In Vietnam, various precautionary measures have been taken in order to minimize the risk of COVID-19, more commonly known as the Coronavirus. Although, as of 24 February 2020, the number of confirmed cases has been relatively low, authorities have established procedures to maintain overall health and safety of individuals. Businesses in Vietnam are permitted to continue operations, however there are various duties employers have to fulfil in order to protect the health and safety of employees; and ensure compliance with government policy. This guide serves to notify both employers and employees; of their rights and obligations, in light of the Coronavirus epidemic.
With regards to occupational safety and health of employees, the onus is on employers to ensure all their obligations are met. The law requires employers to ensure that a workplace meets all safety requirements, especially harmful and hazardous factors, of which infectious diseases forms part of.
Employers are obliged to provide employees with information about harmful and hazardous factors; and the relevant measures that should be taken to establish a safe and hygienic environment. In the current state of affairs this would require employers to inform their employees about the Coronavirus and ensure that the necessary safety measures are being implemented.
Employers are further required to assign health officers or set up a health unit (dependent on the size of the organization and the industry). If an employer is unable to assign a person or unit, that employer should contract an external entity which has the relevant capacity to do so. An important function of the health officer/health unit is to implement measures to prevent and control infectious disease in the workplace.
Period of quarantine
The Ministry of Health in Vietnam has issued a notice which provides guidelines on the prevention and control of the Coronavirus. If an employer confirms or suspects that an employee may have contracted the Coronavirus, he/she is obliged to inform a local health agency within 24 hours.
Any persons suspected or confirmed to have the Coronavirus, will be quarantined, subject to the decision of a competent authority. If an employee is suspected to have the Coronavirus and he/she has not yet been quarantined, the employer must should direct the employee to take leave (fully paid), however the employee must provide consent.
Employees who have recently travelled to mainland China as well as those who are suspected of having the Coronavirus are required to be quarantined for a mandatory period of 14-days.
As the outbreak of the virus is quite unique in nature, it is important for various protective measures, to be implemented. Such measures should be implemented to ensure the safety of employees and compliance with government regulation.
Working from home
Currently the law in Vietnam does encourage employers to permit employees to work from home. However, there is no legal basis for an employer to direct an employee to work from. Employers and employees should reach consensus regarding any arrangements to work from home.
Theoretically, it is possible for an employer to request an employee to take unpaid leave, however it is unusual for this to occur in an epidemic, such as the Coronavirus. An employer can request an employee to take unpaid leave, however the employee needs to consent to it.
Restrictions placed on travel
As of 1 February 2020, flights between Vietnam and mainland China have been suspended, pending further notice. Vietnamese citizens have been advised against travelling to countries where there have been confirmed cases of the Coronavirus.
Measures adopted by employers
Many companies and factories in Vietnam are continuing normal operation, however the opening of schools after the Lunar New Year has been delayed until further notice. Due to the closure of schools, many employees have agreed to work from home. Various safety measures are being adopted by employers, such as regular temperature checks, providing masks and providing sanitizers. These safety measures are being implemented as a means to prevent the risk of spread of the Coronavirus.