Special employment law rules adopted during the first wave of the coronavirus have already been repealed, hence, in the middle of the second wave, employers must act in accordance with the general rules but with special care and consideration.
According to the rule remained in force until 1st July, parties were free to deviate from any provisions of the Labor Code by a separate mutual agreement. Therefore, currently, mandatory labor law provisions protecting workers are applicable again and agreements contrary to statutory provisions which do not allow for derogations, have become invalid.
Although the possibility for employers to order home office and telework unilaterally, without restrictions, has been abolished as of 1st July 2020, it can still be stipulated by mutual agreement, and the Labor Code allows employers to derogate from the employment contract unilaterally, for a maximum period of forty-four working days or three hundred and fifty-two scheduled hours during a calendar year. The differences between home office and teleworking have already been covered in detail in this article, but we note that a bill is to be submitted to the Hungarian Parliament on the detailed rules of home office.
Rules adopted during the first wave of the pandemic on working time and the communication of working hours do not apply anymore either save for working time banking periods that have been ordered before lifting the state of emergency.
With the spread of the pandemic, more and more questions arise among both employers and employees about occupational safety and the performance of tasks. On one hand, some (possibly elderly) employees with chronic illnesses would prefer not to enter the office because of the fear of infection even if such risks are not significant, whereas employers try to ensure working conditions, compliance with occupational safety requirements and, of course, they keep economic considerations in mind as well.
In this context, the primary obligation of the employer is to provide the necessary working conditions. It is also obliged to ensure the implementation of occupational safety and occupational health requirements and may only employ their employees for work of such nature which is not considered harmful with a view to their physical condition or development.
The employee, on the other hand, is obliged to appear in a condition capable of work at the place and time specified by the employer, to be available during working hours, and to perform his work in accordance with the relevant rules, instructions and customs. Therefore, generally, the employer’s instructions determine the framework of work even during a pandemic, and if the employer requires personal presence, the employee cannot refuse personal appearance in case he is in good health and there are no circumstances indicating an infection.
The situation is different if the employee has been infected. In such a case, as it follows from the obligation of cooperation, the expected behavior on the part of the employee is to inform the employer of his state of health. Moreover, the employee shall refuse to comply with an instruction if it would result in direct and grave risk to the health of others or to the environment.
It is impossible to find a general solution to all conflicts arising from the pandemic given the fact that every situation is different, in such hard times acting in line with the principles of good faith and fairness, mutual cooperation, and respecting the rights and legitimate interests of the other party may be of particular importance while parties are trying to balance between work safety and keeping jobs.