employer if they show symptoms of COVID-19 (cough, sneezing, rhinorrhea, difficulty breathing, fever or any altered general condition) and to stay at home if they show these symptoms before the start of the work day;
- in cases of home isolation, the employee will go on medical leave, based on the certificate issued by the family doctor after the home isolation period;
- in cases of institutionalised quarantine, the return to work will only take place with a certificate for medical leave, issued on the basis of an epidemiological opinion from the public health department of the county where the business operates or Bucharest, at the end of the quarantine period; and
- in cases of working from home or teleworking, employees must carry out their activity under the coordination of their employer and in accordance with their training, as well as with the instructions received from their employer, so as not to expose to danger of occupational injury or disease or infection with COVID-19 either themselves or any other people who may be affected by their actions or omissions during the process of work.
1.2.3. Special measures for employees suspected of having COVID-19
Order 3577 also sets out special measures where an employee has, or is suspected of having, COVID-19 such as:
- employees who show symptoms of illness should be immediately isolated from other colleagues and sent home or to healthcare establishments, depending on their condition. In many cases, it is not necessary to close offices/buildings;
- if the period in which the employee who is suspected or confirmed as having COVID-19 was on the premises is less than 7 days ago, the following measures are required:
(i) the closure of rooms in which he/she spent more than 20 minutes;
(ii) the mechanical ventilation of the room must be ensured (ie. opening the windows); and
(iii) any cleaning and disinfection shall be postponed for 24 hours to limit the exposure of cleaning personnel to respiratory particles.
- if the period is longer than 7 days ago, no additional cleaning or disinfection is needed, but the routine measures should be maintained; and
- employees who have come into contact with the suspected/confirmed person (ie. prolonged contact of more than 20 minutes and at a distance of less than 1.5m without a mask) must isolate at home for 14 days.
1.3. Order 1731/2020 on measures to prevent infection with COVID-19 and for carrying out activities in line with health and safety conditions in the economy.
Order 1731/2020 (Order 1731) on measures to prevent infection with COVID-19 and for carrying out activities in line with health and safety conditions in the economy, during the state of alert, was published in the Romanian Official Gazette, Part I, No. 406 and came into force on 16 May 2020.
Order 1731 provides the following rules regarding activity in offices with open-plan spaces:
1.3.1. Measures for employees
- the mandatory wearing of face masks (medical/non-medical) which must cover both the mouth and the nose;
- the employee must isolate himself/herself at home and contact the family physician if he/she shows symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, sneezing, rhinorrhea, fever, malaise or a body temperature higher than 37.3°C );
- isolation at home in cases where the employee has come into contact with a suspected or confirmed case of infection with COVID-19, and the observance of the applicable measures pursuant to the provisions of the Order of the Minister of Health No. 414/2020 on the imposition of quarantine measures for people in this international public health emergency caused by COVID-19 and the establishment of measures to prevent and limit the effects of the pandemic, as subsequently amended and supplemented; and
- washing hands with soap and water whenever necessary and avoiding touching the face with unhygienic hands.
1.3.2. Measures for employers
- ensure staggered hours for the employees, in order to avoid overcrowding at the entrance/exit of the premises and to limit the number of employees present at any one time in the same premises;
- ensure the observational triage of employees and prevent the presence at work of people with symptoms of respiratory infection (cough, sneezing, rhinorrhea, fever, malaise);
- ensure the daily temperature measurement, at the entrance to the premises, of all employees and ensure that employees with a temperature higher than 37.3°C are sent home, with the requirement to consult the family physician;
- organise work spaces so as to ensure a minimum distance of 1.5m between employees working in both front-to-back and back-to-back office spaces;
- for face-to-face office spaces, employers must ensure the employees are separated with screens that will be disinfected daily with alcohol-based solutions;
- ensure the disinfection of work surfaces at the beginning of the work day and, subsequently, once every 4 hours;
- organise staggered lunch breaks, so that the physical distance of at least 2m is always respected;
- ensure the periodic ventilation of the rooms in the premises; and
- in the case of air-conditioned rooms with air recirculation, the employers must carry out nebulization once a week, preferably at the end of the week, and carry out disinfection of the air conditioning installation according to the manufacturer's instructions.
