10 July, 2020
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Introduction of Rulebook for preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace

Returning to work after months of quarantine and isolation measures brings challenges to both employers and employees, especially considering that the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is nowhere in sight. Consequently, the Ministry of Labor, Employment, Veterans’, and Social Affairs adopted preventive measures, including those aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the cases where there are infections in the workplace. This was enacted through the Rulebook on preventive measures for a safe working environment and the prevention of infectious diseases (“Official Gazette of RS, no. 94/2020) (“Rulebook”).

The Rulebook will enter into force on July 11, 2020 and contains preventive measures which employers must impose in order to prevent the occurrence and spread of infectious diseases, reduce the risk to health and safety of employees and anyone who enters the work environment. Some of the measures were to be expected, while others leave it up to the employer to organize within the workplace.

As prescribed, the Rulebook applies to all workplaces, other than field work and work from home, and outlines requirements which employers must meet in order to ensure effective implementation of prevention measures and thereby safe and healthy work conditions.

Prevention measures and activity plan

An employer has a duty to adopt a Plan for measures and activities for preventing the occurrence and spread of infectious diseases (“Plan”), which is an essential part of the Risk Assessment Act (“Act”) brought in accordance with the Law on Health and Safety in the Workplace. This also means that the employer is obliged to introduce amendments or addendums to the Act in order to harmonize it with the Rulebook. The Plan must contain preventive measures for stopping the spread of COVID-19, which is the current threat, measures in case of infection, and responsibility for implementation and enforcement of preventive measures.

Protection measures

The Rulebook contains a detailed explanation of employer’s obligations towards employees. Among other obligations, the employer has to provide employees with protective equipment – namely masks and gloves. They are also required to reorganize workers by introducing shifts. Employees, on the other hand, are required to follow all preventive measures, with a special emphasis on maintenance of own hygiene and cleanliness of their workplace.

Furthermore, employers have a duty to provide a safe work environment for external associates, suppliers, and distributors. Consequently, many businesses will have to change their business models and the way they conduct meetings with clients or associates. Corporate culture as we know it will be put to the test.

One of the protection measures is the procedure in case there are workplace COVID-19 infections or if someone starts showing symptoms of the disease in the workplace. In this case, the infected employee is to be placed in a separate room with frequent ventilation. If someone in the workplace tests positive for COVID-19, the employer must inform other employees about their exposure to the disease, in line with existing data protection standards.

Enforcement of the measures

The person responsible for workplace health and safety will be appointed to make sure that these measures are implemented and enforced in the workplace.  The appointed person and the employer are expected to cooperate in cases where new health and safety measures are required.

The COVID-19 pandemic, which is showing no signs of slowing down, took a heavy toll on economies all over the world.  As a result, authorities have enacted this Rulebook to help employers protect their employees from the spread of infectious diseases and enable some consistency and functioning of workplaces in these unprecedented times.