Covid 19 EU Travel Ban – HR Considerations
By Jennifer Cashman
18 March 2020
On Monday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen put forward a temporary restriction of non-essential travel from third countries into the EU+ area. European heads of state and government endorsed it at a European Council video conference on Tuesday evening. That area includes nearly all EU members plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The move could include Ireland — which has an opt-out from the Schengen Agreement — and the United Kingdom if they decide to align. EU citizens and permanent residents will still be allowed to travel across the EU but individual nations will implement their own policies, such as France which has ordered a nationwide lockdown and has closed its borders.
This move has resulted in many employees based in Ireland asking for the facility to return home to their home country and work remotely from there. Businesses are keen to facilitate to employees in this regard and we thought it would be helpful if we devised a list of the important considerations that need to be taken into account.
- Businesses need to double check all their various insurance policies to make sure that there is nothing in any of those insurance policies that would interfere with the desire to facilitate these arrangements.
- Provided there is nothing from an insurance perspective that prevents a business from facilitating this arrangement, then an individual letter to each employee who is being facilitated in this way will need to be crafted, by way of an addendum to their existing contract of employment, setting out that the business is prepared to facilitate this arrangement and dealing with the issues outlined below.
- Any employee who is being facilitated to return home to their home EU country and to work from there should be advised that this facilitation is being made on an exceptional and strictly temporary basis.
- They should be advised as to which physical items from work are acceptable to take with them.
- They should be advised that the business expects them to help the business to maintain normal business operations during this time to the extent possible.
- The business needs to consider whether these employees need to be available at all times during their contractual working hours or whether remote meetings and appointments will be rescheduled ahead of time, given that the Covid19 situation is realistically likely to interrupt their domestic lives and hence have an impact on work.
- Businesses need to confirm whether the employees are prohibited from performing work outside of their home base in their home EU country because of security concerns.
- Employees should be reminded of their obligations around data protection and the requirements on them to prevent data breaches.
- Business should confirm whether they can perform work on their own devices or only on company devices for the duration of this facilitation.
- Business should outline an anticipated end date to the facilitation and indicate that weekly updates will be provided regarding the status of the remote work arrangements. Business could indicate that failure to return to work on the on the date on which the company requires an employee back at work, could lead to disciplinary action up to and including dismissal.
- Business should set out that all other terms and conditions of the contract of employment remain in place and unaffected by this arrangement, other than the place of work clause.
There may be other issues that employers wish to address but the above is a non-exhaustive list of the most important considerations which should be included.
Our Ronan Daly Jermyn Employment Team would be very happy to help businesses and employers craft suitable letters for employees in this scenario and please don’t hesitate to contact us for support in this regard.