Certain sectors were temporarily closed, by administrative order, ceasing all business operations. Those businesses that remained open introduced several workplace practices in order to minimise the risk of transmission, in line with their occupational health and safety obligations, which have been heightened in current circumstances.
Governmental facilities granted to employers
The Governmental authorities provided a prohibition on the termination of employment for three months (from 17 April 2020 to 17 July 2020), which is projected to be extended for three months pursuant to the recent announcements.
Certain Governmental facilities have also been granted to employers to help them overcome the impact of the pandemic. Namely, during the course of the pandemic employers were entitled to:
- impose compensatory working in order to compensate for unworked periods within four months instead of two months (under the circumstances set out by the law);
- place employees on unpaid leave, partially or in full, during the termination prohibition period; and
- apply to the Turkish Employment Agency for short-time working for a maximum period of three months. Simpler requirements were also sought regarding applications filed in scope of COVID-19. For example, the number of the days that employees must have been working prior to the start of the short-time working was reduced from 120 to 60 and the number of days for which unemployment insurance premium must have been paid reduced from 600 to 450.
Additional measures employers have used include opting for their employees to use their remaining annual leave, or implementing collective leave mechanisms. Employers have also become familiar with and have introduced new working models such as home-office working and working in rotation.
With the gradual reopening of businesses, the Governmental authorities have published several sector specific guidelines setting out the minimum requirement and general principles to be adopted in workplaces.
As Turkey enters the “normalisation phase”, different working models such as home-office working are expected to be sustained even after the pandemic, having been dubbed as a “new normal”. We expect these practices to become more common and settled in business life, as many employers begin to re-arrange their business organisation.
In the “new normal”, employers should also ensure that they comply with their occupational health and safety obligations and the requirements set out in their workplace Governmental guidelines. Occupational health and safety inspectors are likely to conduct inspections during this phase and fine those employers in breach of the required measures.