Varuh človekovih pravic

The right to be absent from work and the right to salary compensation for the purpose of caring for infirm elderly relatives during the COVID-19 epidemic

The initiator called the Ombudsman's attention to the problem of care and protection provided to elderly people (including those with dementia) who remained at home after the daily care centres for elderly were closed due to the COVID-19 epidemic. Family members have to go to work, but they cannot leave an elderly relative whom they provide care to alone at home due to their health condition. The initiator wanted to know if such workers are entitled to salary compensation if they stay at home to care for such relatives. She also sent this letter to the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities (hereinafter: MDDSZEM).

We have made an inquiry with the MDDSZEM in the course of examining the initiative. We communicated that, in the Ombudsman’s view, it would also be appropriate to develop systemic solutions for the category of workers who care for their severely ill relatives at home. We have proposed to the MDDSZEM to consider our proposal.

In response to the initiator, the MDDSZEM explained that a force majeure may also arise in the cases she pointed out, and that on such basis, the worker concerned has the right to be absent from work and to receive salary compensation in accordance with the ZDR-1. We have assessed the reply received from the MDDSZ as correct in terms of its content and we agree with their interpretation.

However, since the MDDSZEM replied to the initiator's question about this pressing issue only after six weeks and only after the second intervention of the Ombudsman, we have identified a breach of the principle of good governance in the MDDSZEM's work. We consider the initiative to be justified. 9.4-29/2020