ArticlesCoronavirus and Businesses: a second decalogue for businesses and employment relations

Coronavirus And Businesses: The Second Decalogue For Businesses And Employment Relations (:Tough Times And Business Opportunities)


1. The Pandemic Is “Going Strong” – (And) The Legislation Is Struggling To Keep Up And Manage It…

The pandemic (: COVID-19 infection) has, logically, not yet reached its peak. In order to deal with it, our country has already introduced a great number of regulations. The problems that businesses face are many and vary. The most important amongst them are those relating to salaries and the management of employment relationships.

The first “wave” of the relevant regulations (including the 11.3.20 Decree and 14.3.20 Decree) have already been briefed in our previous (published on the 15.3.20) article (and related newsletter): “Coronavirus and Business: The First Decalogue on their Operation and Employment Relations”).

2. The Most Recent Legislative Decree of 20.3.20

The Legislative Decree (Government Gazette A 68 / 20.3.2020) of 20.3.2020) – Urgent measures to address the consequences of the COVID-19 coronavirus spreading risk, to support society and to ensure the smooth operation of the market…

The issues raised are many and important. This also applies to businesses.

The pressure under which the legislator worked (and, therefore, the relative obvious legislative flaws) was evident. Some of the individual provisions require interpretative approaches. They therefore pose significant legal and financial risks for businesses.

In the present article, we are attempting to mitigate the individual risks and take advantage of the facilities provided.

We highlight, once again, that information and utilization of said information are important. But above all, important is the sober management of particularly complex and dangerous situations.


II. Coronavirus And Business: TEN, next (critical), QUESTIONS

Question 1: Can Employees be Dismissed During This Period?


  • [:It is important to note, however, that the prohibition of dismissals only applies to undertakings which suspend their business on the order of a public authority. Any dismissals made by these businesses are void and have no results. This invalidity covers dismissals from 18.3.20 onwards].


  • [:The above prohibition does not apply to other businesses. For them, the pre-Covid -19 status applies].


Question 2: Is Suspension of the Employment Relationship Possible?

“Should I start laying employees off?”

  • (: Entrepreneurs’ first thought for the mitigation of the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic).

Are there alternatives (choices other than dismissals)?

  • We have already dealt with other, intermediate / more mild, measures – for which we have recently published articles. Indicatively:

(a) the conversion of full-time to part-time contracts

(b) the agreement (or enforcement) of rotational work

(c) the agreement (or enforcement) of suspension

Suspension of employment contracts – a new alternative to dismissals

  • In order to avoid layoffs and mitigate the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, a new tool is provided to the employer. Specifically: the possibility of the employer to unilaterally suspend their employment relationships.

Which businesses are affected by this measure?

  • Those that are, according to the Ministry of Finance and depending on the class of the NACE Revision 2 of their main activity, in sectors affected by the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

What is the content of this measure?

  • The above mentioned affected businesses have the right to unilaterally suspend (from 20.3 to 20.4.20 with the possibility of extension by ministerial order) employment contracts with part of their staff (or even all their staff) in order to adjust their operating needs in the challenging environment created.

What are the restrictions on the right to suspend employment contracts?

  • Companies that will make use of this provision:
  • are prohibited from laying employees off during the aforementioned period (from 20.3 to 20.4.20) and
  • are obliged to maintain at the end of the suspension (for an equivalent period of that of the suspension) the same number of jobs. If an employee is fired, another employee should be hired. If the fixed-term contract expires, either its renewal will have to take place or another employee has to be hired at the place where the contract expired.


Question 3: The Operation Of The Business With “Safe Operation” Personnel Feasible?

Is this a new measure?

  • Virtually no. This is a more specific arrangement in the context of rotational work. As long as there is a relevant agreement between the company and the employee, no restrictions apply. If the employer unilaterally imposes the measure, the(below) provisions of the specific Legislative Decree apply.

Which businesses are affected by this measure?

  • The purpose of this measure is to mitigate the adverse effects of the pandemic on businesses as a whole.
  • What is the content of this measure?
  • The business that chooses to unilaterally enforce it “within the framework of measures introduced to address and limit Covid-19” is entitled to designate the safe operation personnel.
  • What are the obligations of the business / employer?
  • employ (continuously or intermittently) every employee for at least two weeks with a each month; and
  • Include at least 50% of the staff in the above way of organizing the operation of the business (to be determined weekly). (That is, it is required to employ the rest of its staff full-time).
  • declare to “ERGANI” the implementation of this measure


Question 4: Is The Transfer of Employees Within A Group Allowed?

Is this a new measure?

Which businesses are affected by this measure?

  • Those whose activity has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Those whose operation has been suspended by the competent authorities in responding to the pandemic (‘on the basis of the existing regulatory acts’)

What is the content of this measure?

  • The company that chooses to utilise it is entitled to transfer its personnel to another enterprise of the same Group (to which it belongs).

What are the obligations of the businesses involved?

  • The above-mentioned companies of the same Group (: old and new employer) are required to enter into a written agreement.
  • The undertakings concerned, according to the above, are required to maintain, in total, the same number of employees as before the transfer.


Question 5: What Is The Fate Of The (Common) Leases And Leasing Rates That Businesses Pay For Their Employees? (And, of course, For Themselves…)

Who is affected by this measure?

  • Businesses whose operation has been suspended or banned by the competent authorities in response to the pandemic

What is the content of this measure?

