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Since the state of emergency has been lifted in the Republic of Serbia, both employers and employees found themselves in a doubt on how to organize the work process, what are the obligations and measures which need to be implemented in order to prevent the infection from spreading, who is responsible for oversights and what are the penalties…
The main reason for this lays in the fact that, so far, everything was based on the recommendations from the competent authorities, given that no binding legal acts that would regulate the obligations of the employers related to the work organization after the termination of the state of emergency were adopted, neither on the state nor the city and municipality level (which is the topic in our text If You Believe You Are Ready to Have Your Employees Return to the Workplace, Think Twice).
However, starting from July 11th, 2020, all the obligations regarding the employers’ work organization, as well as the protective measures against the spread of the infection, received their official and binding legal frame.
Namely, on July 3rd, 2020 the Rulebook on the Preventive Measures for Safe and Healthy Work in Order to Hinder the Occurrence and Spread of the Epidemic of the Infectious Disease (hereinafter: Rulebook) has been adopted and starting July 11th, 2020 it enters into force and regulates in detail the obligations of both employers and employees in the workplace. In accordance with the Rulebook, the employers need to adopt the prevention plan harmonized with the Rulebook by August 10th, 2020.
The Rulebook defines:
It is important to underline that this Rulebook does not apply in the cases of work from home or remote work.
Therefore, only the employers who organize their work on business premises, are required to comply with the previously mentioned Rulebook.
The Rulebook prescribes several preventive measures which need to be undertaken by the employers, especially including the following:
before starting work, to provide the written instructions and guidelines on the measures and procedures for hindering the occurrence of the infectious disease, which contain the information on the symptoms of the disease;
in accordance with the possibilities, in case there is no shift work organized, to reschedule the working hours by introducing the second or third shift with fewer employees engaged;
to conduct intensified hygiene and disinfection of the work premises and auxiliary rooms, which includes the regular disinfection of the premises and frequent ventilation of the working space;
to supply the employees with sufficient amounts of soap, napkins, running water and alcohol disinfection solutions for handwashing;
to provide regular cleaning of all the surfaces often being touched in working place, especially the rooms and equipment such as toilets, door handles, landline phones, computer hardware, and other work equipment;
to put in place records on the disinfection of work premises and auxiliary rooms which are being organized and conducted;
to arrange that the instructions for safe and healthy work with the contractors, suppliers, distributors, and external associates are in place;
to organize and ensure that the waste and garbage (garbage bins lined with plastic bags) are removed on a regular basis from the premises so that they can be emptied without the contact with their content.
Besides, within 30 days from the day Rulebook enters into force – therefore, no later than August 10th, 2020 – the employers are obliged to adopt the Plan of the implementation of the measures for hindering the occurrence and spread of the infectious disease epidemic, which is an integral part of the risk assessment act.
What should not be overlooked is the obligation of the employers on the territories of local self-governments where the state of emergency is declared to implement additional special safety measures defined by the Government’s Decree on preventive measures for safe and healthy work.
Besides the duties of the employers, the Rulebook, notably, determines the employee’s obligations. Namely, all the responsibilities have so far were a burden on the employers. Yet, the Rulebook prescribes the obligatory measures for the protection of the infectious disease spreading for the employees, too.
According to the Rulebook, the employee has the following responsibilities:
to perform all the preventive work safety and health measures, in order to preserve their health, as well as the health of other employees;
to purposely use the prescribed means and equipment for personal workplace protection and operate with them carefully, to make sure that their own work safety and health and the safety and health of other persons are not endangered;
to additionally maintain their hygiene by washing hands regularly and properly;
to keep their personal clothes separately from the means and equipment for personal workplace protection and working suit;
to necessarily inform the employer in case of suspicion on the symptoms of the infectious disease, regardless whether it is the employee, other employees or the members of employee’s family who are experiencing such symptoms;
to examine their place of work before the beginning of the work, including the means and equipment for the personal work protection, as well as to inform the employer or other authorized person in case they notice any irregularities;
to make sure that, before they leave their place of work, the place of work and work means are in such condition that they cannot endanger other employees;
to immediately inform the employer about all the noticed irregularities, damages, dangers, or any other occurrence which may jeopardize the safety and health of them or other employees, and which the employee is familiar with;
to cooperate with the employer and the work safety and health offices, in order to implement additional necessary measures for work safety and health.
What is interesting is that the Rulebook itself does not specifically regulate the consequences of the obligation breaches, i.e. the omission of their implementing, neither referring to the employers, nor employees.
However, that does not mean that you are not facing appropriate penalties or misdemeanor liability in case you do not comply with imperative duties.
Namely, given that the Rulebook prescribes the preventive measures related to the work safety and health, we consider that in case of the Rulebook provisions breach, the penalty provisions of Law on work safety and health apply, which prescribe the fines for the employers in the amount of RSD 800,000 to 1,000.000.
On the other hand, the same Law prescribes the fines for the employees, amounting from RSD 10,000 to 20,000, but it is extremely rare for inspection authorities to pronounce them to the employees in practice.
After all, it can be stated that is it unclear why the government officials waited for almost 2 months after the termination of the state of emergency in Serbia to regulate the obligations of employers and employees more precisely, as well as the preventive measures for hindering the COVID-19 spread. One thing is certain – the reckless acts by these authorities caused the infection to spread repeatedly, and the Rulebook has been adopted with a two-month delay.
Either way, the ball is now on the employers’ side of the court. In case you did not implement all the measures, you have a new opportunity to conclude that process in the following week.