The Dutch government urgently advises to wear a face mask in public indoor spaces. There is no legal obligation (yet) to wear a face mask, but many employers are considering to introduce a face mask obligation into the workplace. What about from an employment law perspective?
Employers have the so-called right of instruction which means that they may impose rules on their employees in order to facilitate good order within the company. These work instructions or regulations must be reasonable. The mandatory wearing of a face mask at work, where employees and/or other people move around in an indoor space, can be seen as reasonable in the current circumstances. After all, an employer must provide a safe workplace. The governmental advice underlines the reasonableness of such an instruction.
The policy to be pursued by the employer, including any sanctions that may apply if employees do not comply with the rules, must be clearly communicated to the employees in advance.
It may be the case that certain employees within the company cannot wear a face mask or at least not for a long time for medical reasons (such as asthma, COPD or other respiratory complaints). The employer must then take other appropriate measures in consultation with the employee concerned, possibly after advice from the company doctor.
The works council or (in the absence of a works council) the staff representation have a right of consent with regard to the obligation of wearing of a face mask: after all, this concerns a regulation with regard to the working conditions within the meaning of Article 27 paragraph 1 sub d of the Dutch Works Councils Act.
If the employer has instituted the obligation to wear the face mask on the work floor, it comes for the employer’s account to provide the masks and to bear the costs.
If you have questions about face masks at work, or other measures related to the consequences of Covid-19 at work, please feel free to contact Van Bladel advocaten at: 030- 220 31 11 or mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.