By: George Georgiou
Share This Post
CORONAVIRUS 2020 Labour and Employee related questions.
Below you will find an update on the legal measures that were implemented in the Republic of Cyprus that affect employees.
The Labour Ministry is launching hotline as of Monday, March 23 to answer queries regarding measures which have been introduced to contain the spread of coronavirus.
The number is 1433 and will operate from 8 am to 6 pm from Monday to Friday, starting from Monday. The call centre will also operate on weekends, and the numbers will be announced at a later date, the ministry added.
Moreover, the Labour Ministry has posted on its website FAQ (frequently asked questions) regarding the emergency support package.
Special sickness allowance
- Who are the Beneficiaries of the Special Sickness Allowance?
In the framework of the emergency support measures, special sickness allowance will be paid to:
(i) Workers who have specific health problems and which are included on the List published by the Ministry of Health, who must be absent from work for the purpose of protecting their health and not deteriorating it. The prerequisite of submitting a certificate by their personal physician is applicable.
(ii) Compulsory absence from work of persons forced or instructed by the Authorities (Category 1 [compulsory restraint under medical supervision (quarantine)] and Category 2 [self-restraint under telephone surveillance]), provided that these employees hold a certificate issued by the Ministry of Health.
(iii) Persons between the ages of 63 – 65, who do not receive statutory pension and continue to work and fall into Categories 1 and 2 of the Ministry of Health Guide on vulnerable groups, provided that the employees under restraint hold a certificate issued by the Ministry of Health.
- Are self-employed employees entitled to sickness benefit?
Self-employed persons are entitled to the special sickness benefit provided that they fulfill the above prerequisites. It is noted that for the purposes of supporting them further, they will be paid the benefit, as for salaried employees, as of the fourth day of absence.
- For what duration is the entitlement of the special sickness allowance?
The special sickness allowance will be paid for the days the applicant is qualified as an employee that falls within the categories of beneficiaries, namely: (a) employees with particular health problems, (b) compulsory absence from work, and (c) persons over the age of 63 up to 65. The sickness allowance period ends on April 30th, 2020.
- Will the same procedures of the Social Security Services apply for the payment of the special sickness benefit?
The Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance will follow simplified procedures for the payment of special sickness benefit to all categories of beneficiaries (employees with specific health care problems, compulsory absence from work and persons over the age of 63 up the age of 65). Special sickness allowance will be paid to all beneficiaries, employees and self-employed as of the fourth day of absence.
- Should the absence days be specified on the doctor’s certificate?
The doctor’s certificate should state the medical reasons for which the absence is claimed as these are included in the Ministry of Health’s announcement of granting sick leave to vulnerable groups found on the website: www.pio.gov/coronavirus. The period of absence from work for sick leave purposes should be indicated on the application.
- What is “Special Leave”?
“Special Leave” applies to parents who work in both the Private and Public/Wider Public Sector and is granted for the care of children up to 15 years of age (up to third grade of Gymnasium) and due to the suspension of school attendance, public and private, including kindergartens.
It is noted that parents of persons with disabilities, independent of their age, are entitled to special leave provided that no child care allowance is granted. The period of the special leave shall be considered as a period of equivalent insurance.
- How long does the “Special Leave” apply and what percentage of the salary does it cover?
“Special Leave” may currently last up to 4 weeks and it does not include public holidays. It will be awarded to a parent with a monthly salary of up to €2,500 (gross) as follows:
For the first €1,000 of the parent’s salary, a “special leave” allowance will be paid at 60% of the salary and for the next €1,000 of his/her salary, a 40% allowance will be granted. It is noted that in the case of single-parent families the rate of payment of the benefit for the equivalent salary bands is 70% and 50% respectively.
The “Special Leave” allowance coverage period expires on April 30, 2020.
- What are the conditions for granting the “Special Leave”?
The “Special Leave” is granted to a parent with a monthly salary of up to €2,500 (gross). A parent with a salary exceeding €2,500 (gross) is not entitled to “Special Leave”.
The “Special Leave” will be granted to one of the two parents, and if one parent receives the said leave, the other cannot receive a corresponding leave at the same time. Also, if one parent works/receives an unemployment allowance/ participates in a Work Suspension Plan and the other does not, the working parent is not entitled to it unless the parent who is not working has himself/ herself been infected with the virus or is hospitalised or is a disabled person, or a person on compulsory quarantine.
It is emphasised that the said leave will be granted if the nature of the employees’ work does not allow teleworking or working from home or allows working with flexible working hours and if there is no internal assistance. The “Special Leave” will be granted in consultation with the employer upon the employee’s request
- Will the employer pay/supplement the remaining of the special leave allowance?
The special leave provides for a parent with a salary of up to €2,500 (gross) as follows: for the first € 1,000 of the parent’s salary a ‘special leave’ allowance of 60% of the salary will be paid and for the subsequent € 1,000 of his / her salary, allowance of 40% will be paid. In the case of single parent families, the rate of payment of the benefit increases to 70% and 50% respectively.
