Rights and obligations of drivers in relation to the coronavirus. See what you don’t have to accept

19 March 2020

More and more lorry drivers are reporting concerns about going to Western European countries where there is a high risk of coronavirus infection (COVID-19). On average, more than 10,000 lorries leave for Italy alone every week. Experts agree that there is no cause for panic, but one must be careful. Here is some advice that every truck driver should know.

Truck drivers’ rights as employees

To begin with, it is worth noting two important articles of the Labour Code:

– Article 207  paragraph 2 states that the employer’s primary duty is to take care of safe and hygienic working conditions,

– Article 209² paragraph 1 indicates that it is the duty of the employer to actively prevent risks in the workplace by taking appropriate measures to ensure that workers – in this case professional drivers – are adequately protected and informed of the risk.

According to the information of the District Labour Inspectorate in Wrocław, there are situations in which a driver has the right to refuse to travel to certain regions where there is a threat of virus infection. These are the so-called “red zones” – these areas are considered as not meeting the conditions of occupational health and safety.

This is confirmed by the PIP regulations, published on 26 February 2020, and also reproduced by the Chief Sanitary Inspectorate (GIS). According to their content, an employee whose employer sends him to areas at risk of coronavirus may refuse to leave because of an immediate threat to his life or health and the risk of spreading the disease. It is important to assess that such a threat exists using an objective criterion (it cannot be your own vision).

Article 210 paragraph. 1 of the Labour Code speaks about the right of an employee to refrain from performing work when the conditions create a direct threat to health and life and do not comply with the health and safety regulations.

The refusal to perform work does not involve the loss of remuneration, however, the employer should first of all provide the driver with the possibility of performing normal work outside the endangered area or refer him to another task.

The employer, if he or she wishes, can give the driver time off when he or she returns from the danger zone. However, he cannot require the employee to take a leave of absence or in any other way result in a loss of pay.

It is important that the carrier and the driver should assess the risks associated with going to an infected zone before starting the assignment. The employer should provide the driver with appropriate measures to minimise the risk of virus infection and organise the route so that it poses as little risk as possible (e.g. so that the journey is shorter or avoids dangerous areas).

Calls for checks on lorry drivers

Currently, according to the information provided by the spokesperson of the Regional Sanitary and Epidemiological Station in Warsaw, the sanitary officer can report to the driver for a coronavirus test only in two cases.

The driver may be required to attend the examination if he or she has previously reported to the Sanitary and Epidemiological Station. If, as a result of the interview, he is instructed to be in constant contact with the district branch, his representatives may contact him and call for an inspection.

A person, including a driver, who has had contact with an infected person or is suspected of having done so may also be called for mandatory health inspection. In accordance with the rules of epidemiological surveillance, the sanitary service determines all persons who have been in contact with an infected or suspected person. It then contacts them and may call upon them to attend the necessary examinations.

For today, compulsory examinations for all professional drivers have not yet been implemented.

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