Updated on 21 April 2020
In response to quarantine triggered by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Lithuania and its potential impact on organising work, we have prepared this article covering key information for employers.
A nationwide quarantine was announced in Lithuania, effective Monday, 16 March until 11 May 2020. We are constantly monitoring the situation and will update the information promptly if new decisions are announced by the Government.
The Government resolution on a declaration of quarantine in Lithuania is available here (in Lithuanian).
Action by employers whose activities are restricted
In companies performing certain activities, the workload might significantly decrease or disappear altogether. We offer a brief overview of activities that are prohibited or restricted and action these companies can take affecting their employees.
Please note, that information below was updated according to the recent changes to the law.
Activities prohibited during the quarantine and exceptions
- Visiting cultural, leisure, entertainment and sports facilities as well as serving visitors physically. This includes museums, cinemas, children’s playrooms, sports clubs and other institutions.
- All events and gatherings in both open and closed spaces, except for events in open spaces when the participants do not get out of the car and there are no more than two people in the car (except for family members).
- Activities of healthcare centres, sanatoriums, recreation centres, except individual rehabilitation services related to treatment.
- Activities of restaurants, cafes, bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues. The prohibition does not apply when the food can be sold as a takeaway or delivered to customers. This means that caterers with the ability to sell food for takeaway or delivery can still operate (when operating in accordance with hygiene regulations).
- Providing beauty services.
- Activities of casinos and slot machine operators.
- Educational and childcare activities in all educational institutions, daycare centres and after-school activity centres are suspended (except for remote education).
- Activities of shops, shopping/entertainment centres and markets. The prohibition does not apply to:
- the sale of food, veterinary, pharmacy, optical and orthopaedic goods;
- online sales and when goods can be delivered to the customers;
- any kind of shops where the premises can be accessed by a separate direct entrance from the outside and the number of customers is restricted;
- outdoor sale of plants for planting, seeds and fertilizers.
Action that can be taken affecting employees
Idle time. A company that cannot provide employees with agreed work due to emergency situation or quarantine declared by the Government can unilaterally declare idle time if due to the organization of work there is no possibility to work remotely or the employee does not agree to work for another job offered. Idle time can be declared for a certain period or indefinitely. The salary of a full-time employee during idle time may not be lower than the minimum wage set in Lithuania (EUR 607 gross).
State subsidy. The state will provide employers with subsidies on wages during idle time, which will be paid until the Government-declared state of emergency and quarantine continue. Each employer will be able to choose the amount of the subsidy – 90% of the employee’s wage but not more than the minimum wage in Lithuania (EUR 607), or 70% of the employee’s wage but not more than the 1.5 minimum wages in Lithuania (EUR 910.50). The employer must retain at least 50% of the subsidised employees for at least 3 months after subsidy payments stop. More information on state subsidies may be found here.
Partial idle time. An employer can declare partial idle time if ‒ for objective reasons ‒ unable to provide an employee or their team with a full-time job but still able to provide part of the agreed work. Partial idle time is declared by reducing the number of weekly working days by at least two working days or daily working hours by at least three working hours. Wages are paid for time actually worked, while time during which an employee did not work is paid as idle time (see the information provided above). If employers declared partial idle time, they can also apply for subsidies on wages.
Partial employment. For important economic reasons recognized by the Government, shorter working hours may be set (up to half an employee’s working time). In this case, loss of earnings is offset by payment of part-time benefit from state social security funds. Partial employment is subject to specific legal requirements and procedures. So far, the Government has not adopted a resolution allowing for partial employment benefit.
Modification of working time. With the consent of the employee, their employment contract may be changed to provide for a lower working-time schedule (for example, part-time work), with a corresponding reduction in remuneration.
Transfer to another position. If possible, and with mutual agreement, an employee may be transferred to another position. The agreement may be for a fixed or indefinite period.
Employee lease. During the state of emergency and quarantine less strict conditions for temporary employment apply.
Granting annual leave. If your employees are willing and you have the opportunity, you can agree that they will use accumulated annual leave. Employers may also provide more vacation days than employees have accrued, but in this case it should be borne in mind that deductibility in case of termination of employment is limited. When granting annual leave, it should also be borne in mind that the Labour Code sets a priority order for leave. This order must be taken into account when granting leave if you cannot satisfy all employees’ requests for leave at the same time.
Unpaid leave. On request, an employee may be granted unpaid leave. But unpaid leave cannot be granted solely at the will of the employer.
Termination of employment contracts. If a reduced workload would result in termination of contracts with some employees, note that the law provides for notice periods ranging from 2 weeks to 3 months plus additional guarantees for certain groups of employees – for example, parents with children under 3 years old. In addition, if such redundancies were to be considered as group redundancies (for example, 10 or more redundancies in companies with 20 to 99 employees), employees’ representatives should be informed and consulted before any decision is taken. Thus, when planning redundancies employers should allow sufficient time for proper implementation.
