Coronavirus: what are the consequences for work?

A pandemic such as a coronavirus (COVID-19) has a significant impact on our professional lives. We, therefore, answer some pressing questions. How to fight the virus in the workplace? What to do if a colleague becomes infected? What if I am infected myself? Do I still have to come to work? Am I entitled to my regular wages?

What if you had contact with an infected colleague?

If a colleague is infected at work, you should keep a close eye on some symptoms in the fourteen days after the last contact: fever, cough, breathing problems. Possibly also chills, muscle pain, fatigue, sore throat, headache, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting or a runny nose. This can all indicate an infection.

What to do if you think you are infected?

Do you think you are infected? Then first contact your doctor or company doctor by telephone and follow his or her instructions. Don’t sit in the doctor’s waiting room, so you don’t infect other people.

Do I have to notify my employer if I am infected?

Those infected with the coronavirus are incapacitated for work. You are legally obliged to inform your employer of your absence. It is important that you do this as soon as possible. Also, to be able to inform your colleagues. You must also submit a medical certificate from your doctor or the company doctor within 48 hours. If you do not do this, your absence is unlawful. In that case, you risk not receiving a salary for these days!

Can I be banned from coming to work?

Your employer may ask, as a preventive measure, to stay at home or go home to take care of yourself to prevent further contamination in the workplace. This certainly applies if you recently travelled in a risk country such as Italy or China. In that case, you are entitled to your regular wages.

Am I entitled to my regular wages if I have to stay at home?

If you are ill, you are entitled to guaranteed wages during that period. Your employer will pay your wages during the first seven days (blue-collar worker) or the first 30 days (white-collar worker). After that, you fall back on disability benefits through sickness and disability insurance. For those who have to work at home, the standard employment contract continues to apply, and you receive regular wages.

How can I avoid contamination as much as possible?

It is best to apply these hygiene rules very strictly:

  • wash your hands regularly
  • cough or sneeze in your elbow fold, not in your hands
  • throw paper handkerchiefs directly into the bin after use
  • do not touch eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • avoid direct contact with sick people
  • regularly clean and disinfect door handles, telephones, keyboards, bannisters, elevator knobs,…

Would you like to know more about the prevention measures and labour law consequences of the coronavirus? Surf to the website of the FPS Employment, Labour and Social Dialogue (only available in Dutch and French). The National Employment Office Belgium also collected a lot of useful information about temporary unemployment as a result of the outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 via this link (only available in Dutch and French).

Do you have specific questions about the employment law consequences of COVID-19 for your company? Please contact us for tailor-made advice via the contact page. We do our utmost to – even in this exceptional period – answer all questions within 24 hours.


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