COVID-19 - RETURN TO OFFICE WORK UPDATE 28.08.2020

As the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) situation still affects the global economic, each country is trying to find a balance between economic and health regulations to support businesses and citizens. Ukraine has been gradually relaxing the quarantine restrictions and partially reopened the national economy starting from May 2020. However, due to a negative tendency of infection rates across the country, Ukraine has extended the quarantine and restored some restrictions until at least October 31, 2020. Please find below an updated overview of restrictive/preventive measures taken as of August 28, 2020.


General quarantine measures have been extended until October 31, 2020

From August 1, 2020, Ukrainian regions and districts have been assigned a certain category of hazard depending on the epidemiologic situation: green, yellow, orange, and red (Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On establishment of quarantine and introduction of enhanced anti-epidemic measures in the area with a significant spread of acute respiratory disease COVID-19 caused by coronavirus SARS-CoV-2” dated July 22, 2020, as amended). The intensity of quarantine measures in an area will depend on the assigned category of hazard, which is revised weekly by the authorities. Certain basic quarantine measures (requirement to wear masks in public buildings and on public transit) apply even in green zones.


On August 26, 2020 the Ukrainian Government extended the national quarantine measures until at least October 31, 2020 by adopting a respective decree.


Foreigners are prohibited to enter Ukraine from August 28 until at least September 28, 2020

The Ukrainian Government has again closed the Ukrainian borders for most foreigners until September 28. Only certain categories of foreigners would be allowed to enter Ukraine from August 28 till September 28, 2020, in particular: foreigners holding Ukrainian work permits, foreigners holding Ukrainian (temporary or permanent) residence permits, close relatives (spouse, children, parents) of Ukrainian citizens, students, militaries, transit travelers (up to 2 days transit is allowed). Such persons shall also have an insurance policy that covers possible COVID-19 treatment and observation, which is valid for the full term of trip to Ukraine and is issued by an authorized insurance company (a Ukrainian insurance company or a foreign insurance company with an authorized representative in Ukraine).

All other foreigners are not allowed to enter Ukraine even providing negative COVID-19 test-result and relevant insurance.


Employment regulations

Ukraine has never prohibited working in the office during the quarantine. However, it issued the general recommendation to give preference to remote work and flexible schedules, wherever possible. Nevertheless, employers are obliged to adjust workplaces to meet sanitary and social distancing requirements. As businesses have resumed office work, authorities have adequately revised the restrictions applicable for office employees in order to maintain health safety measures.


Most quarantine restrictions adopted at the national level are of recommendatory character. At the same time, regulations passed by local authorities (in particular, in Kyiv) are more detailed and compulsory. As a general rule, the more strict regulations have legal priority.


Persons that require self-isolation

Some categories of people require 14-days self-isolation at home: persons suspected of being infected with COVID-19; persons diagnosed with COVID-19; persons having been in contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19; persons having crossed the state border and given consent to self-isolation via a mobile application. Employers shall ensure such persons are not admitted to work.


Also, the Government encourages all persons that have symptoms of severe diseases or chronic diseases to stay at home.


Social distancing at the office

  • There are only general recommendations on the national level to ensure social distancing of 1.5 meters between employees and/or clients (visitors);

  • Employers are advised to manage occupancy levels or the use of fixed teams on a rotating basis to minimize contacts.

Internal meetings

  • All meetings should take place remotely where possible;

  • In case personal meetings are necessary, all participants should keep a safe distance of 1.5 meters and wear masks;

  • Each meeting room must be equipped with hand sanitizers (minimum 70% of alcohol);

  • Use of common spaces (such as lounge rooms) should be restricted.

External meetings/visitors

  • Meetings with external visitors (customers, clients) should take place only in exceptional cases (if a personal meeting is absolutely necessary);

  • Visual examination of visitors is recommended (such as temperature screening, check for other symptoms of respiratory disease). Visitors may be denied entrance to the office in case they have symptoms of respiratory infection;

  • For employees who serve visitors, it is recommended to install safety screens;

  • Visitors should be informed on social distancing and hygiene requirements.

For companies operating in Kyiv, additional mandatory local restrictions apply:

  • Companies shall ensure entrance sanitary control (visual checks and body temperature screening) and not admit to the premises persons without individual protective means, in particular, a respirator or mask;

  • The number of personal contacts with visitors (clients) shall be reduced to a minimum. Documents shall be received via regular postal service or email, or via other electronic communication means;

  • Appointments and meetings with visitors (clients) shall be conducted via modern IT means for remote communication (Skype, Viber, other messengers);

  • Special mailboxes shall be installed for the acceptance of incoming correspondence so that visitors can drop off their documents without attending the premises and getting in contact with the staff.

Mask wearing

  • Throughout Ukraine, a general recommendation applies for everyone to wear masks outside their homes. People are obliged to wear masks in “public” buildings, such as governmental and medical buildings and on public transport;

  • A person without a mask may be denied entrance to an office building;

  • Employees are advised to wear facemasks also at their workstations.

For companies operating in Kyiv, additional mandatory local restrictions apply:

  • Employees may be admitted to work only if they wear individual protective means, in particular, a respirator or a protective mask as well as disposable hand gloves;

  • An employer shall provide each employee with masks, considering one mask per three working hours. Employers shall have enough masks in stock to cover the next 5-day period.

  • Only employees wearing facemasks and hand gloves are allowed to enter office premises and provide services to clients;

  • Employees shall properly wash their hands with soap and process them with a disinfector after taking off used and before taking on new individual protective means;

  • Employers shall organize centralized collection and utilization of used individual protective means;

  • Employers shall train their employees regarding applicable quarantine restrictions and measures.

Temperature screening

  • Temperature screening is recommended, but not mandatory at the national level.

  • For companies operating in Kyiv, additional local mandatory restrictions apply:

  • Each employee shall pass daily temperature screening before starting his work and after the end of a working day. An employer shall keep records of temperature screening for all employees;

  • All persons with a body temperature higher than 37.2 Celsius and/or symptoms of an acute respiratory illness shall not be admitted to work and referred to a local medical centre for further diagnostics;

  • The data protection impact of temperature screening has to be duly addressed by employers keeping respective records.

Testing

Testing for COVID-19 is not required for the return of an employee to the office after working remotely. However, municipal authorities in Kyiv issued a recommendation for all local businesses to ensure testing of their employees for COVID-19 in order to timely identify any infection cases and prevent a potential spread of infection. In any case, such testing is voluntary and possible only with an employee’s explicit consent.


At the same time, the employer can theoretically insist that employees who refuse to undergo testing continue to work remotely.


Reporting to the authorities

There is no express nation-wide obligation of employers to report cases of the COVID-19 infection to authorities. The situation is different in Kyiv, where employers, based on local regulations, are required to immediately report to medical institutions any cases of employees displaying signs of respiratory infectious illness. In particular, the employer may call emergency medical care (103) or special hotlines for coronavirus treatment in different regions (in Kyiv: 1583 // 0800 505201 // 044 278 41 91).


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This publication is for informational purposes only. If you would like to learn more or seek legal advice, please contact one of the following or your usual Nobles contact: Volodymyr Yakubovskyy (Partner), Denys Vergeles (Counsel), Vasyl Fedorenko (Managing Associate).

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