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Obligations of employers to ensure safe work environment in the time of COVID-19

Obligations of employers to ensure safe work

On 2 April 2020 the Minister of Labor and Social Policy issued Order No. RD 01-219 (hereinafter “the Order”). The Order specifies the measures for health and safety working conditions, which must be applied by employers with the aim of limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

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The Order addresses employers who, in turn, must implement its provisions by adopting an internal act (order or other act), making them binding on employees.

By adoption of an internal act, employers are allowed to specify and supplement the measures taking into account their particular situation, e.g. by providing additional personal protective equipment for employees or additional working premises so as to ensure safe distance, etc.

Employers should designate specific individuals responsible for the performance of the measures and their supervision in order to ensure they are duly enforced.

What do employers need to consider?

There are several questions which must be considered by employers in relation to the introduced health and safety at work measures:

Powers granted to employers

The Order explicitly introduces a right of employers to temporarily suspend employees from work when the latter show symptoms of the flu or other similar symptoms, as well as in cases where employees do not use the personal protective equipment provided. Employers must adopt a case-by-case basis approach and consider, for example, whether symptoms are present due to other known medical reasons which are not related to the epidemic.

Employers should develop special written rules and instructions to be used as a guideline when exercising the power to temporarily suspend employees from work.

Which are the measures for ensuring safe work environment?

Pursuant to the Order, the measures shall apply throughout the state of emergency and shall, as a minimum, include:

  1. Conducting emergency instructions and providing up-to-date information on limiting the spread of COVID-19.
  2. Introduction of access control mechanism to guarantee supervision and not to allow employees and external visitors with indications of acute infectious diseases to enter the premises.
  3. Adoption of work organization that ensures minimum direct contacts and where possible keeping a distance of at least 1-1.5 meters.
  4. Cleaning and disinfection of working spaces, bathrooms and toilets, as well as rest and dining premises.
  5. Facilitating the necessary conditions to maintain personal hygiene of employees.
  6. Ensuring proper respiratory hygiene by means of regular ventilation of the premises.
  7. Providing necessary personal and collective protective equipment to employees taking into account the specifics of the work.
  8. Disinfection and ventilation of corporate vehicles upon completion of each travel. The number of travelling individuals should be kept to a minimum and they shall be provided with protective equipment.
  9. Temporary suspension from work of employees who show symptoms of the flu or other similar symptoms, as well as in cases where employees do not use the personal protective equipment provided.

The enforcement and implementation of the measures shall be consulted in health and safety committees/groups, while in organizations with less than 5 employees the consultations shall be held with the entire personnel.

Personal Data Protection

The introduction of access control mechanism and other measures for restraining the spread of the infection raise implications in terms of compliance with personal data protection legislation. Part of these matters include whether and what types of information may be requested from employees, e.g. health data, information about their contacts and travelling arrangements, etc.

Employers must ensure compliance with the principles of lawful, fair and transparent processing, purpose limitation and data minimization principles, storage limitation, as well as to ensure the protection and security of information, etc.

How can we help?

There may be other matters which should be considered by each employer, depending on the specifics of the business activity

KPMG team remains at your disposal for any questions or assistance concerning the application of the Order and the adoption of internal acts, as well as other matters related to the prescribed measures.

© 2020 KPMG Bulgaria EOOD, a Bulgarian limited liability company and a member firm of the KPMG network of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”), a Swiss entity. All rights reserved.

KPMG International Cooperative (“KPMG International”) is a Swiss entity.  Member firms of the KPMG network of independent firms are affiliated with KPMG International. KPMG International provides no client services. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm.

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