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Issues to Consider for Employees During COVID-19

Social security notifications

Types of notifications (workplace opening, start/end of employment, occupational accident, sick leave, etc.) set forth in social security legislation shall be made within the legal periods stated by law.

No changes due to COVID-19 have been made to notification periods.

Only the effective date of the Withholding and Premium Service Declaration, which is a combination of the Withholding Tax Declaration submitted to tax offices and the Monthly Premium and Service Document submitted to the Social Security Institution (SSI), has been changed due to COVID-19, from 01 March 2020 to 01 July 2020, except in pilot cities (Kırşehir, Amasya, Bartın, Çankırı, Bursa, Eskişehir, Konya).

Social security premium payments

2020/March-April and May SSI premium payments were delayed by six months for those who are deemed to be income taxpayers on an actual or simple basis due to commercial, agricultural or self-employment earnings for which force majeure is declared in Tax Procedural Law General Communiqué Serial No 518 due to COVID-19, those who are registered on the tradesmen and craftsmen register and exempt from income tax, those who are engaged in agricultural activities and earn agricultural income, workplaces for which a force majeure request is accepted by the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, and insurance holders who operate on behalf of these workplaces and fall within the scope of 5510/4-b (Bağ-Kur).

Employers who do not fall within the scope of the COVID-19 force majeure shall make social security premium payments within the legally required periods.

Treatment costs of COVID-19 patients

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness which has spread around the world and been defined as a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Therefore, COVID-19 is accepted as an illness as per Social Insurance and Universal Health Insurance Law No. 5510.

Accordingly, all treatment expenses (examinations, tests, medicine, intensive care, etc.) of those who show symptoms, employees in close contact with patients and dependants (spouse, child, mother/father) of these employees in public and private health institutions within the scope of Universal Health Insurance (GSS) are borne by SSI.

Temporary incapacity allowance for COVID-19 outpatients and inpatients

If a sick leave report is prepared by a doctor for days an employee being treated for COVID-19 is hospitalized and is an outpatient, SSI provides a temporary incapacity allowance equal to half the employee's gross daily salary for days they are hospitalized and two thirds of the employee's gross daily salary for outpatient days, starting from the third day of the sick leave report, provided that premiums were paid for at least 90 days in the year before the incapacity due to illness began. 

Occupational accident notifications of employees diagnosed with COVID-19

Social security defines the conditions accepted as occupational accidents in a limited manner.

In order for a condition to be counted as an occupational accident, there should be a reasonable causal link between the occurrence of the accident and the condition considered to be a work accident.

For example, if a doctor, nurse or cleaning worker working in a private hospital is infected with COVID-19 when they are working, this is accepted to be an occupational accident.

Therefore, employers do not have to notify SSI of all COVID-19 cases under the assumption that they are occupational accidents. Each case shall be assessed separately, together with the work place physician and occupational safety specialist, to determine if a work accident notification should be made.

COVID-19 measures to be taken in the workplace

Necessary occupational health and safety measures shall be taken and communicated to protect the health of employees and to limit the liability of the employer in possible occupational accident declaratory lawsuits and damage claims. Preventive measures shall be taken to regulate the activities in and organisation of the workplace to prevent employee exposure to COVID-19 and to make sure that COVID-19 is not present in the workplace.

Accordingly, situation assessments for COVID-19 pandemic shall be made continuously by the OHS committee, workplace physician and OHS specialist, and the announcements and recommendations of the Ministries of Health and Labour shall be closely followed. In line with statements from the Ministry of Labour on the measures to be taken in the workplace against the COVID-19, in later period, there may be claims of COVID-19 exposure in the workplace. Therefore, the necessary measures shall be taken and documented as per the Guide on the Measures to be Taken Against COVID-19 in Workplaces published by the Ministry of Labour.

Working from home/remote working due to COVID-19

Remote work can be implemented permanently and/or as a way of working during certain periods as required. Therefore, it is possible to work from home/work remotely to protect the health of employees during possible pandemic or when required.

If there is no regulation in the employment agreement or workplace procedure regarding possible pandemic, this process shall be governed by the Labour Law, since transition to remote work is a significant change in working conditions. It is important that the document reflect the demands of the parties and that consent is given freely. In practice, employers do not face problems receiving the consent of employees for bona fide health measures intended for the benefit of employees.

The employer is obliged to inform employees about occupational health and safety measures, considering the nature of the work performed by employees working remotely, to provide the necessary training, monitor employee health and take the required occupational safety measures regarding the equipment provided.

When they work from home, the wages of employees shall be paid and SSI notifications shall be made as if normal working conditions continue.

