Labour Inspection checks compliance with “corona-measures”
12 May 2020
On March 31, we wrote a short article about ‘how our government can determine that breaches of the “anti-corona measures” may be sanctioned with administrative and criminal penalties’ (article in Dutch). A lot of fines have been imposed in the meantime; Dutch news sites report a number of 8800 to this date, to be more precise.
Apart from the police, the Labour Inspection is also conducting law enforcement related to infraction of the anti-corona measures. Their focus lies on employers. The economy is restarting slowly, which means that there is more to check on. Employees are risking exposure to the corona virus, whereas employers are under the obligation to ensure that employees can work safely without risking their health. This creates an area of tension in which the Inspection operates.
Article 3 and 5 of the Working Conditions Act contain the most important obligations in this respect, but there are underlying rules that are more detailed. Depending on the particular situation, Chapter 4 of the Working Conditions Decree regarding “biological agents” may be applicable. This is the case where exposure is closely connected with the nature of the particular job. In such cases, the virus is seen as a biological agent that causes risks. Employers need to protect employees against these agents. In those situations, law enforcement is based on Chapter 4 of the Working Conditions Act.
If the danger of being exposed isn’t specifically connected to the job in particular, but has a more general nature, different rules apply. Employers are under the obligation to ensure that employees can work safely, and that requires a Risk Assesment. The Risk Assessment has to describe all the dangers and all the measures that have been taken to counter the risks. The corona virus is one of such dangers.
So, depending on the job and on the nature of the exposure, the rules may differ. The Labour Inspection has stated that in the near future it will pay close attention to the ways that employees are protected against exposure to the corona virus. According to the Inspection, compliance with the duty of care (which is part of the Working Conditions Act) is of the utmost importance in these times where considerable amounts of money are spent by everyone to counter the corona virus. Employers who don’t put enough effort in protecting their employees will be confronted with law enforcement. This may mean that fines or other penalties are imposed.
Do you have any questions regarding your obligations as an employer? Do not hesitate to call us, so we can discuss where you may need assistance.