The employer will not pay/supplement any other amount.
It is noted that employees reserve the right to make use of their annual leave.
- Should the special leave period be continuous?
The special leave will be granted for a period of up to 4 weeks and may be obtained either continuously or in part, following a process of consultation with the employer. The parent must apply separately for each period that he or she wishes to obtain a special leave.
- Can I make use of the special leave for a spouse / parent in a vulnerable group (eg pregnant spouse)?
Special leave is only granted for the care of children up to 15 years of age. In the case of children with disabilities, special leave is granted regardless of the age of the child.
However, if there is no care for a parent / spouse in a vulnerable group as defined by the Ministry of Health, an application may be submitted which will be reviewed on the basis of its particular characteristics. The same procedure will apply in cases where an employee’s spouse is pregnant.
- Does the special leave apply only for full-time employees?
Full-time and part-time employees as well as shift workers are entitled to special leave. Moreover, employees who are working in the private sector and the wider public sector (including employees of semi-government organizations) are entitled to special leave. It is clarified, however, that self-employed persons are not entitled to it.
Work Suspension Plan
- What is a Work Suspension Plan?
For those enterprises that the suspend of their operations has been decided by a Ministerial Decree and for those enterprises that continue to operate and suffer a turnover decrease of more than 25%, a Work Suspension Plan is put in place to avoid redundancies and at the same time to provide that affected employees receive an unemployment benefit for as long as the enterprise suspends its business operations.
For the business suspension plan to apply, it is necessary for an enterprise to submit an application to the Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance, stating the terms and conditions for participation in the Plan. Enterprises that make any redundancies will not be able to participate in the Plan.
- Will the newly hired members of staff who do not qualify for the insurance requirements receive an unemployment benefit under a Suspension Plan?
No, these cases do not qualify for unemployment benefit. The affected persons may submit an application, which will be examined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the particular characteristics of each case.
- How can the 25% decrease in turnover be proved?
A standardized certification will be submitted by the company’s certified auditors who, after studying the data for the respective period of the previous year and based on all available data on the applicable status and type and business activity, will certify the estimated and / or existing turnover decrease for the period between March and April 2020. In the case of enterprises which were not active during the corresponding period of the previous year, comparison will be based on the immediately previous months.
- I work in a company that is subject to compulsory suspension (kindergarten, private tutoring institute). Can I participate in a Suspension Plan?
The Work Suspension Plan is available to both companies that are subject to compulsory suspension as set out in the Decrees of the Minister of Health posted at www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus, as well as businesses that will be subject to significant turnover reductions (over 25%), which do not fall under the economic activities listed in the relevant Decrees of the Minister of Health.
- For businesses participating in Work Suspension Plans and employing third- country nationals or seasonal workers, are these employees entitled to an unemployment benefit?
Third-country nationals and seasonal workers are entitled to the allowance, provided that they hold relevant residence and work permits in the Republic of Cyprus and fulfill the insurance requirements.
- Will any rental costs be covered for companies under compulsory suspension?
The Suspension Plan covers salaries of employees and not any operating expenses. Therefore, it does not cover rents.
- What procedure will be followed for granting the above allowances?
The Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Security will announce within the next few days the application process, which will be made electronically and will be simple and concise, with the aim of paying the allowances as soon as possible. The applications will be submitted electronically.
- Will the duration of the unemployment allowance be extended because of the emergency situation?
The measures are taken for the period up to 30 April 2020. The measures will be monitored and, if necessary, reassessed.
- Is there a measure to extend the payment of outstanding contributions (current/overdue) to the Social Insurance Fund?
There is no measure to extend the payment of outstanding contributions.
- Is there a measure to support self-employed workers?
The Ministry of Labour, Welfare and Social Insurance is considering ways to support self-employed persons who fall into specific categories of activities. Announcements will be available shortly.
- When is the deadline for submitting an objection (re actual income) at the Social Security Services by self-employed workers?
The deadline for submitting an objection by self-employed workers has been extended to one month, i.e. until 30 April 2020 (instead of 31 March 2020).
- How do I know which economic activities are subject to compulsory suspension?
Compulsory suspending economic activities are described in the decree issued by the relevant Minister of Health, available at www.pio.gov.cy/coronavirus
- Complaints for violations of measures:
Depending on the case, citizens may submit their complaints as follows:
- Complaints related to violation of the Decree of the Minister of Health should be submitted to the Police.
- Complaints related to the violation of the rights of employees as announced and are included in the above emergency support package.
- Must be submitted to the Department of Labour Relations (Nicosia: 22803100/22803127, Limassol: 25819440/22819820, Larnaca: 24817800/24817801 and Paphos: 26822614/26826640, etc.) email: firstname.lastname@example.org and the Inspectorate Unit (tel: 77778577 and e-mail: email@example.com)