Testing and vaccination of employees
- Veronika Odrobinová
- Dominik Beran
Testing of employees
Obligatory testing of employees was introduced in the Czech Republic in several stages – the first stage was introduced from 3 March 2021 for employers with a minimum of 250 employees and subsequently this obligation was imposed on all employers, even if they only have one employee. All employers are thus currently obliged to arrange testing for their employees, in the form of antigen testing performed by a provider of medical services or tests that may be performed by a lay person, with a frequency of once a week at minimum. An employee, who has not undergone a test with a negative result in the past seven days, must not be allowed into the workplace.
There are several exceptions from this obligation. The obligation to undergo testing usually does not apply to (i) employees working on home-office, if they do not come to the office and do not meet other employees, (ii) employees, who have undergone the COVID-19 as confirmed by laboratory tests, their period of isolation has expired, they do not show any symptoms of the COVID-19 disease and no more than 180 days have passed since their first positive PCR tests or antigen test, and (iii) to employees with an issued certificate about performed vaccination against the COVID-19 disease, if a minimum of 22 days have passed since the application of the first dose in case of a two-dose scheme and the vaccinated person shows no symptoms of the COVID-19 disease.
There are specified rules for the test being performed by a lay person and the employer needs to pay attention to the selection of the test as well as to the implementation of rules that correspond to the methodology of the Ministry of Healthcare.
If an employee has a positive test result, he is obliged to notify the employer, leave the workplace, go to his home and inform his general practitioner, unless his employer had specified that he should inform the company physician. If the employee is not able to inform his GP or the company physician, he must inform another healthcare provider or the respective hygiene authority. The employee also undergoes a confirmatory PCR test. If the confirmatory PCR test is negative, the employee may return to the workplace. If the confirmatory test is also positive, isolation is imposed on the employee. The minimum period of isolation is 10 days from the date of positive testing and its scope is specified by the respective hygiene authority.
How to proceed, if the employee refuses obligatory testing? The employer will not allow an untested employee to enter the workplace. They may agree that work will be performed from home, leave will be taken, unpaid leave will be provided, or the schedule of shift division will be changed. If no agreement is reached, it will be another important personal obstacle in work on the side of the employee according to the Labour Code, for which the employee is not entitled to reimbursement of wages.
It needs to be pointed out that in this case, it may be a transgression and the employee may face financial penalty under act no. 94/2021 Coll., Pandemic Act. In case the employer fails to comply with his obligation to perform obligatory testing of employees, he may face a fine up to CZK 500,000.
If tests are not performed directly in the workplace, the employee’s journey to undergo the test for presence of the COVID-19 virus in the facility of a healthcare provider is not performance of work, or part of working hours or overtime work. The view of the State Labour Inspection Office confirms this as well. It is an excused absence of the employee from work, regardless of whether the employee underwent the test without any connection to performing work or on the employer’s order. For the time of such absence, the employee is entitled to reimbursement of wages, if the testing and the journey to the test are performed during working hours.
From 1 July 2021, the obligation to test employee will be cancelled due to the growing number of vaccinated persons and the general improvement of the epidemic.
Vaccination of employees
Vaccination is not obligatory by law for employees (or anyone else), and it is therefore not possible to demand that employees undergo vaccination. It is currently not possible to set vaccination as a requirement for performing work, either. Besides, such a requirement may be discriminative in relation to employees, who cannot undergo vaccination due to the state of their health.
To a certain degree, vaccination is able to prevent the spreading of infection and as such it represents a positive element for the employer as well. An employer should thus be interested in having as many employees as possible (voluntarily) vaccinated. It is possible to use various forms of communication with employees, so that the individual employees would be willing to undergo vaccination. It is also possible to act in cooperation with the trade unions, if they are operating at the employer, and to try and find solutions that will be gentle and will be voluntarily accepted by a vast majority of employees.
It is not possible to impose any sanctions on employees for not being vaccinated. On the other hand, a question that is currently being discussed is the possible option of providing advantages to vaccinated employees. Here it is mainly necessary to deal with the potential risk of employees, who cannot undergo vaccination, so it is necessary to proceed very carefully.