With new Covid-19 regulations approved, employers will be able to suspend employees

With new regulations to halt the spread of Covid-19 in place and the requirement for compulsory vaccination expanded for some sectors of the economy, employers are provided with the right to dictate which employees are required to undergo Covid-19 vaccination. Additionally, new regulations provide employees and employers with multiple ways of resolving vaccination-related disputes, including downtime and even suspension, as journalists were told by Latvian Ministry of Welfare Labour Relations and Labour Protection Policy Department’s vice-director Ineta Vjakse on Thursday, 30 September.
Latvia’s government previously approved new Covid-19 regulations. The updated rules state that from October onward nearly all indoor areas will be prohibited for people who do not have a valid Covid-19 vaccination or recovery certificate. Additionally, new rules make vaccination compulsory for representatives of multiple professions. Employers are given the duty of listing which employees are required to undergo Covid-19 vaccination.
The government’s adopted regulations clearly and unambiguously detail the employer’s duty to not let employees to their work station if said employee does not present a vaccination or recovery certificate, says Vjakse.
The official of the Ministry of Welfare stresses that new regulations do not govern labour relations. This means employer/employee relations remain governed by the Labour Law.
In a situation when an employee does not have a valid Covid-19 vaccination/recovery certificate, the employer will be able to use solutions provided by the Labour Law.
If it is not possible for the employer to restructure their operations and offer employees the option to work remotely and the only way to work is in person at the work place, the employer and employees have multiple potential solutions at their disposal.
According to the official, the two sides can agree to amend their labour relations and continue their relations under different employment conditions. Additionally, the employee may be suspended or subjected to downtime. The employer and employee can also agree on terminating relations.
At the same time, the employee has the right at any time to terminate their contract. The employer, on the other hand, has the right to look for new employees at any time in accordance with requirements and rules of the Labour Law.
Annotation to the government’s regulations also stress the issue with downtime. If the employer does not have the right to accept work done by employees without Covid-19 certificate, a situation similar to downtime appears, says Vjakse. This means the employer is not able to employ an employee who is unable to present a valid certificate. This means the downtime in question appears as a result of the employee’s actions.
In accordance with regulations listed in the Labour Law on downtime, if it appears as a result of the employee’s actions, no wage is to be paid. The law does not state any maximum length of downtime, however.
At the same time, the annotation to the government’s approved regulations state the employer is to inform the employee of the downtime, the reasons behind it and legal consequences. At the same time, in certain situations the employer may suspend the employee if the employee’s continued activities may put the health of others or the employer’s and third persons’ interests.
The maximum period of time of an employee’s suspension is three months.
Vjakse says the government will prepare detailed guidelines for employers to follow in conflicting situations.