Absence from work to undergo testing: what does collective bargaining agreement no. 160 provide?

Author: Catherine Legardien (Legal Expert)
Date:

An employee who is advised to undergo testing for the Covid-19 virus based on the Self-Assessment Testing Tool may now be absent from work while retaining his salary payable by the employer. This is provided for by collective bargaining agreement (CBA) no. 160, which introduces the right to be absent from work for a Covid-19 test based on the self-assessment testing tool. This CBA took effect on 19 November 2021 and will no longer apply on February 28, 2022.

The Self-Assessment Testing Tool: what is it about?

The Self-Assessment Testing Tool is a questionnaire put on-line by the government for citizens. By completing this questionnaire, you can find out if a test for the Covid-19 virus is appropriate. If the person has mild symptoms that could indicate an infection with the Covid-19 virus, he can create an activation code after completing the questionnaire to get a free test for the Covid-19 virus. Moreover, the employee who receives the advice to undergo testing for the Covid-19 virus via the Self-Assessment Testing Tool, will receive a certificate issued by this tool.

This certificate qualifies as an absence certificate and serves as proof that the employee has requested a test for the Covid-19 virus because of mild symptoms that may be related to the Covid-19 virus, following advice obtained via the Self-Assessment Testing Tool. This certificate will state the date and time of the issuing of the test activation code.

Specifically, what absence is referred to by CBA no. 160?

CBA no. 160 refers to the absence of the employee to undergo testing for the Covid-19 virus based on the Self-Assessment Testing Tool.

This CBA is therefore not applicable in the following situations:

  • the employee has severe symptoms, belongs to a risk group or his health condition is rapidly deteriorating. He will be advised by the Self-Assessment Testing Tool to contact a doctor;
  • the employee, regardless of the nature of his symptoms, feels too ill to go to work. This employee must consult a doctor for a medical examination to determine his incapacity to work;
  • the employee needs to undergo testing because he has had a high-risk contact, because he wants to obtain a valid Covid Safe Ticket (CST) or to travel;
  • the employee has no symptoms, but after a positive test result he is placed in quarantine, because he is capable to work and is not allowed to go to work. This employee receives a quarantine certificate and can continue to work if he is able to telework. If this is not possible, the employee can claim a benefit for temporary unemployment due to force majeure corona.

What is the duration of the absence?

The rules on the duration of absence differ depending on whether or not the employee is able to telework.

The employee is not able to telework

An employee who is not able to telework is allowed to be absent from work for the time necessary to undergo testing to determine whether he is infected with the Covid-19 virus and to obtain the result of that test, with a maximum of 36 hours from the time the absence certificate is generated by the Self-Assessment Testing Tool.

The employee is able to telework

An employee who is able to telework may be absent from work for the time necessary to undergo testing to determine whether he is infected with the Covid-19 virus. In this situation, the employee continues to perform the employment contract by teleworking until the result of this test is obtained, with a maximum duration of 36 hours from the time the Self-Assessment Testing Tool creates the certificate of absence.

What are the formalities/obligations towards the employer?

The employee must of course immediately inform his employer of this absence. To this end, he must submit to his employer the certificate of absence issued by the Self-Assessment Testing Tool.

The employee must use the leave of absence for the purpose for which it is granted.

As soon as he knows the result of the test, the employee informs his employer of his return to work or his continued absence.

In view of the protection of privacy, the employee is not obliged to disclose the completed questionnaire of the Self-Assessment Testing Tool and/or the result of his test to his employer.

What are the obligations/recommendations to get tested?

The employee must undergo testing for the Covid-19 virus as soon as possible after being advised to do so based on the Self-Assessment Testing Tool.

He must also undergo testing by the body from which he can reasonably expect to receive the test result as quickly as possible and which is located at a reasonable distance from his home, residence or workplace.

Paid absence

The justified absence from work gives rise to the payment of a guaranteed salary. This salary is equal to the normal salary as calculated according to the legislation on public holidays.

This justified and paid absence is treated as time actually worked.

What next?

If the test result is positive, then a doctor will then determine whether the employee will receive a quarantine certificate or a certificate of incapacity to work.

In the first situation, an employee who is able to telework can continue to work. If this is not possible, the employee can claim a benefit for temporary unemployment due to force majeure corona.

If the test result is negative, the employee who was unable to telework also resumes work, unless at that time he cannot resume work due to an illness, other than Covid-19, diagnosed by a doctor. At that moment, he is in a state of incapacity to work.

Measure to prevent abuse

An employee may only use the option to be absent from work to undergo Covid-19 testing based on the Self-Assessment Testing Tool a maximum of three times during the term of collective bargaining agreement no. 160 (from November 19, 2021 to February 28, 2022).

Source: Collective bargaining agreement no. 160 introducing the right to be absent from work for a Covid-19 test based on the self-assessment testing tool.

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