Can an employer prohibit you from going on winter sports?

In Austria, and especially in the winter sports region of Tyrol, concerns are growing about the number of infections among staff on the slopes. The authorities in the area say that many teachers have been infected with the new omikron variant, including Dutch ones.

On the skis or not

That does not seem to stop winter sports enthusiasts. Many Dutch people quickly moved to Austria before the quarantine obligation came into effect. About a thousand Dutch people who recently visited Austria tested positive for the corona virus in the week leading up to January 4.

Suppose you have had all your corona vaccinations, received a booster shot and possibly booked the mandatory PCR test for Austria. Despite the depressing reports about infections above, nothing stands in your way for a week on the slats. Can your employer throw a spanner in the works at the last minute?

In fact, an employer has nothing to say about what his or her employees do in their spare time. That has not changed, even though the corona crisis has been going on for almost two years now. An employer may ask an employee not to travel to a certain area, but cannot prohibit it. Not even if there is a negative travel advice.

An employer is in principle obliged to continue to pay your wages if you subsequently have to quarantine, employment lawyer Suzanne Meijers explained earlier. “An exception is if you have traveled to an orange or red area after all, while your employer had already advised you not to go there.”

Then as an employee you take a risk and payment is therefore not mandatory.

But yes, the travel advice for winter sports countries such as Austria, Switzerland and France is currently not on red or orange, but on yellow. Does that change things?

Not to be banned

Yes, says Meijers: then such a warning in advance does not apply. “As an employer, you can’t do much about it if an employee travels to a country with a green or yellow travel advice. Today it is much less about the travel advice and much more about whether or not you have been vaccinated or tested.”

Going on winter sports to a yellow country and returning with the omikron variant is like contracting a corona infection here in the Netherlands on aunt Truus’ (scaled down) birthday, she compares. “Or if someone sustains a broken leg while skiing. That is also bad luck for the employer, you can’t forbid that either.”

The only thing you can do as an employer is to kindly ask the employee to test themselves before he or she returns to the workplace. But just like with vaccinations, you should not make it compulsory or ask whether someone has actually done it.

Although we have been dealing with the coronavirus for almost two years now, nothing has been set in stone in terms of rules, says Meijers. “There is still little case law about this. Suppose you go on holiday to a yellow country that suddenly turns orange on the spot and then you have to quarantine for two weeks when you return home. Who will have the costs then? That is still unclear.”

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