In light of the continuing Covid-19 outbreak in Vietnam and various regulations issued by the Government and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (“MOLISA”), some key considerations remain with respect to employee entitlements that employers must address and make due preparations for, as outlined below:
1. What is the payment regime for employees required to be under quarantine due to direct or indirect exposure to COVID-19?
According to Official Letter 1064/2020 dated 25 March 2020 which gives guidance on the payment of wages and benefits to employees suspended from work due to the Covid-19 pandemic, employees who must cease working as a result of Covid-19 will be entitled to salary during this time. In particular, this concerns employees quarantined by order of the Provincial Steering Committee of Vietnam, employees who must cease to work due to the shutdown of an enterprise or a part thereof as decided by their employer or employees who must quarantine themselves as a result of their employer or their co-workers being subject to compulsory quarantine. Under the Labor Code, in such cases, wage payments during the work cessation period are to be agreed between the employer and employees and must not be lower than the minimum wage levels stipulated under Decree 90/2019/ND-CP of the Government dated 15 November 2019.
Currently, the MOLISA has sent a proposal to the Government for consideration and settlement of social insurance obligations usually incumbent on employees who are quarantined by order of the Provincial Steering Committee of Vietnam. The entitlement will be calculated according to the social security regime, which is equal to 75% of the salary and benefits due for the month preceding that in which a work suspension occurred.
Employees under self-quarantine at their residence, without any suspension of work activities are to continue receiving full salary. This is in keeping with the Government of Vietnam’s instructions to employers to put work-from-home arrangements in place for their employees as mentioned in our answer to question 2 below.
2. Are employers able to put work-from-home arrangements in place for employees during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Yes, this is covered in Decision No.2194/QD-BCDQG of the National Steering Committee of Vietnam dated 27 May 2020 on “Guidance on the prevention of the pandemic and risk assessment of COVID-19 infection at workplaces and in employee dormitories”. Employers must allow employees to work from home or provide flexible shift schedules (if possible). Specifically, employers must encourage employees to virtually interact with fellow colleagues or clients etc. to avoid face-to-face meetings to the fullest extent possible.
3. Do employers have to pay wages to employees who are infected by COVID-19?
Employees infected with Covid-19 who are receiving treatment and hold a certificate issued by a certified health facility, would be eligible for sick leave under the Law on Social Insurance 2014. During medical treatment for Covid-19, the infected employee may avail of an allowance from the State Social Insurance Fund. Employers are not required to pay wages to employees in these circumstances.
In addition, Decision 2606/QD-TLD of the General Confederation of Labor dated 19 May 2021 outlines urgent support expenditure for members of trade unions and employees impacted by Covid-19. Each employee who meets the following criteria is entitled to financial support of VND 3 million: (i) be in an employment relationship (including enterprises or entities with no trade unions), (ii) be infected with COVID-19 and receiving treatment and (iii) not have violated any regulations regarding COVID-19 prevention and control.
4. Do employers have to pay the treatment costs for employees infected with COVID-19?
Pursuant to Article 48 of the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases 2007, those who suffer from a Class A infectious disease are entitled to free health care and treatment. Decision No.219/QD-BYT dated 29 January 2020 adds the new strain of coronavirus (“nCoV”) to the list of Class A infectious diseases. The Ministry of Health has categorized Covid-19 as an extremely dangerous infectious disease. This means that employees infected with Covid-19 can receive free medical treatment from the Government of Vietnam, without any additional costs borne by employers or employees.
5. Can employers require employees to be vaccinated?
Under the current regulations of Vietnam, an employer cannot require its employees to be vaccinated, unless the industry is specifically subject to a government mandate. Government Resolution No.21/NQ-CP dated 26 February 2021 provides for the purchase and use of 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses. Based on demand and specific situations, vaccines will be periodically purchased, imported and allocated to specific areas as decided by the Ministry of Health. The latest allocation of COVID-19 vaccines is subject to Decision No. 2499/QD-BYT of the Ministry of Health dated 20 May 2021. Only a limited number of individuals in identified priority groups can receive free vaccinations for now. At this stage, identified priority groups include: medical workers treating Covid-19 patients; those collecting samples for testing; members of Covid-19 prevention groups, police and army personnel.
Accordingly, employers may encourage and facilitate the vaccination of their employees who fall into one of the identified priority groups in accordance with the regulations and implementation preferences of the competent authorities.
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.