For more detailed information, you can contact with our social security team:

Celal Özcan

Work permits of foreigners

Application process

In order to work legally in Turkey, foreigners living abroad must apply for a work visa to the Turkish Consulate in their home country or in the country where they have legal residency. Following the work visa application, employers are required to submit work permit application to the Turkish Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services, then the foreigners must visit the same Consulate to collect the work visa.

No formal changes have been made to this process due to COVID-19. However, the following should be considered:

  1. Varying Practices of theTurkish Consulates depending on Conditions in the Specific Country:

    Working conditions of the Turkish Consulates in related countries may vary according to the measures taken by the countries within the scope of their struggle with COVID-19. Turkish Consulates in some countries continue to accept applications, while others do not as the local rules they follow in the country of their presence. In general, the working conditions of the Consulates are explained on their websites. However, in order to avoid a last-minute surprise, we highly recommend contacting the Consulate in advance.
  2. Evaluation Process of the Ministry of Labor:

    The Ministry of Labor continues to accept work permit applications without any change in the process. However, due to the uncertainty in the conditions, it has been observed that the evaluation periods are considerably longer than before.

    Foreigners, who already have a work permit and whose extension application is made before the work permit expires, can also legally work for 45 days after the current work permit expires.

Residence Permits for Non-Employed Foreigners

Foreigners who come to Turkey for the purpose of residence must obtain a residence permit from the Directorate General of Migration Management. In order to apply for a residence permit, it is necessary to make an appointment with the Migration Management and to visit the Migration Management on the day of the appointment. Due to COVID-19, residence permit applications in Istanbul are given on and after July 13. People who make an appointment can continue to legally reside in Turkey until the day of appointment.

Travel Restrictions

Due to COVID-19, Turkey has restricted the flights to many countries since March 2020. The current restriction status can be tracked on the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. You can find our newsletter below:

Cancelled International Flights by Turkey due to COVID-19

Cumhur Dülger

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we continue to provide services using our people and organisation consulting competencies by focusing on the following subjects:

What can we do to manage the impact of the pandemic on our organization during and after COVID-19?

Workforce Strategy 

The first impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was on workforce strategy and plans. The pandemic caused employers to reconsider workforce strategies very quickly. During this process, organizations must prioritise the following matters:

  • Reconsidering current workforce plans
  • Examining the impact of COVID-19 on existing services and workforce requirements
  • Determining workforce requirements and performing gap analysis
  • Planning the workforce of the future to respond to impacts occurring during and after COVID-19
  • Determining remote, part-time and freelance workforce requirements
  • Reevaluating and designing career management and succession plans
  • Assessing promotion/transfer and rotation possibilities for critical activities requiring key skills/talents

Talent management

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, you should consider the following related to talent management and future of work.

  • Reassessing the critical talent in the organization, reskilling, upskilling and multi-skilling for use in different work and projects
  • Reconsidering talent acquisition and recruitment strategies
  • Designing more flexible and agile performance assessment and instant feedback/reward processes
  • Designing new ways to improve employee engagement and experience
  • Attracting/retaining the talent of the future workforce and designing training/development processes and programmes

Change management and leadership

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis and it requires an agile change management and leadership approach. Organizations should handle this with a change management approach that swiftly responds to the crisis by: 

  • Developing internal communication activities that are in line with the change management
  • Performing stakeholder analysis and preparing efficient communication plans
  • Analysing the impact of change
  • Measuring the efficiency of change
  • Planning webinars, online learning activities and coaching to develop leadership competencies
  • Evaluating employee well-being and planning actions that quickly respond to the survey results
  • Designing programmes that improve employee well-being
  • Aligning change management activities with the organization culture.

HR Function Effectiveness and HR transformation

The biggest burden in organizations during this crisis is on the HR functions and leaders. The capabilities of HR functions should be developed and transformed to be more digital and agile by:

  • Assessing current HR practices and approaches during the pandemic
  • Developing policies and procedures for remote, part-time and freelance employees
  • Understanding the expectations of employees, communicating with them and developing methods to meet their needs
  • Designing a people centric approach in HR processes.
  • Transforming HR processes digitally and efficient use of workforce analytics.

Eliz Tiras - Özge Kaya

Impact of COVID-19 measures on the tax liabilities of employees on international assignment

Employees on international assignments may be subject to both the tax duties of the country to which they are assigned and those of their country of residence.

COVID-19 measures (e.g. travel restrictions, cancelling assignments, etc.) may cause costs and liabilities that fall outside the planned tax structures.

Assumptions of the country of residence from a tax perspective may change, since employees may stay longer in the country to which they are assigned than what was originally planned or a planned assignment cannot be started, and the unity of the family may be disrupted due to travel restrictions. Parameters used to calculate cost to determine the source from which wages will be paid may change.

