In light of the continuing COVID-19 outbreak in Cambodia and the various regulations issued by the Royal Government of Cambodia (“RGC”), there are certain key considerations with respect to employee entitlements that employers will need to be prepared and address, as outlined below.
1. What is the payment regime for employees who are required to be under quarantine due to direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19?
The Labour Law and relevant regulations do not provide any guidance on whether employees in quarantine are entitled to wages/salary. The payment regime for such employees thus depends upon whether they can continue to work while in quarantine. If the affected employee can continue to work as usual from home, then he or she should be entitled to normal pay. Nevertheless, in regard to employees for whom working from home is impractical, the employers may request them to take annual or unpaid leave or place them on work suspension.
The employer may proceed with work suspension based on individual agreements with the affected employees or, if COVID-19 impacts a particular department or unit, the employer may suspend the employment of all affected personnel on the basis of a financial, material or unusual difficulty by adhering to the required procedures under the Labour Law.
2. Are employers able to arrange employees to work from home during COVID-19 pandemic?
Working from home is not specifically regulated under the Labour Law. Instead, it is an arrangement subject to an agreement between the employer and employee. Under Article 2 of the Labour Law, the employer has the power of ’direction and supervision’ over its employees. Accordingly, the employer may make necessary arrangements including, among others, establishing work-from-home arrangements for its employees, subject to the contractual terms and employees’ consent. Furthermore, all general provisions of the Labour Law apply to employees working from home in the absence of specific provisions governing such arrangements.
3. Do employers have to pay wages to employees who are infected by COVID-19?
To-date, there has not been any official guidance issued by the relevant Cambodian authorities on whether the infection of COVID-19 is considered as an occupational risk (i.e. occupational disease), which is covered by the occupational risk insurance scheme provided by the National Social Security Fund (“NSSF”), or a general disease, which is under the healthcare insurance scheme of the NSSF.
In the absence of official guidance on this matter, an employer will have to carefully consider whether to place its employees on sick leave and continue to pay wages/salaries to the infected employees during their treatment. Under the Labour Law, sick leave certified by a qualified doctor is considered as a form of employment contract suspension and there is no prescribed procedure to be followed as in the case of suspension due to a financial, material or unusual difficulty.
4. Do employers have to pay the treatment costs for employees infected with COVID-19?
The Labour Law requires employers to ensure the general health and safety of workers and pay for any vaccination costs to guard against epidemics. In this respect, it can be argued that employers are liable for the treatment of employees who are infected at their workplace.
Nevertheless, it is understood that the treatment of workplace accidents and/or diseases is covered by the NSSF, although, as aforementioned, it remains uncertain as to whether COVID-19 infected employees would be covered under the NSSF’s occupational risk or healthcare insurance scheme.
5. Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?
The RGC recently issued a sub-decree that obliges public officials in the Legislative, Executive and Judicial Branches, as well as other persons deemed necessary by the Ministry of Health (“MOH”) to undergo vaccinations. To-date, there is no regulation requiring employees in the private sector to get vaccinated, although the RGC urges all people, especially workers in the textile, garment, and footwear sectors to do so. The MOH launched a public vaccination campaign in late March 2021 that is still underway and is being conducted on a voluntary basis.
In the absence of any explicit legal requirements, employers cannot compel employees to be vaccinated unless a mandatory order dictating otherwise is issued by the relevant authority.
Nevertheless, employers may assist any employees who wish to get vaccinated, while carefully considering any potential risk that may attach to employers should the vaccinated employees suffer from side effects due to vaccination or be exposed to the virus by attending a vaccination clinic or hospital.
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The information provided here is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be obtained from qualified legal counsel for all specific situations.