Coronavirus – enhanced right to reimbursement of sickness benefits

The Bill introduced last week by the Danish Minister for Employment to mitigate the economic consequences of the corona pandemic for employers and self-employed persons has now been enacted.

nvi_portraetter_done_045_web.jpg

The Bill to amend the Danish Sickness Benefits Act was enacted today. The Bill extends the scope of employers’ right to receive reimbursement of sickness benefits and self-employed persons’ right to receive sickness benefits, provided the sickness absence is caused by Covid-19.

Normally, there is an ”employers’ period” of 30 days during which employees who do not receive full pay during illness are entitled to receive sickness benefits from the employer. Likewise, if the employer pays full salary during employees’ sickness absence the employer will not be entitled to receive reimbursement of sickness benefits for the employees’ first 30 sick days. Self-employed persons are normally not entitled to sickness benefits for the first two weeks of sickness absence.

The Bill extends the scope of the right to receive sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits if the cause of the sickness absence is infection with Covid-19, or if the individual in question cannot perform his or her work as a consequence of the Danish health authorities instructing certain groups of individuals to isolate at home because of specific circumstances relating to Covid-19. In such situations, the Bill provides a right to receive sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits from the first day of sickness absence, provided the other general conditions in the Sickness Benefits Act for receiving sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits are met.

Based on a recent announcement from the health authorities that individuals showing symptoms of Covid-19 will not automatically be tested, it appears from the explanatory remarks to the Bill that documentation of the reason for the sickness absence will, as a starting point, be provided in the form of the sick individual sending a written statement that he or she has a realistic presumption of being infected with Covid-19.

This also means that the usual general rule that employers are not allowed to ask employees questions concerning the reason for their sickness absence will be disregarded, as the processing of information on Covid-19 is a requirement of the employer being able to apply for reimbursement of sickness benefits. Similarly, the local authorities may process the information in connection with the processing of applications for reimbursement.

As regards individuals who are not infected with Covid-19 but have nevertheless been absent from work, it is a requirement for receiving sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits that the absence is caused by the individual in question belonging to one of the groups of individuals that the health authorities have instructed to isolate at home due to Covid-19. This may be due to travels to certain areas in relation to which the authorities for a period of time have issued instructions regarding isolation at home, or if the individual in question was at a certain place at a certain time.

There will be no right to receive sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits in relation to individuals who have been able to work from home during quarantine. Similarly, there will be no right to receive sickness benefits/reimbursement of sickness benefits unless the quarantine was put in motion by the authorities – e.g. because employees have decided to quarantine themselves, or if employees have been asked by their employer to stay at home because the employer has chosen a more cautious approach than the health authorities.

The amendments to the Act will apply to absence as from 27 February 2020 and will automatically be repealed as of 1 January 2021.

The content of the above is not, and should not be a substitute for legal advice.

More about the subject