Employee rights: frequently asked questions due to the Corona crisis

2 April 2020
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Employee rights: frequently asked questions due to the Corona crisis

As a result of the Corona virus, many employees are in an uncertain position. Many employees have questions they don’t know the answer to. The internet is full of articles about employers’ rights. In this article, we answer frequently asked questions by employees.

As an employee, can I refuse to go to work?

The advice from the RIVM is currently to work from home as much as possible. Based on the principles of being a good employer and being a good employee, employers and employees must follow this advice. This means that an employee who can work from home must also be given the opportunity to work from home. However, if the working environment meets the requirements set by the RIVM and the guidelines of the RIVM are observed, the employer can rightly ask to appear at work. Especially if the employer has a compelling interest in doing so.

Can an employer prohibit me from going to work?

In principle, an employee has a right to employment. This means that an employee may not simply be prohibited from coming to work. This may be different if there is a valid reason for this. The advice of the government to work from home as much as possible, if possible, or an employee who shows health problems, can be such valid reasons. In such situations, an employee may therefore be prohibited from coming to work.

What rights do I have as a parent now that schools are closed?

A working parent can, if this proves to be necessary in an individual situation, be given a few days to arrange childcare. This is called emergency leave. If the child is ill, care leave can be taken after the calamity leave: initially for a period of two weeks. After that, care leave is in principle unpaid. If the child is not ill, further agreements will have to be made with due observance of the principles of being a good employer and being a good employee. If that proves impossible, (unpaid or paid) leave can be taken.

Do I get paid if I can’t work from home?

If working from home is not possible, does the employer still have to pay your salary? Yes, in principle yes, unless the non-working should reasonably be at the expense of an employee. This may be the case, for example, if an employee goes on holiday to a high-risk area against the government’s travel advice and becomes infected by the corona virus or has to be quarantined.

Am I entitled to wages if I stay at home?

In the event of illness due to the Corona virus, an employee is entitled to wages in accordance with the agreements made in the employment contract or collective agreement. If an employee is not sick, but is unable to work due to, for example, a mandatory quarantine or travel ban, the employer must continue to pay full wages during that period. Even if the employer decides to send employees home (preventatively), wages must continue to be paid. An employee may not stay at home on his own initiative, for example for fear of being infected with the Corona virus. Under certain circumstances this can be seen as a refusal to work and the employer may impose a wage sanction (for example a wage freeze or suspension of wages) as a means of pressure, but only after the employee has been warned in writing. The foregoing may be different if there are real concrete facts and circumstances on the basis of which the employee has a fear of contamination, for example if several direct colleagues are infected with Corona.

Can the employer unilaterally change the employment conditions?

If the situation has not improved after 24 weeks and the employer gets into (serious) financial problems, the employer can request that the employee, for example, take (compulsory) vacation days or accept a reduction in the number of working hours. If the employee does not agree with this, the employer can unilaterally change the terms of employment under exceptional circumstances. However, this is only the case if the employer has a compelling interest in doing so.

Can the employer give me instructions?

The employer has the right to give an employee reasonable instructions that must then also be followed by the employee, for example wearing face masks or protective clothing. Not gathering together in groups or not shaking hands at work are also examples of measures that the employer can instruct his employees on the basis of his authority to instruct.

Am I entitled to continued payment of wages if I have to care for a sick family member?

If an employee is unable to work because he has to care for a sick family member, he is entitled to short-term care leave. During this period he is entitled to continued payment of 70% of his salary. Short-term care leave lasts a maximum of twice the working hours per week per year. So if an employee works 40 hours a week, he is entitled to 80 hours of short-term care leave in 2020. When this leave has ended, the employee can take long-term care leave. During this leave, the employee is not entitled to wages.

Can the employer have me perform alternative work?

Under certain circumstances this is possible. The employment contract or collective labor agreement may include that an employee may be expected to perform activities other than his or her own position. If this is not the case, it must be assessed on the basis of the principles of good employership and good employeeship and reasonableness and fairness whether the employer may expect the employee to temporarily perform other activities. For example, if the employer can demonstrate that the employee’s own activities are no longer (fully) available or if the employer’s financial situation deteriorates, the employee can be offered other work. Provided this proposal is reasonable, the employee may be expected to accept the proposal. If an employee refuses a reasonable proposal without good reasons, the employer can impose a wage sanction.

Legal support

Previous answers to the questions asked may differ per individual case. Assessing the rights of employees remains tailor-made and must be assessed on an individual basis and on the basis of concrete facts and circumstances. Our lawyers and jurists have years of experience in representing the interests of employees. If necessary, we can assist you with advice and action. We also believe that everyone, regardless of income, should be able to make use of excellent legal support. Our lawyers therefore also work on the basis of an addition (also known as funded legal assistance or pro bono), if your personal situation gives rise to this. To make an appointment to get acquainted with our office completely free of charge and without obligation, please call: Amsterdam: 020 747 00 55 The Hague: 070 450 03 00 Eindhoven: 040 711 30 99 Rotterdam: 010 311 55 00 By e-mail We can be reached by email via the email address: [email protected].

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