1.3.3. Accommodation structures
Order 1731 also provides certain recommendations regarding the operation of premises offering accommodation facilities:
- each hotel staff member must strictly follow the basic measures to protect against COVID-19, such as hand hygiene, physical distance and avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth;
- the management team must develop an action plan, adapted to the current situation, and implement it in accordance with the recommendations of local and national public health authorities, aimed at preventing cases, effective case management and mitigating the impact amongst customers and staff;
- the action plan should mainly include the following:
(i) optimising communication between management and staff, in order to predetermine a guest information policy, but also to provide and obtain information quickly on incidents that may occur in the accommodation premises and to know the situation at any given time;
(ii) optimising communication between management and customers/guests, through informative posters, in order to increase the impact of key messages amongst them. Also, reception staff must be sufficiently well informed about COVID-19 and have access to official, up-to-date information on travel to and from countries or areas with COVID-19 transmission through regular consultation of the website of the National Institute of Public Health (NIPH)- www.insp.gov.ro;
(iii) a policy of bedroom occupancy with respect to accompanying people, if there is a suspected case of COVID-19 (as defined on the NIPH website);
(iv) a medical kit at the reception containing disinfectant, masks, gloves, etc.;
(v) promotion of social distancing measures, hand cleaning and respiratory hygiene;
(vi) the monitoring of guests who may be ill must be done in compliance with the regulations on the protection of personal data and the right to privacy and confidentiality; and
(vii) the provision of technical and maintenance services as per the regulations in force (water supply, ventilation, lighting, etc.).
- measures to temporarily restrict certain types of activities:
(i) restaurants, bars, cafés and confectioneries inside hotels will not operate in the first stage. Meals will be served via room service. It is preferable to use disposable cutlery and crockery;
(ii) playgrounds for children will be closed;
(iii) places specially designed for fitness, saunas, indoor swimming etc. inside the hotels, will remain closed in the first stage;
(iv) washing and disinfection of surfaces in rooms and common areas shall be done more frequently than usual, with disinfectant solutions based on alcohol or chlorine, and approved according to law. If, in the hotel amongst the staff or guests, a confirmed case of COVID-19 appears, the county/Bucharest public health directorate will be contacted to carry out an epidemiological investigation and establish the necessary measures; and
(v) elevators shall only be used if strictly necessary and only by a maximum of two people at any given time and they must wear protective masks during the use of the elevator. It is recommended that the two people be from the same family.
II. Other measures
Government Emergency Ordinance No. 70/2020 (GEO 70/2020) regarding the regulation of some measures was published in the Romanian Official Gazette, Part I, No. 394, and came into force on 15 May 2020.
Amongst the most important matters regulated by GEO 70/2020 we specifically mention the following:
2.1. Employees who are technically unemployed
With respect to the indemnities for employees who are technically unemployed, which are settled from the state budget, GEO 70/2020 provides that the payment of the related indemnities is extended for the period between the cessation of the state of emergency and 31 May 2020, and after this date the payment of these indemnities shall be made only in the fields where restrictions are maintained.
GEO 70/2020 provides that the necessary amount of the aforementioned indemnities are not subject to forced execution by garnishment during their payment.
Also, regarding the use of electronic mail as one of the means of communication for requesting the related rights, GEO 70/2020 establishes that, for a period of 30 days calculated from the end of the state of emergency, the same procedure applies.
2.2. Reimbursement of the amounts related to leave and social health insurance indemnities
GEO 70/2020 provides that the documents for the reimbursement by the health insurance fund of the amounts which are settled from the budget of the Unique National Health Insurance Fund, and related to leave and social health insurance indemnities, as well as the documents for the payment of medical leave and social health insurance indemnities by the health insurance fund may also be submitted by electronic means.
For more details, please contact:
Partner, Head of Employment
Phone: +40 21 796 52 61
Phone: +40 21 316 87 49