Avoiding coronavirus infection and falling ill

Updated on 7 March, 2022

How should an employer prepare for coronavirus?

As stipulated by the Occupational Safety and Health Act, it is the employer’s responsibility to assess the dangers and risks of the work, to plan and implement protective measures and to safeguard the safety and health of the work environment. When necessary, the employer also makes the decision to suspend or discontinue the work. 

Employers must monitor and comply with the information and instructions of the authorities. Currently, there are many restrictions in effect in Finland and employers must assess the effect of these restrictions on their personnel and the work being done. 

It is important for employers to give clear instructions and specify actions that employees can take to best protect themselves from the epidemic. The best means of preparation is to emphasise the significance of hand hygiene, to enable employees to be absent due to illness on their own notification, to reconsider visit and meeting practices, and to agree on remote working possibilities if possible. 

Protection issues can also be discussed with the occupational health and safety delegate in the workplace.

How can employees protect themselves from the risk of infection?

It appears that coronavirus is transmitted through droplets as well as from skin to mucous membranes as a result of physical contact. For this reason, handwashing is extremely important. Hands should be washed regularly using soap and water. Hand sanitizers can also be helpful, but not as effective as a thorough washing. Do not rub your eyes, stick your fingers into your nose or bite your nails, if your hands have not been washed first.

Try to avoid close contact with any person who has signs of a respiratory infection. Even if a person is not experiencing symptoms, they might still be spreading the disease, so all forms of contact should be minimised. Many service sector businesses have, for example, recommended bank card payments as a means of minimising direct contact.

There is not yet enough information about how long the virus remains viable on tabletops or other surfaces, but careful cleaning of these surfaces couldn’t hurt.

What should I do if I suspect that I have caught coronavirus?

If you suspect that you may be infected, you should assess your symptoms using the Omaolo online service. In some municipalities the Omaolo service also allows you to book a coronavirus test directly. Otherwise it provides instructions for making a test appointment separately. You can also find instructions on how to book a test and details of testing locations through the website or telephone service of the local authority. Always contact the healthcare provider by telephone or online first if you suspect coronavirus infection.

It is also recommended that you self-quarantine after taking a test, at least until you receive the test result. You should not delay requesting a test, even with mild symptoms. Some people experience no symptoms at all after catching coronavirus.

You should report any illness to an employer in the manner agreed at your workplace. Many businesses have official guidelines on reporting illness, including an option to begin sick leave without providing a medical certificate. You are entitled to regular wages, sickness benefit or an infection allowance while absent from work due to illness (see below).

Who decides on the quarantine of an employee who is ill or has been exposed to the virus?

Official quarantine or isolation will be very rarely applied as the COVID-19 situation subsides. The infectious diseases physician of the local municipality or hospital district will continue to make any such decisions.

When will I be eligible for an infectious disease allowance or sickness allowance from KELA?

Regulations governing the payment of infectious disease allowances have been retroactively relaxed as of 1 January 2022. This relaxation will remain in force until 30 June 2022. The application period for infectious disease allowance was also temporarily extended from two to six months.

An employee may now receive an infectious disease allowance from KELA following a diagnosis of COVID-19 infection issued by a public or private health care provider on the basis of PCR or antigen testing, where participation in work is not recommended due to a risk of spreading the disease. A COVID-19 quarantine or isolation order is accordingly no longer required. The certificate may be issued by a physician, public health nurse or registered nurse, with an accompanying strong recommendation to remain at home and avoid human contact.

The same allowance rights also apply to the guardian of a child under 16 years of age with a reliably diagnosed COVID-19 infection, where it is not advisable for the child to attend early childhood education or an educational establishment due to a risk of spreading the disease and the guardian is accordingly prevented from engaging in gainful employment.

The infectious disease allowance will be payable to an employer insofar as the employer has paid sick pay to the employee.

An infectious disease allowance is payable from the first day of eligibility with no waiting period. Annual holiday will continue to accrue during absence from work that is eligible for the allowance.

Current health authority guidelines must be followed where disease or exposure to infection are suspected.

COVID-19 may lead to changes at work, for example due to employee absences and changes in business operations. The effect of these situations at work is discussed in the rights and duties section of this website.

Normal pay and sickness allowance remain payable according to law and collective agreements in cases of illness other than COVID-19 when an employee falls ill or must care for a sick child. The right to these benefits following the period of eligibility for infectious disease allowance also continues when the COVID-19 illness of an employee or child persists beyond the infectious period (usually 5 to 10 days).

Is illness caused by coronavirus eligible for compensation under the Workers’ Compensation Act?

An illness caused by coronavirus may be eligible for statutory compensation as an occupational disease on the basis of the Workers’ Compensation Act (459/2015) if it was probably principally contracted at work, in the vicinity of the place of work, or in work-related training.

The ability to determine the source and circumstances of the infection is a condition of eligibility for compensation. This means that it must be possible to verify that the infection occurred while working.

Occupational disease compensation requires a diagnosed illness. An occupational illness caused by coronavirus may also be considered in occupations other than social and health care. Mere exposure to coronavirus is not an occupational disease, nor does it confer eligibility for occupational disease compensation.

The claim form related to a suspected occupational disease must be completed with care. Compensation for an occupational disease requires a precise and detailed description of the infection and illness, and of the fact that the infection was not contracted during leisure time.

Use of a face mask and other protective equipment reduces the risk of infection at work, but does not provide complete protection. The protection against infection provided by surgical and fabric masks in particular is deficient. Insurance companies may request further details of other potential sources of infection. No occupational disease compensation will be paid if it is more likely that the infection was contracted elsewhere than at work.

Information from authorities

Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare – information and instruction

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health – Information for workplaces

Kela – Information regarding the sickness allowance paid on account of an infectious disease