We have gathered information on what measures you can take as an employer in Vietnam to help preserve your employees while keeping your business intact. As more information comes in, we will update this post.
If you have any questions on the impact of Coronavirus on labor laws, visit our LinkedIn AMA post and leave us your questions in the comment section and we will reply.
Updated: March 30, 2020
Work Permits- The Vietnamese government has requested that the Ministry of Labor suspend the issuance of work permits. A final decision has not been made and no outlines of who this would affect have been published yet.
Pay during mandatory quarantine- According to the labor law, employees who are under mandatory quarantine are entitled to regular sick pay benefits. However, in order to receive sick pay, the employee must be able to produce a medical certificate.
Pay during voluntary quarantine- Employees who are self-quarantined should come up with an agreement with their employer regarding work and pay. This could mean a variety of solutions such as allowing the employee to work from home and paid or unpaid leave.
Reduction of work hours- The reduction of working hours can only be done through mutual agreement between the employee and employer.
Termination- If an employer must dismiss employees due to natural disaster or force majeure, they must be able to show that they have done everything in their power to prevent the need to terminate their employees. In this case, employees would still need to follow the normal termination procedures.
Government relief- The government has yet to announce relief for businesses, however, are considering a multitude of measures to help support businesses. We will update this post as we receive more information.
Employer and Employee Rights & Obligations Q&A
Source: Baker McKenzie
Are employees obliged to disclose themselves as a “risk-factor” to the employer? Yes.
- The law requires the employee to promptly report to a responsible individual any “risks of dangerous and hazardous incidents” at the workplace. ■ The Ministry of Health of Vietnam recently categorized COVID-19 as an infectious disease of Group A (i.e., especially dangerous infectious diseases capable of very fast transmission and widespread spreading). Thus, if an employee has been in contact with a confirmed case, or has symptoms of the disease, the employee can be considered to be a “risk-factor” and has the obligation to promptly inform a responsible individual at the work place.
2. Can the employer demand employees to disclose themselves as being a “risk-factor”? Yes.
- An employer has the right to require employees to comply with their obligations in relation to labor safety and hygiene at the workplace which include an obligation on employees to report any “risks of dangerous and hazardous incidents” at the workplace as mentioned in Q1.
- In addition, an employer has an obligation to assess and control dangerous and harmful factors at the workplace and fully provide employees with information on the same. Thus, an employer can legally require that employees disclose themselves as being a “risk-factor” at the workplace.
3. Can the employer issue an instruction (or a policy) requiring employees to report co-workers with flu symptoms (i.e., fever, cough, difficulty breathing, pain in the muscles, tiredness) to the employer? Generally, yes.
- An employer can stipulate regulations on reporting obligations of employees, which would be included in the Internal Labor Regulations. However, as a practical matter, an employer, when amending or supplementing the Internal Labor Regulations, is required to consult with the trade union and re-register the Internal Labor Regulations with the labor authority, which is usually time-consuming.
- From a data privacy law perspective, the health status of a person as provided for in a medical record is considered as to be confidential information. However, if the report to the employer from a co-worker is limited to the co-worker’s suspicion based on an employee’s actual health situation, this would not be considered illegal.
4. Can employees refuse to come to work?
- The law allows an employee to refuse to work while still being paid in full if there is a clear risk to the employee’s health and safety. For instance, if there is a confirmed or suspected case of COVID-19 in the workplace and the workplace has not been cleaned, the employee could legitimately refuse to work at the office while still receiving his/her benefits.
- 5. Can employees refuse to attend meetings or to travel?
- The same rule as in the response to Q4 applies. Therefore, an employee can refuse to attend meetings or to travel if the meeting will take place or the travel destination is located in an infected region or if there is a high risk to his/her health and safety during the meeting or travel. Many employers are instructing employees to avoid non-essential travel. In addition, employers should note the current travel restrictions and quarantine measures in the relevant countries should they ask their employees to travel.
6. Can the employer send employees on suspension from work?
- The employer may agree with the employee to suspend the implementation of the labor contract.
- If an employee is placed under mandatory quarantine as per an order of a competent authority, this would be considered to be work suspension. The law provides that, in case of work suspension due to a dangerous epidemic (such as COVID-19), the applicable salary during the work suspension period is agreed between the parties but must not be lower than the regional minimum salary. Employees who are not subject to any quarantine measures, but who have symptoms of COVID-19 should be asked to work from home. Since the employer is obliged to ensure that the workplace is safe from hazardous and harmful factors, including infectious diseases, the employer can request such an employee to work from home but must pay the employee full salary.
7. When is the employer forced to shut down its operations?
- There are no specific requirements on compulsory shut down of operations. An employer would be forced to shut down operations if the authorities so require.
8. Does the employer have the obligation to report infections occurring in the business to the health authorities? Yes.
- Employers must inform the nearest health agency within 24 hours of detecting or suspecting that an employee could be infected with COVID-19. The health agency is then required to report to the local People’s Committee as well as the preventive medicine agency. Employers may notify the local health authorities either directly or via the hotline 1900 3228 or 1900 9095 as recommended by the Ministry of Health of Vietnam.
9. Can the employer require an employee to see a doctor? No.
- The employer can only recommend the employee to see a doctor. If the employer suspects an employee may be suffering from COVID-19, the employer must inform the health agency as mentioned in the response to Q8.
10. If employees are sent on suspension from work, or refuse to come to work or if an operation is being shut down, do the employees still need to be paid? It depends.
- Where work is suspended due to a dangerous epidemic (such as COVID-19), salary during the work suspension period is as agreed between the parties but must not be lower the regional minimum salary.
- If an employee refuses to work due to a clear risk to his/her health and safety at the workplace, the employee will still be entitled to full salary. However, if the employee is absent from work without a legitimate reason, the employee may be subject to disciplinary action.
11. If kindergartens and schools are being closed and employees need to stay home and cannot work, does the employer need to pay them and – if so – for how long? No.
- The employer would not be obliged to continue to pay salary to the employee if the employee stays home and cannot work, unless there is an agreement between the parties.
- However, if the job can be performed remotely, the employer may agree with the employee that the employee will work from home. Due to the unprecedented circumstances brought about by COVID-19, many employers are showing flexibility in work place arrangements where possible.