Coronavirus or (Covid-19) has become the most pressing issue of the world turning into a rapidly pandemic. As of today (March 17th), there are over 182 thousands cases around the world, with 7100+ fatalities. China (80,881 cases and 3,226 deaths), Italy (27,980 cases and 2,158 deaths), Spain (9,941 cases and 342 deaths), South Korea (8,320 cases and 81 deaths), Iran (14,991 cases and 853 deaths) and major European countries have seen the majority of the cases, with increasing death rates. According to the statement made by the Ministry of Health in Turkey, there are reportedly 47 cases in our country. Turkey is following similar radical measures followed by the rest of the hot spots, such as the ban on going abroad, cancellation of crowded events and closure of schools. This alarming situation undoubtedly affects all areas of life. How does it affect us as employees and employees? What does the Turkish Labor Law say about epidemics and the rights of the employer and the worker in the midst of epidemics?
Is Covid-19 Force Majeure?
Disasters impacting masses such as earthquakes, fires, floods, and landslides which cannot be prevented or difficult to prevent, are defined as force majeure. In addition to these natural phenomena, epidemics like Covid-19 also appear as a force majeure. Because Covid-19 is a recent epidemic, it is not specifically disclosed in any legislation. However, the more general legislation on infectious disease the “Infectious Diseases Surveillance and Control Principles Regulation” prepared by the Ministry of Health and published in the Official Gazette in 2007 can be accessed here.
Can Covid-19 be a Work Accident?
Again as Covid-19 is a recent epidemic, it is not specifically disclosed in any legislation yet. However, it is not the first or probably last epidemic in the world. Covid-19 can be compared to prior contagious diseases such as H1N1 or swine flu that had caused many casualties.
For instance, swine flu was considered as a work accident within the framework of certain criteria with the decision of the Supreme Court. Experts state that this decision will set a precedent for Covid-19 to fall under work accident within the predetermined criteria. The situation of a worker who is infected with Covid-19 in the workplace by the task he has given by the employer or by contracting the infection through his colleagues in the workplace will be recorded as a work accident.
What are the Employer’s Rights in Covid-19?
It is known that large-scale quarantine is applied in hotspot zones with Covid-19. Many factories and workplaces in these regions either cannot work at full capacity or cannot work at all. Most countries like Turkey have started to see the economic impact of the epidemic in terms of importing raw materials and goods from far eastern countries where the virus spread was initially strong.
According to Turkish Labor Law, employers have certain rights in the contraction or stopping of production arising from the supply of raw materials, intermediate goods or commercial goods. In the Articles 42 and 64 of the Labor Law, the cessation of work for compulsory reasons leads to a compensatory work for later. After the said situation is over, the employer can make remedial work, provided that it does not exceed the legal working hours within the next 2 months.
What are the Worker’s Rights Dealing with Covid-19?
24/1 of the Labor Law article entails the termination of the worker with the just cause regarding health reasons. Accordingly, if there is an epidemic in the workplace that is likely to be transmitted to the worker, the employment contract can be terminated by the worker for just cause. In other words, the fact that even one person in the workplace gets Covid-19 opens the way for other workers who are in close contact to terminate with just cause. In this case, close contact with the sick person is key for validating just cause. In case the sick person does not come to work on medical leave, other workers cannot justify termination of employment with just cause.
What Does the Law Say for Remote Work?
For people who have traveled abroad, it is recommended to stay at home for 14 days and self-quarantine as a measure of contagion prevention. Under those circumstances, it is advised to work remotely in order to contain the potential spread of the virus.
In the today’s business environment, many transactions can take place in digital space. Just like Datassist’s Dakika, many HR Departments have moved to digital space. Some adaptations and revisions are made to the laws based on the changing work needs.
In 2016, clauses on remote work are added to article 14 of the Labor Law. You can reach detailed information on working remotely here.
Experts state that avoiding crowded environments is the golden rule to avoid Covid-19. Even if the workplaces are sterile and reliable, public transport is an extremely favorable environment for the spread of viruses.Working remotely can be more important in terms of both health and efficiency. It is also among the information that many companies switch to remote work or implement a shift system to protect against the virus.