  • The lessee of establishments that house the above businesses is exempt from the obligation to pay 40% of the total rent for the months of March and April 2020. Partial non-payment of the rent does not give rise to the right to terminate the lease or any other civil claim.
  • The same applies to the case of (common) leases and leases paid by businesses for the benefit of their employees [who have been using (for rent) mobile and / or real estate property for professional use only].


Question 6: Which Individuals Affiliated With Businesses Benefit From The Debt Suspension Towards The State?

Who is affected by this measure?

  • Employees of businesses affected by the pandemic
  • Landlords who lease property to businesses whose operation has been suspended or banned by the competent authorities in the context of dealing with the pandemic.
  • [By decision of the Minister of Finance the application of this measure may be extended to other categories of individuals who are financially affected by the pandemic].

What is the content of this measure?

  • Under the specific provision, the above individuals are also enjoying a suspension of their obligation to pay debts to the Tax Authorities and audit centers. Also, of the deadlines for the payment of instalments of established debts (established for businesses under the Decree of 11.3.2020)
  • No interest or surcharges shall be charged during the extension of the time limit and the suspension of the payment of the above debts and time limits.


Question 7: Who Are The Eligible Employees of Emergency Financial Assistance? What Are The Related Obligations Of Employers?

Who is affected by this measure?

  • Employees whose employment contract is suspended either because of the suspension of the business by a public authority or unilaterally decided by the employer (see Question 2 above)
  • Employees whose employment contract has been terminated either by termination or resignation from 1.3.2020 to 20.3.2020

What is the content of this measure?

  • The aforementioned persons are entitled to exceptional financial assistance as a special purpose allowance covered by the state budget.

What are the employer’s obligations?

  • to submit the Detailed Periodic Declaration of the employees suspended (calculating their insurance coverage on their nominal wages),
  • to submit a declaration to ‘ERGANI’, stating the employees whose employment contracts are suspended either because of the prohibition on operating the company or in the context of their unilateral decision (Question 2) or that the employees whose employment contract is has been terminated from 1.3.2020 to 20.3.2020 and
  • disclose the above declaration to any employee involved (the disclosure must take place on the same day in paper or electronically and include the registration number of the submission on “TOOL”)

What if the employer violates their (related) obligations?

  • In the event that the employer / business fails to submit the above declaration, he / she is excluded from being subject to suspension measures of instalments or partial payment facilities and any type of certified debt to the State.


Question 8: What Are The Required Occupational Physician’s Qualifications? (The Value of Human Life Exceeds, At Last, Against Guild Pressures…)

The troubled past …

The contribution of the occupational physician is particularly critical in the present circumstances. Critical, in particular, for safeguarding human life.

(Legislative) anchors of the very recent past (associated with bad guild practices) have created serious problems in choosing an Occupational Physician. The selection of an occupational physician (who did not have this specialty – although included in the Special Directories) required a confirmation from the relevant Medical Association that there was no Specialist available in his area (!!!)

… and the hopeful present

These (absolutely imperative) needs have forced us to return (at least to some degree) to logic. Specifically:

  • Specialist occupational physicians are entitled to perform their duties (also) outside the territory of the Medical Association to which they belong.
  • Doctors who hold any specialty, other than that of the occupational physician, and who have worked as occupational physicians before 15 May 2009, are entitled to perform the same duties in the district of the Medical Association to which they belong.
  • Doctors with no qualifications (who have been practicing occupational medicine in companies continuously for at least seven (7) years until 15.5.2009), are entitled to perform the same duties in the district of the Medical Association to which they belong.


Question 9: Are Further Support Measures Expected for Freelancers, Self-Employed and Owners of Sole Proprietorships?

The Decree of 20.3.2020 provides:

  • the adoption of a Joint Ministerial Decision by the Ministers of Finance, Development and Investment and Labor and Social Affairs laying down the terms, conditions and procedure for financial support measures for freelancers, self-employed, and owners of sole proprietorships; and
  • the decision of the Minister of Labor on these persons concerning the suspension of the payment of their social security contributions, the arrears to social security institutions and the installments or facilities for the payment of social security contributions.


Question 10: How Are Unemployed Individuals Supported?

The duration of unemployment benefits (regular subsidy to long-term unemployed, self-employed unemployment benefit) for those beneficiaries whose right expired or will expire within the first quarter of 2020, is extended to 31.5.2020.


III. In conclusion

The pandemic COVID-19 is in progress.

The end is completely unpredictable. And so are the consequences for businesses.

The State (proves that) is following the developments.

Entrepreneurs must, for their part (and with the assistance of the appropriate consultants), be informed of the contents of the regulatory flood. To (re)adapt their (and their business) strategy.

And so should the top management – and, of course, HR managers. Everyone has a heavy load to carry.

Choosing the right measures to manage (rigid) wage costs is not easy.

Tools are available. Redundancies or teleworking are not the only ones.

It is up to all of us to choose the most appropriate tools for each business. And of course, the correct interpretation of the tools chosen. As well as, obviously, our careful alignment with what the law stipulates.

We have mentioned it before: What matters is human life.

Immediately after that: ensuring the survival of businesses – an event necessary for (decent) human survival.


Stavros Koumentakis
Senior Partner


Disclaimer: the information provided in this article is not (and is not intended to) constitute legal advice. Legal advice can only be offered by a competent attorney and after the latter takes into consideration all the relevant to your case data that you will provide them with. See here for more details.

Stavros Koumentakis
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(+30) 2310 27 80 84

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