Collective employment relations

The new Collective Bargaining Agreement No. 160 of 19 November 2021, concluded in the National Labour Council, temporarily introduces justified absence from work (with pay) for a Covid-19 test based on the advice of the “Self-Assessment Testing Tool”. This online SAT tool, which was developed to take the pressure off general practitioners, advises, based on a questionnaire filled in by the symptomatic person, whether a test is appropriate or not. If the SAT tool advises a test, the person concerned can request a code for a free test. Upon generating that code, the tool provides an absence certificate that the employee can use to justify their absence.

Justified absence of up to 36 hours

The new CBA provides for a justified absence for the employee when he or she has a Corona test carried out on the advice of the Self-Assessment Testing Tool. The employee will retain his/her salary for this period of absence, which can be up to 36 hours from the time the SAT tool generates the test code.

Conditions for the use of this measure

This measure is temporary and runs from 19 November 2021 to 28 February 2022. Employees can use it a maximum of 3 times. The tool is only intended for those who show mild symptoms. It does not apply to those who show severe symptoms, belong to a risk group or whose health is deteriorating rapidly. They should contact a doctor. Nor can an employee who feels too ill to go to work – regardless of the nature of the symptoms – benefit from the measure: this employee should consult a doctor for the determination of incapacity for work.

The Self-Assessment Testing Tool is not intended for employees who had a high-risk contact, who want to obtain a CST (Covid Safe Ticket) or who need a test in the context of travelling. These employees also cannot benefit from the measure in CBA No. 160.

Obligations of the employee who is tested on the advice of the SAT tool

The employee must immediately inform the employer of his/her absence and submit the certificate of absence generated by the tool as soon as possible. As soon as the test result is known, the employee should inform the employer of any resumption of work or further absence. For reasons of privacy, the employer may not ask for the test result nor is the employee obliged to communicate it.

If the test result is positive, a doctor will determine whether the employee will receive a quarantine certificate or a certificate of incapacity for work. In the first case, an employee who can work remotely can still continue working. If this is not possible, the employee can claim temporary unemployment benefits.

Justified absence giving rise to guaranteed pay

The justified absence from work, limited in duration to 36 hours, leads to the payment of a guaranteed salary that is equal to the normal salary as calculated according to the legislation on public holidays.

Action point

This new measure runs from 19 November 2021 to 28 February 2022. Within this period, the employee can be absent with pay a maximum of 3 times to take a Covid-19 test resulting from the SAT tool. This absence is limited to 36 hours, and the employee has to deliver a certificate of absence to the employer as soon as possible.