1. What options do employers have and/or what are you seeing in terms of re-opening the workplace e.g. phased returns, rotating shifts, staggered working hours, etc.?
Though many employees have been working from home since the end of lockdown, many companies have implemented rotating shifts and staggered working hours at the workplace, depending on the needs of the business activity.
The government recommends companies encourage their employees to work from home if they are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or if they have been in contact with a person suffering from COVID-19.
Please note that without the employee’s consent, any modification of an essential clause of the employment contract must be notified to the employee with the same formalities and within the same time limits as if the employer were to proceed with a dismissal.
The employer can also ask an employee to return to work on site, but must provide all the necessary equipment to guarantee health and safety at the workplace.
On 23 September 2020, an amendment was adopted to the Law of 17 July 2020 introducing a series of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring the health director of a company to take the following number of measures if there is a high risk of the spreading of the virus:
- isolation with a ten-day ban on leaving the premises; and
- quarantine with a seven-day ban from the last contact with an infected person under the condition that they submit to a COVID-19 virus infection test from the sixth day; if the person refuses to submit to a test from the sixth day after the last contact with the infected person, the quarantine is extended for a maximum of seven days.
Tax arrangement (Belgium, France, Germany)
Luxembourg and the three bordered countries (Belgium, France, Germany) agreed to extend their tax arrangement of 19 May 2020 until 31 December 2020. Thus, the working days during which work was carried out from home are exempt from taxation.
2. Does an employer have to give notice to employees to return to the workplace?
Many employees have gradually returned to the office since the end of the lockdown. In any case, employees may have children to care for and may need one or two days to organise their return to work. There is no law requiring an employer to give notice for employees to return to the workplace, but it would surely be considered bad faith if an employer failed to give notice without justification.
3. Is an employer obliged to consult with employees/representatives about the return to work process?
Under the Labor Code, the employer is required to inform the staff delegation and the health and safety delegate of any information about:
- health and safety risks and the relevant protective/preventive measures and activities;
- protective measures and, if necessary, protective equipment;
- the absence rate of the employees.
Further, the staff delegation must be consulted on any topic regarding health and safety at the workplace in general and on the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases, which is relevant during the COVID-19 crisis.
Additional obligations may apply depending on the number of employees in the undertaking.
The Luxembourg Labor and Mines Inspectorate recommends that staff representatives help identify risk situations and the feasibility of any COVID-19-related action plan that the employer plans to implement. They may also help to communicate the information to colleagues.
4. Are there any requirements or recommendations for employees to wear or employers to provide masks or other protective equipment in the workplace?
The Luxembourg government and the municipalities have made available 55 masks per inhabitant and/or worker. In accordance with the applicable laws and regulations, a mask must be worn in any place in which 2 m distance between persons cannot be ensured, including the workplace. Wearing a visor is not sufficient, as a visor does not constitute a mask.
In this respect, the Luxembourg Labor and Mines Inspectorate provides that each employer must ensure that the health and safety measures put in place are respected by the employees.
The employer must:
- make available individual and collective protective equipment and products (mask, hydroalcoholic gel, appropriate protective clothing, soap, disposable towels)to the employees;
- ensure that its employees respect social distancing (2 meters) and, if this is not possible, ensure they wear a mask to cover their nose and mouth.
- correctly use the protective equipment and clothing made available to them;
- report any serious and immediate danger to safety and health immediately to the employer and/or to the safety officers and to the staff delegation responsible for health and safety.
5. When can business travel resume and what are the key considerations for employers?
Since 15 June 2020, there have been no more controls at the Luxembourg border with the 3 border countries (France, Belgium and Germany).
Since 17 July 2020, Luxembourg is offering a free test per person to all residents before their trip or tourist stay in countries requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter their territory. Further, Luxembourg also offers residents and, under certain conditions, Luxembourg workers, the possibility to undergo a free test on their return from a trip or journey abroad.
On 13 October 2020, EU member states adopted a Council Recommendation on a coordinated approach to the restriction of free movement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Based on data provided by the member states, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control will publish a map of EU member states, broken down by regions, which will show the risk levels across the regions in Europe using a traffic light system. Regions will be indicated in the colours green, orange, red and grey (if not enough information is available).
- In the basis of this map, member states will then decide whether they introduce certain restrictions, such as quarantine or tests, on travelers coming from other areas. Member States have agreed that there will be no restrictions, such as quarantine or testing, on travellers coming from green regions.
- Member States will provide details of upcoming restrictions to the free movement or the lifting of travel restrictions in the coming weeks.
Any passenger entering the national territory by air, has to fill in, within forty-eight hours before entering the territory, the passenger location form established by the Ministry of Health (article 5 of the Law of 17 July 2020 introducing a series of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic).
On 25 September 2020, the Belgian authorities classified Luxembourg as a "red zone." For Luxembourg residents, stays of less than 48 hours in Belgium continue to be possible with no restrictions.
6. If schools remain closed, can working parents continue to work from home?
The city's schools, foyers scolaires and nurseries have been open since 25 May 2020.
Since 25 June 2020, the Ministry of Family Affairs introduced the leave for family support to enable employees and self-employed people to look after a dependent person following the closure of a day-care structure or a training or employment structure due to COVID-19.