New Covid legislation

CovidCheck in companies: questions remain

The text of the bill does not explain how the CovidCheck scheme will be applied in practice in companies. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

The text of the bill does not explain how the CovidCheck scheme will be applied in practice in companies. Photo: Matic Zorman / Maison Moderne

The Covid Amendment Bill has been introduced in the chamber, with a debate and vote scheduled for Monday 18 October. Although it introduces the possibility of having CovidCheck in companies, it offers no further guidance.

The measure is summarised in just two sentences:

"Any head of a company or any head of an administration may decide to place all or part of their company or administration under the CovidCheck regime, as defined in Article 1, point 27 of this law, in order to protect the safety and health of the workers concerned. In this case, the workers concerned are obliged to present a certificate as referred to in Articles 3bis, 3ter or 3quater.”

These two sentences open up the possibility of CovidCheck in companies, but leave the practicalities entirely up to the employer. Although several large companies like Luxair and ArcelorMittal have already shown interest in applying CovidCheck within their teams, many questions remain unanswered, some of which have already been raised by the trade unions. Who will pay for the testing of an employee who doesn’t want to be vaccinated? What attitude should be adopted towards an employee who has not complied with the CovidCheck application and what sanctions are possible? Who has the right to check CovidCheck? How can individual data protection be respected in this context? What control does the employer have over the health data of their employees?

Will answers be given?

As announced by the government, some answers will undoubtedly be provided during the committee discussions on the bill, or in the context of the opinions issued on it by the state council or the professional chambers. The labour code will also undoubtedly serve as guidance if, as Prime Minister Xavier BettelXavier Bettel (DP) stated (echoing labour minister Dan KerschDan Kersch [LSAP] from days earlier), non-compliance with CovidCheck will be comparable to non-compliance with rules about wearing a helmet on a building site. Kersch even hinted at warnings followed by suspensions.

The comments included in the bill do not provide any further information. “Taking into account the diversity of situations among companies or state administrations, the head of a company or administration will be able to apply the regime that is most appropriate for their company or administration. They may also decide to apply this regime only to certain events, within the company/administration or organised by the company/administration, for example meetings, conferences, training courses or examinations. Where several companies/administrations are located on the same site, the heads of administration may agree to set up a single perimeter. Access to and continuity of public services must remain guaranteed and it is up to the head of administration to take all necessary measures to this effect,” they state in relation to Article 6.

The new law will only apply from 1 November, in order to give companies time to determine how to proceed.

Furthermore, it was also announced on Friday that self-tests will be removed from the CovidCheck scheme. Only rapid antigen tests performed by health professionals will be allowed. “At the beginning of the summer, when the number of infections rebounded following bank holiday festivities, self-tests appeared to be the weak link in the CovidCheck scheme, which justified the first corrections. As autumn gradually sets in, it is imperative to ensure that there is no weak link in the regime. Indeed, if rapid antigen tests are to remain reliable, they will need to be properly executed, one can also read in the comments of the law articles.

An immunity target of 80%

The age at which children will be required to be tested will be raised from 6 to 12 years. “The reason for this change is that children are regularly tested at school and these tests show reassuring results. It should also be noted that many European countries that introduced a scheme similar to CovidCheck over the summer exempt children under the age of 12 from any testing requirement under this scheme,” the text says.

The CovidCheck scheme will also apply in the hotel and catering industry, with mandatory testing indoors and optional testing on the terrace. The comments in the text state that “the customer must leave the establishment or terrace under the CovidCheck system if they refuse or are unable to present a certificate as referred to in Articles 3a, 3b or 3c.”

All this is to increase the vaccination rate, because “the end of the pandemic will depend on vaccination. It should be noted that with the Delta variant, herd immunity will require a rate of over 80% for the entire population. We are still far from this figure. It follows that the vaccination campaign will have to be continued, with particular efforts directed at populations that are currently even more reluctant to be vaccinated,” states an explanatory memorandum to the law.

This article was originally published in Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.