March 25, 2020 SPECIAL COVID-19 ISSUE

TURKEY - Report

By: Cem Sınanmış, Sınanmış Hukuk Burosu, Izmir, Turkey

As background, The Labor Code of Turkey has been in force since 2003. Every worker working in our country must be reported to the Social Security Institution (SGK), which is an efficient social security umbrella for workers. Social Security Institution (SSI) guarantees temporary incapacity benefits, and free health care and treatment of workers and dependents in state hospitals in case of illness, permanent incapacity allowance, and payment of old age pensions.

As of 25 March, the Ministry has announced that 20.345 tests have been performed, 1.256 diagnoses have been made, and we have lost 30 elderly patients so far. The numbers are increasing day by day. People over the age of 65 were banned from going out onto the streets after the virus. Restaurants, cafes closed but takeaway places are open. Schools and courthouses are closed. Banks are open half a day.

The Ministry of Labor and Social Security took immediate measures to adapt workplaces to COVID-19. The Ministry has established preparatory teams to coordinate the preparations and precautions to be taken in the workplaces, to make an emergency plan for each workplace, to adjust the social distancing and working conditions to prevent the spread of the epidemic, to educate and inform workers, and to maximize the rules of cleaning and hygiene. The country is struggling to provide significant economic support to workers because of a two-year economic crisis. Employers have been hoping for support such as waiving several monthly social security premiums and postponing taxes and lowering VAT rates, but these have not been approved as of this date. However, in workplaces that have closed because of COVID-19, workers are entitled to a short work allowance from the Unemployment Fund. This short-time working allowance will be deducted from the workers’ unemployment fund.

No new legal arrangements have been made except those described above. However, the SSI continues to function as a social safety net. Because it is a requirement of the Social State Principle, even if it becomes a burden on the budget, it will provide allowances to workers, regardless if they are sick, if they are unable to work either temporarily or long-term because of the pandemic.

Cem Sınanmış

Sınanmış Hukuk Burosu, Izmir, Turkey