Last Updated on 27 March 2020
COVID-19 outbreak has made a significant impact on the vast majority of employers’ business activities. The most common questions which have been raised due to recent developments are the ones concerning possibilities to reduce workforce and type of measures to reduce workforce costs due to COVID-19. Therefore, relevant possibilities/measures can be categorized under two separate categories: (i) measures prescribed under newly adopted orders related to COVID-19 outbreak and (ii) measures the employer can conduct on the basis of the Labour Law.
Protection of the employees due to schools\kindergartens closure
The measure that was adopted due to the COVID-19 outbreak is related to the protection of the employees due to schools\kindergartens closure. Thus, during the interruption of work of public and private educational institutions for at least 15 days, starting on 16 March 2020 one of the parents or a single parent (legal guardians included) of a child not older than 11 years of age shall be entitled to a paid leave from work (excluding health care employees).
The order of the Ministry failed to regulate precise terms and conditions for exercising such right and we expect further clarifications from the authorities in the following days. In any event, since the order refers to paid leave of employees, it is likely that employers would be expected to pay the salary compensation as for other types of paid leave (100% of the salary) in accordance with the General Collective Agreement. Nevertheless, other measures to which the employer is entitled in accordance with the Labour Law are as follow:
Working from home
According to the Montenegrin legislation, an annex to the employment contract must be concluded for the purpose of working from home, as work from home changes the agreed place of work. Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, this type of work is being introduced as a preventive measure for employees’ health, in accordance with the recommendation of competent authorities.
However, precise terms and conditions for switching to this model (as a preventative measure) are not determined yet. Neither Ministry nor competent inspection body has taken a formal legal standpoint regarding the organization of work from home. In general, the inspection body complies with the Labor Law and any modification of the employment contract (including the change of agreed place of work) must be made on the basis of the annex to the employment contract. Nevertheless, given the urgency of the situation with the advent of COVID-19, further regulation/clarification regarding this matter is expected to be adopted in the days to come.
Occupational health and safety measures
In general, the employer is obliged to provide occupational health and safety measures by preventing, eliminating and controlling occupational risks, informing and training employees for safe and healthy work, with appropriate organization and necessary resources. These measures should follow the directions of the medical authorities and professionals when it comes to the prevention and suppression of COVID-19. Specific recommendations for employers and employees on prevention of COVID-19 given by the Institute of Public Health of Montenegro can be found here.
The government urges that these recommendations are followed.