Organising work in companies that are not subject to restrictions
There is no requirement for the private sector to organise work and serve customers remotely. During the quarantine period, it is recommended (but not mandatory) to organise work and serve clients remotely, except when necessary to perform certain functions at the workplace. Therefore, we recommend that you evaluate the possibility of remote work immediately and, if possible, organise it.
In certain cases, the employer must comply with an employee’s request to work remotely for at least 1/5 of their working time unless this is objectively impossible. Groups of employees whose request to work remotely must be granted by the employer:
- pregnant women, women who have given birth recently or are breastfeeding;
- employees raising children under 3 years old;
- single parents raising children under 14 or disabled children under 18.
In all cases, we recommend that you communicate to employees the basic remote work rules defining working time and employee availability, use of work equipment, compliance with safety and health requirements, and other aspects.
In the event of a reduction in the volume of work and inability to offer work to all employees, consider taking action listed in the previous section on “Action by employers whose activities are restricted” (eg full or partial idle time, annual leave).
Organising work after suspension of educational institutions
All educational institutions (including kindergartens, schools, universities, after-school clubs) are suspended during the quarantine period. To ensure that employees with children can look after them during this period, we suggest that you consider the following options:
Certificate of incapacity for work. Parents, adoptive parents, guardians and grandparents of kindergarteners, pre-schoolers and primary school pupils may apply for a certificate of incapacity for work, as long as they cannot work remotely and are not on idle time. Certificates of incapacity for work can be issued for a period lasting until the end of the quarantine. An employee who has accumulated the necessary record for sickness social insurance will be paid sickness benefit from social insurance authorities during this period. This also applies to employees who have to care for family members with disabilities and employees with severe chronic illnesses who have an increased risk to contract COVID-19.
Remote work. If an employee’s work does not require a permanent presence on company premises, we suggest that you consider organising work from home (see section on “Action by employers whose activities are restricted” above).
Annual leave. If it is not possible to use any of the above-mentioned options, you can agree with an employee to use their accumulated annual leave.
Unpaid leave. An employee may, on request, be granted unpaid leave. Unpaid leave cannot be granted solely at the will of the employer.
Isolation of employees arriving from abroad
During the quarantine period, everyone arriving from abroad must be isolated for 14 days. Mandatory isolation applies when returning from any foreign country, including Latvia, Estonia and other EU countries.
Employers should not allow such employees to work from the company premises during the isolation period. Where possible, they should work remotely. If remote work is not possible, other options (eg idle time, vacation, a certificate of incapacity for work) should be considered. If an employee returning from abroad does not agree to work remotely or consult a family doctor for a certificate of incapacity for work, although this is possible, he or she may be unilaterally released from work without pay.
This requirement does not apply to several employee categories, e.g. drivers and crew members in commercial international cargo operations, when they do not have COVID-19 symptoms. Such employees must isolate from the arrival to Lithuania until they leave the country, but no more than 14 days.
The departure of Lithuanian citizens from Lithuania is prohibited, unless they are returning to their place of permanent residence, travelling to their place of work, or if they are drivers or crew members in commercial international cargo operations, or they have the permission of the head of the State Border Guard Service or someone authorized by them. Therefore, business trips or other travel abroad are prohibited during the quarantine period.
Foreigners are forbidden to enter Lithuania during the quarantine period, except for several groups of persons, for example:
- drivers and crew members in commercial international cargo operations;
- family members of Lithuanian citizens;
- foreigners who have the right to reside in Lithuania (ie non-EU citizens with a temporary or permanent residence permit and EU citizens with a certificate confirming the right to reside in Lithuania temporarily or permanently). Please note that visa holders do not have the right to reside in Lithuania and may, therefore, be refused entry;
- foreigners who under exceptional circumstances obtain the Government‘s permission to arrive in Lithunia.
This means that employees who are not Lithuanian citizens and do not have a temporary or permanent residence permit (or an appropriate certificate for EU citizens) and who are currently abroad, will not be able to return to Lithuania during the quarantine period unless they have a special permission of the Government. The same restriction applies if the employee has a visa – this does not grant the right to reside in Lithuania, so the entry of visa holders into Lithuania is also restricted.
Employee-related financial liabilities
When looking for solutions to manage the situation and optimize costs, we also recommend reviewing the company’s remuneration policies and additional benefit policies. A business could evaluate options for unilaterally reviewing variable remuneration, incentive bonuses and other bonuses and, if necessary, reduce or cancel them. Note that contractual variable pay may only be changed by an agreement.
Ensuring safe working conditions
In this situation, employers should pay particular attention to ensuring safe working conditions. Currently, the State Labour Inspectorate has issued guidelines for employers. These include activities such as regular ventilation of premises, provision of personal hygiene products (including disinfectants) and wet cleaning of surfaces. However, we recommend consulting with occupational safety specialists and taking additional measures if the specific nature of the business so requires.
Our Employment team is at your disposal, should you need advice on any employment issues you are facing. Do not hesitate to contact us.