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Easter holidays, corona crisis, layoffs and vacation- which rules apply?

The Easter holiday is approaching and many employers and employees have questions regarding the holiday from work during this corona pandemic. How is holiday allowance affected for companies with employees that have been temporarily laid off? Is an employee entitled to change or delay a holiday request that has already been approved because of quarantine or travel restrictions? When should an employee receive their holiday pay?

We have provided an overview of the most important guidelines regarding employment law that are applicable during this corona pandemic.

What happens to daily unemployment benefits if you are temporary laid off during the  Easter holiday?

Due to the current pandemic, the rules regarding payment of daily unemployment benefits during holidays has been changed to include payment of the daily allowance by the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration. There are not any additional requirements to receive this allowance, they only need to fill out and submit their weekly form as normal.

Employers do not need to apply for exemption from the special rule related to redundancy during the holidays, as was previously required before the coronavirus.

Can an employee demand a postponement or change of a pre-determined holiday?

Although circumstances related to the coronavirus can result in an employee being unable to take their holiday as originally planned, for instance at their cabin or abroad, they cannot demand that their holiday request be changed. However, an agreement can be made to postpone the holiday to a later date, if this does not impact the operations of the company. It must be noted that an employee is not entitled to a postponement of their holiday from work.

Can the employer change the approved vacation due to the corona situation?

In principle, the employer cannot unilaterally change vacation that has been approved and agreed upon. However, changing the vacation period may be deemed necessary due to “unforeseen circumstances” which causes significant operational problems and a substitute employee cannot be obtained, cf. Section 6 (3) of the Holiday Act.

In our opinion, the coronavirus can be considered as an unforeseen circumstance that provides an employer with the basis for changing a previously approved vacation. However, the premise is that the other conditions are also met. Before an employer makes the decision to change the vacation period, the issue must also be discussed with the employee.

Can an employee claim compensation if the employer changes the vacation period?

The changing of an approved vacation period may result in additional expenses for employees who may be required to be reimbursed in the form of cancellation fees etc. Documented additional expenses due to the change may be required to be reimbursed by the employer. However, in correlation with the corona situation, many parties offer reimbursement of cancelled travel, and employees will not necessarily incur additional expenses.

What happens to holidays that were pre-approved before the employee was laid off?

If an approved vacation occurs during the time period the employee is temporarily laid off, the lay-off will cease during that time frame. Unless otherwise agreed upon, a vacation will take place as originally planned, and the employer shall pay a proportional amount of the holiday allowance. The vacation is not calculated into the amount of time a person is temporarily laid off. Moreover, employees are not entitled to daily unemployment benefits during their vacation.

Should employees that are temporarily laid off receive their holiday allowance in June?

The Act relating to Holidays stipulates that the holiday allowance must be paid on the last ordinary pay day before the holiday, or at least one week before the employee takes leave. However, it is normal practice to pay the holiday allowance in a certain month, for example in June. Employees are deducted at the same time for 5 weeks holiday, and wages are paid as normal when the holiday is actually carried out.

If the employee is laid off in June, it will not be possible to make a full holiday deduction in June. If the holiday allowance is paid as normal in June, the employer will therefore have to make the deduction at a later date. However, many companies will have trouble paying holiday allowance in June this year, and would like to defer payment of the holiday allowance until the holiday is carried out. Such a solution would be in accordance with the law, but many companies deviate from what is normal practice. A delay of holiday allowance should therefore be discussed and, if possible, agreed upon with the employee and the employee representatives.

If the employees are at work as normal in June, it will also be possible to enter into agreements with them if holiday allowance should be paid when the holiday actually takes place. Postponement beyond this, however, is not possible, as the Holiday Act cannot be waived to the detriment of the employee.

Can the employer request that an employee to take holiday leave?

Within the limits of the Act relating to Holidays, the employer may request an employee to take holiday leave. The employer shall discuss the amount of vacation time with the individual employee or the employee’s representative well in advance of the holiday. However, if an agreement is not reached, it is the employer who determines the time in which the vacation shall take place.

According to the Act relating to Holidays, the employer cannot refuse three consecutive weeks of vacation during the period from 1 June to 30 September, or that the seven day remaining holidays are carried out together within the same year.  . If holidays are to be added to periods that deviate from this, this must be agreed in writing with the individual employee.

As a general rule, the employee is entitled to be notified as early as possible, no later than 2 months before the holiday is to be carried out.

Can employees who have been on sick leave either before or during the holiday postpone their holiday to a later time?

An employee who becomes completely disabled before the holiday may require that the holiday be postponed until later in the holiday year. The claim must be documented with a medical certificate and made no later than the last working day that the employee in question should have had before the holiday.

An employee who has been completely disabled during the holidays may require that a corresponding number of holidays will be postponed and granted as a new holiday later in the holiday year. The claim must be documented with a medical certificate and made without undue delay after resumption of work.

However, in connection with the corona crisis, a temporary regulation has been introduced, which stipulates that requirements for medical certificates as documentation of entitlement to benefits under the National Insurance Act can be waived. In other words, the Ministry of Labour and Welfare can assess as to what should be deemed as necessary documentation in each case. A medical certificate can be issued without personal attendance if the doctor considers this to be justifiable.

Please contact our corona expert team at korona@hjort.no or call us on tel. 22 47 18 00 if you have any challenges or legal issues related to the corona virus.