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 13 April 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. The changes directed at stimulating the economy and supporting business were confirmed on 18 March 2020.
Activities prohibited during the quarantine:
- 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.
- 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).
- Activities of shops, shopping/entertainment centres and markets. The prohibition does not apply to the sale of food, veterinary, pharmacy optical goods and orthopedic technical aids. Similarly, the prohibition does not apply to online sales and when goods can be delivered to customers or picked-up (when businesses operate 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).
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. 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).
The state will provide employers with subsidies on wages during idle time, which can be paid for up to 3 months. The amount of the subsidy is 90% of the employee’s wage, but not more than the minimum wage in Lithuania if company activities are restricted by quarantine measures. If the company is not restricted by quarantine measures, the subsidy is 60% of the employee’s wage, but not more than the minimum wage in Lithuania. The subsidy is only granted if the employer retains the employee’s position for at least 3 months after subsidy payments stop.
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.
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).
When idle time is declared in a sector which is not restricted by the quarantine, the wage subsidy is 60% of the employee’s wage.
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. 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.
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 returning from abroad
During the quarantine period, everyone returning 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) should be considered. If an employee returning from abroad does not agree to work remotely, although this is possible, he or she may be unilaterally dismissed 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 employees who do not have COVID-19 symptoms and when the employer ensures adequate isolation conditions of less 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 and/or 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;
- 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.
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. 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, after consulting with occupational safety specialists, companies may also take additional measures if the specific nature of the business so requires.
The Sorainen Employment team is at your disposal, should you need advice in any employment issues you are facing. Do not hesitate to contact us.