In an effort to prevent further spreading of the Covid-19, a state of emergency was declared on March 12, 2020 in Latvia. In this situation companies face different challenges on how to organize employment related matters. However, it should be remembered that upon establishing employment relations, the employee undertook to perform the contracted work, subject to specified working procedures and orders of the employer, while the employer undertook to pay the agreed remuneration and to ensure fair and safe working conditions that are not harmful to health of the employee. Therefore, employers must find an appropriate solution, that would allow the parties to fulfill their contracted obligations. In the existing circumstances employers may consider the following options:I. Changes in the Place of Work Performance (Article 53 of Labor Law)
The parties may agree on changes regarding the place, from which the work is being performed. The Latvian Government recommends organizing employees’ work from home in all cases where possible. The employer may request the employee to perform work from home with a written order of the employer. II. Other Organizational Changes in Work
Employer may determine other organization changes in work in order to ensure safe and healthy working conditions. For example, provide safety instructions to employees, adjust work schedules, provide additional breaks, introduce restrictions for gatherings, ensure safe distance between employees in the work place, etc.III. Idle Time (Article 74(2) of the Labor Law)
If due to the situation employer does not provide work to an employee (or is not able to provide work) or does not perform the activities necessary for the acceptance of employee's obligations, then such situation is called an idle time. The idle time may be either set with an written order of the employer or may be established by fact.
If the idle time has accrued not due to the fault of the employee, then the employer is obliged to disburse the contracted renumeration for all the idle time period. IV. Performance of Work not Agreed in the Employment Contract (Article 57 of the Labor Law)
If due to the situation employees are unable to perform the contacted work, the employer may assign employees to perform other work not agreed in the Employment Contract. This can be done for a period not exceeding 1 month within 1 year period in order to avert the consequences caused by force majeure, an unexpected event or other exceptional circumstances which adversely affect or may affect the normal course of activities in the company. In case idle time has been set, the employer may assign employees to perform work not agreed in the Employment Contract for a period not exceeding 2 months within 1 year period. The employer may request the employee to perform work not agreed in the Employment Contract with a written order of the employer.
In such case the employer must pay an appropriate remuneration for the work not agreed in the Employment Contract. However, the renumeration cannot be less than the previous average earning of the employee. V. Annual Leave (Articles 149 and150 of the Labor Law)
If the employees have unused annual leave, they can use them now. However, employer cannot force employees to use their annual leave. However, if the employer and the employee agree regarding annual leave during this time on mutual agreement, the annual leave can be granted to the employees. VI. Study Leave (Article 157 of the Labor Law)
An employee who, without discontinuing work, studies at an educational institution of any type shall be granted study leave with or without retention of salary in accordance with a collective agreement or an employment contract. An employee shall be granted a study leave of 20 working days for the taking of a State examination or the preparation and defence of a diploma paper with or without retaining the salary. Study leave can be granted to the employee only under the request of the employee.VII. Non-paid Leave (Article 153 of the Labor Law)
Non-paid leave can be granted to the employee only under the request of the employee.VIII. Reduction of working hours and other changes in the Employment Contract (Article 97 of Labor Law)
The employer can initiate making amendments in the Employment Contact, for example, to reduce the working hours, renumeration or make other changes in the Contract appropriate to the existing situation. Parties may agree that the amendments in the Employment Contract are temporary and are in force only during the state of emergency in Latvia. Such amendments in the Employment Contract can be made only with mutual agreement of the parties.IX. Temporary Absence from Work (Article 147 of Labor Law)
An employee has the right to temporary absence if his/ her immediate presence at work is not possible due to force majeure, an unexpected event or other exceptional circumstances. The employer has the obligation to disburse renumeration to the employee while he/she is temporary absent from work for the mentioned reasons. Such situation could be, for example: (a) employee is not able to return from abroad; (b) employee is obliged to stay in quarantine or self-isolation for 14 days, but does not have such conditions to receive a sick leave, and is not able to perform contracted work from home.
In such situations the employee should inform the employer of such temporary absence in due time. Note, that temporary absence cannot serve as a basis for termination of the Employment Contract.X. Suspension from Work (Article 58 of the Labor Law)
Suspension from work is a temporary prohibition, imposed by a written order of an employer, for an employee to be present at the workplace and to perform work, without disbursing remuneration to the employee during the period of suspension.
An employer has the right to suspend an employee from work if the employee when failure to suspend an employee from work may be detrimental to his or her safety or the health or safety of third parties, as well as to the substantiated interests of the employer or third parties. For example, if employee attends work, although has returned from the Covid-19 affected countries or has been in a direct contact with a person confirmed to have Covid-19, and thereby has violated obligation to self-isolate for 14 days.XI. Termination of Employment contract (Article 101 of the Labor Law)
If employer is facing reduction in business or suffering economic difficulties, the termination of the Employment Contract can be done on the basis of reduction in the number of employees. A reduction in the number of employees is a notice of termination of an Employment Contract for reasons not related to the conduct of an employee or his or her abilities, but is adequately substantiated on the basis of the performance of urgent economic, organizational, technological or similar measures in the undertaking, as a result of which, certain number of certain working positions are liquidated in the company.
Note, that if several employees are fired within 1 month, this might qualify as collective redundancy. For example, collective redundancy is when a company on average employs 21-50 employees and if within 1 month employment relations are terminated with at least 5 employees. In case of collective redundancy employer must submit a 1 month prior notice to the Latvian State Employment Agency and must commence prior consultations with the representatives of employees. More information about reduction in the number of employees and collective redundancy see here
Additionally, if employee has violated the employer’s orders, which aims to deal with the Covid-19 situation, then in individual situation the Employment Contract could be terminated on the basis of:
- the employee has significantly violated the employment contract or the specified working procedures without a justifiable reason (see more information here );
- the employee has grossly violated labor protection regulations and has jeopardised the safety and health of other persons.
Note, that the terms of the notice of termination differs depending on the basis on which the contract is being terminated. Additionally, with certain categories of employees (such as pregnant women, persons with disability as well as employees on sick leave) employment relations cannot be terminated on certain termination basis (see Article 109 of Labor Law). Furthermore, employer must in certain cases receive consent from a trade union before terminating employment relations with an employee who is a member of a trade union for more than 6 months. We recommend to evaluate carefully each particular situation for termination of employment relations, and when necessary consult our legal advisors. Feel free to contact us if you have any other employment related questions.