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COVID-19 RULES

Can my employer make me work if I test positive for Covid-19?

In March 2022, the Spanish government scrapped quarantine for those with mild or asymptomatic Covid symptoms and now masks are no longer required in most indoor situations. So what happens when you get Covid -can your employer still make you go to work?

working while ill
Woman sick with Covid-19. Photo: Bermix Studio / Unsplash

The end of most self-isolation and mask rules in Spain means that many people may now be going to work while infected with Covid-19 and putting their colleagues at risk.

Recently, there have been several reports of companies telling their employees to come into work, even if they’re testing positive for Covid, saying that if they’re well enough to work remotely, then they’re well enough to come in and work in person.

READ ALSO: How masks became an integral part of life Spain

But can your employer really make you come to work if you have Covid? What are your rights?

Of course, if you have a serious case of Covid-19, then you can get a ‘baja’ or sick note from your doctor saying you don’t have to work.

But what if your case is milder? It’s now not uncommon for doctors to give their Covid patients a ‘baja’ for just a few days while symptoms are at their worst.

However, many people are still testing positive for Covid-19 even after the worst of their symptoms have passed and are no longer eligible for a ‘baja’, meaning that they have to go to work while they still have the virus.

The Spanish government recommends that those who test positive for Covid-19 be allowed to work from home where possible.

“Teleworking or job re-adaptation is recommended to avoid interaction with vulnerable groups,” says the document from the Public Health Commission, both in the case of workers with “symptoms compatible” with Covid-19 and those who already have a positive diagnosis.

If this is the government’s recommendation, is it still possible for companies to make their employees go into work and not be allowed to work from home?

According to the General Union of Workers (UGT) “At the moment, there is no obligation to offer employees the possibility of teleworking in the legislation”.  In the event that the company does not enable this alternative, “preventive measures should be adopted such as cross-ventilation, a distance of one and a half meters, constant hygiene in common areas and providing everyone with masks”.

Ángela Domínguez, coordinator of the Vaccination Group of the Spanish Society of Epidemiology says “In principle, as in any disease, if a person is sick, it is better not to go (to work), especially in the acute phase. If you have very few symptoms or no symptoms and have tested positive, you can go, but it’s important that you wear the mask and respect the rest of the measures”.   

The Spanish government has said that it’s up to each individual company whether they want to continue using the mask or not, but has pointed out a series of factors that should be taken into account when making it, such as the possibility that employees keep a distance of 1.5 meters, the ventilation of the space or the time in which they remain in it and has stressed that the company must take into account the “opinion” of the workers through their representatives. 

The general consensus is that if you do have mild Covid symptoms and you can’t get a ‘baja’ to stay home from work, then remote working is the best option. If your company won’t let you work from home or it’s not possible, then wearing a mask at work and ensuring that the room is well ventilated is the best option to protect your colleagues.

READ ALSO – Have your say: Will you continue wearing a mask indoors in Spain?

Domínguez referred to a study by the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) which calculated the time needed to become infected in a closed space without ventilation.

The analysis concluded that, in the presence of a positive, another person can become infected in 15 minutes if neither of them is wearing a mask. If you and the those you interact with use an FFP2 mask, this time can go up to as much as 25 hours.

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TRAVEL NEWS

FACT CHECK: Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?

Spain has dropped most Covid-19 restrictions, but do foreign residents in Spain travelling back to the Spanish territory from an EU or non-EU country still need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery in September and October 2022?

FACT CHECK: Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain?

The Covid-19 pandemic no longer dominates daily life or travel in Spain.

In recent days, the Spanish government has scrapped the Spth health control form for all travellers and soon it will stop carrying out temperature and visual checks on non-EU arrivals

That’s not to say that all of Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions have been lifted. Non-EU tourists still need to show Covid-19 documents to be allowed into Spain, and on planes that are bound for Spain passengers must wear face masks

But how about for foreign residents in Spain who are travelling back to the Spanish territory after a holiday abroad or a visit to their country of origin? 

For example, would a UK or US national who legally resides in Spain and who has just spent a couple of weeks back in their country of origin need to show proof of vaccination, testing or recovery when they arrived back in Spain?

The question is not so much whether you’re a resident in Spain, but rather which country you’re travelling to Spain from. 

If it’s a non-EU/Schengen country, then you technically have to show Covid documents. If you’re completely unvaccinated or more than 270 days have passed since your last Covid-19 vaccine, you’ll need to present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test. That’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national or foreign resident in Spain. 

Do residents still need Covid documents to travel back to Spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated UK national who is resident in Spain needs to get a Covid test before arrival in Spain if travelling from a non-EU country such as the United Kingdom.

If on the other hand you’re returning to Spain from another EU/Schengen country, then you will not have to show a Covid-19 certificate or equivalent document. Again, that’s irregardless of whether you’re a Spanish national, a resident of Spain (EU or non-EU national) or even a non-EU tourist who was already in the EU/Schengen Area before visiting Spain.

do residents need covid documents to travel back to spain
Screenshot from travelsafe.spain.info showing how an unvaccinated US national who is resident in Spain doesn’t need to show Covid documents or get tested before arrival in Spain if travelling from another EU country.
 

This is according to Spain’s travelsafe.spain.info website, where on its homepage section there is a section which allows you to choose “origin” (city/country you’re travelling from), your nationality and your vaccination status. 

When you fill in the categories and click through, it tells you whether or not you need to get a Covid-19 test. 

It also states your country of residence, even though you’re not given the option of filling this in (although, we reiterate, residence isn’t what counts). 

Are Spanish airport officials still rigorously checking the Covid documents of arrivals from outside of the EU/Schengen Area? No. 

Whether or not you get asked is up to chance. Some travellers have said they have been asked to show proof, whereas others have not.

“I went to the United Kingdom, vaccinated with the third dose more than 290 days ago (20 days over), so I needed a negative diagnostic test to return to Spain. I got a PCR in London, it cost me €80, and in Barcelona I didn’t even get asked for it”, one Spanish national wrote on Twitter.

Keep in mind as well that if you’re travelling back to Spain from a non-EU country, but you have a layover in another EU/Schengen country first before reaching Spain, it will be that country’s rules that apply in terms having to show Covid-19 documents. You will already have entered the EU/Schengen Area before reaching your final destination (Spain), so you will not be asked to provide proof of Covid certificates when you land in Spain.

Is there a risk of being refused entry as a resident if you don’t have any Covid-19 documents upon arrival in Spain and you get asked to provide them? 

The worst-case scenario is that you will be required to take a Covid test there and then at the airport. Spain has allowed legal Spanish residents (whether they’re EU or non-EU nationals) to return home to Spain even at the worst stages of the pandemic when travel was heavily restricted.

So, if you’re travelling back to Spain as a resident from a non-EU country, what Covid proof do you technically have to be able to show? Only one of the following:

  • A Covid-19 vaccination certificate – Your vaccination status must meet the Spanish authorities’ validity period requirements. If more than 270 days have passed since your initial vaccination, you need to show proof of a booster shot.
  • A negative Covid-19 test – This should be either a PCR taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test, taken within 24 hours prior to departure. 
  • A recovery certificate – This must be dated within the last six months. You can use a medical certificate or recovery record to prove your Covid-19 status. 

You can prove the above by showing a digital or paper certificate issued by the relevant authorities of the country in which you were vaccinated. If you were vaccinated in Spain, this can be Spain’s EU Digital COVID Certificate.

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