Since the advent of Corona-virus disease 2019-COVID-19 (the
“Virus”) a couple of months ago, life as we know it has changed
dramatically. Ethiopia confirmed its first case on March 13, 2020
and since then we have had nine confirmed cases. Schools are fully
and courts partially closed for 15 days while large public gatherings
have been discouraged.
The pandemic affects a wide range of businesses, investments and
transactions. In this months’ legal update, we want to focus on the
impact of the Virus on employment relations. This is to highlight
the legal landscape and practical considerations for businesses in
HEALTH AND SAFETY
An employer has a general obligation to keep its employees safe and is required to
take all the necessary occupational and health measures according to standards
and directives provided by an appropriate authority. The new labour proclamation
1156/2019 (the “Law”) also requires an employer to cover costs of medical examination
whenever required by law or an appropriate authority. Testing for the Virus is however
currently being provided solely by the government.
The World Health Organization (“WHO”), Ministry of Health (“FMoH”) and
Ethiopian Public Health Institute (“EPHI”) have been issuing various guidelines to
the wider public on how to prevent and control the spread of the pandemic. We have
also gathered that the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (“MoLSA”) has given
guidance to employers to take measures such as creating awareness about the pandemic
and providing sanitary and safety related products to their workers.
In light of this, it is advisable if employers start implementing guidelines of the different
international and local health authorities in the context of work place environment and
take proactive precautionary measures. Workers have the legal obligation to observe
such guidelines and take the necessary safety precaution as well.
The Law also requires employers to keep a register of the health condition of their
workers except for HIV/AIDS. A reciprocal obligation is also imposed on workers.
They cannot refuse to submit for medical examination required by the employer for
good cause, except for HIV/AIDS. In line with these obligations, we advise employers
to closely monitor workers for any signs and symptoms of the Virus as per the guidelines
of WHO, FMoH and EPHI and inform the relevant health authority in case there is