After work-from-home solutions become widespread, assignment costs may be reconsidered and needs may be redefined based on new trends

Disruptions in public services may cause delays in calendars which were defined to meet tax liabilities.

Legal framework

  • Residency

The main requirement for residency is that the person either resides for 6 months continuously during one calendar year or has a legal domicile in Turkey. Travel restrictions may change the residency status of the person.

  • Exemption provision

According to Article 5 of the Income Tax Law, “foreign nationals who are detained or remain in Turkey for reasons beyond their control such as imprisonment, conviction or sickness are not deemed to be 'resident' even if they have remained in Turkey for more than 6 months.

  • International treaties

If a person has to stay in his/her current location separate from family, interpretations of residency may change provided that other provisions of the residency article of the treaty are reserved.

Measures

The deadline for submitting the annual income tax return for 2019 earnings was postponed from 31 March 2020 to 30 April 2020.

As per force majeure regulations, real person taxpayers older than 65 shall submit their annual income tax return within 15 days after the curfew ends.

Mert Aktalay - Ece İlter

Employment Regulations on COVID-19

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has caused concern for both employees and employers in Turkey and across the world. Considering the employer obligations under Turkish Labour Law No. 4857 and Occupational Health and Safety Law No. 6331, certain actions should be taken by employers which are defined below: 

Termination of employment contracts are prohibited for a period of three months 

Under COVID-19 Law, the termination of employment contracts  including those subject to the Code of Obligations and other employment-related acts such as the Press Labour Act and the Maritime Labour Act by employers is prohibited as of 17.04.2020 for three months unless this is the termination of employment based on just cause due to cases which are incompatible with moral, good will and similar circumstances. 

It is also stated under COVID-19 Law, the President of Turkey can extend this three-month prohibition term to six months. 

Short time working can be implemented

Short time working is defined as temporary shortening of the employment period in the whole or part of the workplace by the way of suspending at least one-thirds or complete part of the operations for at least four weeks without the condition of continuation not longer than three months due to general economic, sector-specific or regional crisis and force majeure events. The period of short-time working is 3 months as a rule, but such period may be extended to 6 months by the President of Turkey.

In order for the implementation of short time working process at the workplace, the employers must file an application before Turkish Employment Agency (and the union at the workplace that is the party to the collective agreement, if any) in writing. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Turkish Employment Agency announced that employers can file applications for the short time working allowance with the via e-mail as of 23.03.2020. 

During the short time working period, the employers benefit from the short time working allowances. The short time working allowance is provided on a monthly basis to compensate the employee for the hours that the employee does not work during the short time working period.

Remote working might be an alternative for the employers

In order to prevent the rapid spread of the virus by social isolation, implementation of remote working for the employees is very common alternative for the employers. Remote working is regulated in article 14 of the Turkish Labour Law as it is described in the legislation, is an employment relationship founded in writing, where the employees perform the work under working organization of the employer in their houses or outside the workplace via technological devices.

Employees might be put on annual paid leave 

It is another option for employers to make their employees take their annual leave as a part of precautions against COVID-19.

From the perspective of the obligations of the employees, the employee should act in accordance with the employer considering the workload and work conditions determined. 

COVID-19 LAW allows employers to impose unpaid leave 

In ordinary course of the employment, the employers cannot apply unpaid leave based on its own decision. However, since COVID-19 Law prohibits the termination of the employment contracts as of the date of 17.04.2020 and allows the employers to impose unpaid leave, partially or in full, on employees during the termination prohibition period; employees’ permission is not required within this period. 

It is also regulated under COVID-19 Law that during the unpaid leave period, employees will be paid TRY 39.24 for each day that spent on unpaid leave from the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Applications for such fund has to be made by the employers. 

Collective leave might be another alternative for employers

Article 10 of the Regulation on Annual Paid Leave enables employer to apply collective leave days for all or a part of its employees between the beginning of April and the end of October. Accordingly, starting as of April, it is possible to apply collective leave days. In such a case, a leave board formed within the establishment shall draft and announce the leave schedules indicating the end date of each employee's leave period in such a manner that all employees on collective leave commence the leave at the same time.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020 in Turkey, employers are entitled to implement its collective leave right starting from 01.04.2020 as well.

Rıza Eroğlu - Cağıl Şahin

Contact us

Ece İlter

Ece İlter

Global Mobility, Director, PwC Turkey

Tel: +90 212 326 63 57

Rıza Eroğlu

Rıza Eroğlu

Tax and Legal Services, Senior Manager, PwC Turkey

Tel: +90 212 326 6421

Çağıl Şahin

Çağıl Şahin

Tax and Legal Services , Director, PwC Turkey

Tel: +90 212 326 6768

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