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COVID-19 in Latvia: Ius Laboris Back to Work Guide for International Employers

2020-09-08

Read the full Ius Laboris guide about countries across the world: COVID-19: Back to Work Guide for International Employers.

Latvia

1. Restrictions on national daily life

The following restrictions are currently in place:

Culture, entertainment, leisure, public catering, gatherings

No more than 1000 people may gather at an organised indoor event (regardless of premises size) and an area of 3m2 must be provided per person. No more than 3000 people may gather at an organised outdoor event.

Indoor events for up to 1000 may be organised, subject to physical distancing, safety measures, and the rules set by the organiser. For cultural events where visitors sit in personalised, fixed seats, a distance of 1 m should be provided between the seats. Outdoor events for up to 3000 may be organised, subject to physical distancing and epidemiological safety measures. Outdoor drive-in cinemas and concerts, during which visitors stay in their cars may be organised (regardless of the number of participants). Open air cinemas must stop working no later than 02:00.

Entertainment, cultural, sports, public catering, and other recreational places can open from 06:00 to 02:00, except for nightclubs, discos, etc., which may be open from 06.00 to 24:00.

No more than eight individuals can share the same table indoors unless they are members of the same household.

Events at work

Employee gatherings for reasons other than performing their duties (after working hours, during breaks, in the rest rooms, canteen, etc.) are restricted.

Travel

The movement of people and vehicles through airport, port, railway and road border crossing points at the EU’s external border is banned from 10 June 2020. Latvian nationals and permanent residents can return to Latvia through the above-mentioned border crossing points. Latvian nationals who permanently reside abroad are allowed to cross borders with non-EU states only once in order to return to their country of residence. Foreign nationals are permitted to travel out of Latvia.

Travellers who have arrived from the countries where the cumulative index exceeds 16 (14-day cumulative COVID-19 cases per 100,000 inhabitants), must self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival in Latvia. The list of countries and recommendations for travellers is available here. The updated list is published every Friday.

From 10 June 2020, direct flights to/from countries whose cumulative index exceeds 25 have been cancelled. Following the latest amendments, direct flights to these countries will resume on 7 September 2020

The state of emergency declared in Latvia on 12 March 2020 ended at midnight on 9 June 2020. Since 10 June 2020 Cabinet of Ministers has gradually reduced certain COVID-19 restrictions. Some restrictions are still in place, see above.

2. Local lockdowns and new national lockdowns

New lockdown

In the event of an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Latvia, stricter restrictions may be imposed.

Government support

The law provides a number of support measures for businesses:

  • Applying by 30 December 2020, businesses affected by the crisis will be able to receive an extension of the deadline for the payment of taxes or a division of taxes into several payment periods for up to three years. The taxpayer must submit a substantiated application regarding the need to split payment or extend its deadline within 15 days after the payment deadline. No arrears will be calculated for this overdue tax payment, while information about the company will not be included in the database of tax debtors administered by the tax authority.
  • The cancellation of 2020 advance payments of personal income tax remains in force. In addition, corporate income taxpayers who have made donations retain the opportunity to make donations in 2020 to help overcome and prevent the consequences of COVID-19 without being subject to corporate income tax.
  • The three-month extension of the submission deadline of the 2019 annual financial statement (where applicable) is maintained.
  • Until the end of 2020, the tax authority will continue to ensure the refunding of the approved overpaid value added tax (VAT) amount on a shorter term than provided by the current VAT law. This will increase businesses financial resources for overcoming the consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The tax authority is not obliged to adopt negative decisions on participants in the enhanced cooperation program until 2023 if the participant is affected by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Businesses can apply to the ALTUM finance institution for current asset loans; bank loan holidays and support for exporters.
  • Municipalities will have the right to postpone real estate tax payments in 2020.
  • Banks have developed various solutions for determining bank loan holidays, deferring capital payments, and temporarily postponing other liabilities.
  • Companies in the tourism sector that meet the criteria stated in the regulations will be able to receive support of 30% of the mandatory state social insurance contributions made in 2019. The maximum support for one company or group of companies is EUR 800,000. Applications for receiving support should be submitted by 30 September 2020.
  • Export companies that meet the criteria in the regulations will be able to receive support of 25% of the mandatory state social insurance contributions made in 2019. The maximum support for one company or group of companies is EUR 800,000. Applications for receiving support should be submitted by 30 September 2020.

3. How to keep workers safe in the office

Back in the office

Generally, employees cannot refuse to come back to work unless there are clear indications that the working environment is not safe. Disciplinary measures could be applied to employee who refuse to return to work.

Setting up the workplace

There are no special regulations in place for employers who are restarting operations apart from the general obligation to ensure social distancing of two metres, where possible. Employers can introduce various measures at their own discretion, such as mask wearing.

In light of the current circumstances, employers would be entitled to introduce temperature monitoring procedures in the workplace.

A general obligation on all employees to provide a negative coronavirus test would be considered as excessive.

Vulnerable employees

Employers are liable for ensuring a safe working environment for all employees, so if there are any vulnerable population groups, adequate safety measures should be ensured, but the law does not mandate specific measures).

The general rule is that a pregnant woman can consult a doctor, who after assessing the pregnant woman's health, may order sick leave or issue a statement prohibiting the pregnant woman’s employment.

Suspected cases

The general rule is that the employer is liable for ensuring a safe working environment for employees. Employers are entitled to send an employee for COVID-19 test in the event of suspicion he/she may be infected and require the employee not to come to work until he/she gets the test result. An employee must inform the employer about contracting COVID-19 or being in contact with a person who has contracted it.

Likewise, an employer has the right to ask for this information. In the event of a suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace the employee should leave the work premises immediately. If this is not possible, he/she must self-isolate in a separate room from other employees until it is possible to leave. The employee should contact his/her family doctor. The emergency medical services may be called if necessary.

Rooms, surfaces and common areas should be disinfected, paying particular attention to the rooms in which the employee was present.

Employers must take measures to ensure occupational health and safety of employees and clients, not allowing anyone who tested positive for COVID-19 come or stay in workplace premises. COVID-19 patients are issued sick leave certificates until their recovery.

Official notification

There is no obligation on the employer to report to public health authorities, as data on positive COVID-19 cases is automatically transferred to the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control. Upon request, employers should provide the Centre for Disease Prevention and Control with extensive and accurate information about employees, customers and other possible contacts.

Communicating with your workforce

The employer must inform other employees who were in contact with a person that has tested positive for COVID-19 of that fact on a no-name basis and arrange a test for them.

Return to work after recovery

If the infected employee has not had symptoms of COVID-19, he/she can stop strict isolation and return to work after receipt of a doctor's statement on the seventh day after the onset of the disease. However, if the individual had symptoms of COVID-19, they can receive a doctor's statement of fitness to work on the 14th day, if at least 3 days have passed since symptoms disappeared.

At the same time, to reduce any risks, medical personnel, employees of social care centres, and employees of educational institutions who work in direct contact with other people will not be able to return to work for a longer period. If they had no symptoms of COVID-19, they can be certified fit to work from the 14th day, but if they had symptoms, they cannot return to work earlier than after 21 days, and only if at least 3 days have passed since symptoms disappeared. Until then the employee remains on sick leave.

4. How to organise homeworking for the long term

Employer should compensate the costs related to remote work if the employee experiences additional costs related to his/her work, including the acquisition, installation and use of work equipment. However, the amount of compensation and the terms and conditions for payment, as well as other rights and obligations of employee and employer should be determined by agreement between the parties.

Employees have the right to refuse to return to the workplace and request long-term homeworking only if there is a risk to their safety and health.

Remote work in the private sector is only recommended. Provided that all safety measures in the workplace are ensured, the employer can request employees to return to the workplace.

Authors: COBALT Latvia Partner Toms Šulmanis, Assistant Lawyer Alīna Ustinova.