Frequently asked questions and answers for companies

Updated 17.9.2020

The coronavirus continues to spread around the world, including Finland. At Mehiläinen, we take the situation very seriously and aim to ensure that everyone in need of health care services can get help and treatment despite these exceptional circumstances. Our top priority is to ensure the health and safety of our customers and staff and to offer our corporate customers support.

This page includes frequently asked questions from supervisors concerning the coronavirus. We will update the instructions and this page with new questions on a daily basis. As the situation may change rapidly, we also recommend actively following the bulletins released by Mehiläinen, the authorities and your local public health care service providers.

Koronavirus (COVID19) - Usein kysytyt kysymykset

How to instruct the personnel and supervisors during the epidemic?

Protecting yourself against the novel coronavirus is similar to protecting yourself against other pathogens that cause respiratory tract infections. Estimates of the infectiousness of the virus before the onset of symptoms and during the disease are still inaccurate. The current estimate is that the virus becomes infectious at least one day before the onset of symptoms. Some of the infected are asymptomatic or experience very mild symptoms and they can also spread the disease.

The most important thing is to wash your hands, maintain good cough etiquette and avoid close contact. Remote work and meetings are recommended for everybody that has the opportunity of working from home in order to minimise exposure to the virus and to prevent the epidemic from spreading. If remote work is not an option, other types of arrangements to minimise exposure to the virus should be made as far as possible. Social interaction in the break rooms, cafeterias and staff rooms of workplaces should also be limited. Displaying information and instructions about washing your hands, hygiene and protection at workplaces is recommended. The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare website has a set of instructions and a video about these topics.

No one should go to work if they feel ill. Even if an employee experiences only minor symptoms related to coronavirus (a cold, cough, sore throat, muscle pain or a fever), they should avoid close contact with others and go to coronavirus test. You should stay at home until you have received the test result and the symptoms have subsided. After negative test result, you can return to work following your employers instructions. Conventional home care instructions for a respiratory tract infection can be applied. Employees can return to work when their symptoms have subsided completely. The home care instructions of the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare can be shared with the personnel in the company’s intranet, for example. If an employee has confirmed coronavirus disease, they should be at home for at least 14 days. If symptoms persist after that, the worker should be at home until asymptomatic for at least two days.

At Mehiläinen, you can get a referral to a coronavirus test from Digital Clinic, through a remote appointment with a doctor or occupational health nurse or from the respiratory tract infection clinics. If the symptoms are severe, contact occupational health care or public health care services immediately for the assessment of the need for a doctor’s appointment.

We recommend all our customers to apply the self-reporting policy more extensively in the case of mild respiratory tract symptoms. This avoids unnecessary visits and reduces the number of appointments for symptoms that do not require an examination by a doctor or a nurse.

More information about the coronavirus (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish) 

Guidelines for workplaces concerning the coronavirus epidem ic (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health)

Additional information about the coronavirus and instructions for infected people (Mehiläinen)

How can our personnel contact the occupational health care service provider during the epidemic?

If an employee experiences only minor symptoms of a respiratory tract infection (a cold, cough, sore throat, muscle pain, diahrrea or a fever), they should avoid close contact with others and stay at home.

At Mehiläinen, you can get a referral to a coronavirus test from Digital Clinic, through a remote appointment with a doctor or occupational health nurse or from the respiratory tract infection clinics. Digital Clinic can be used without booking a time. Remote appointments and appointments to respiratory clinics can be booked via any channels you currently have access to (online booking, OmaMehiläinen booking, OmaTyöterveys telephone service or TerveysHelppi).

If the symptoms are severe, call Mehiläinen’s coronavirus hotline on +358 (0)10 414 1848 to determine the right place for seeking medical attention. In the case of acute severe symptoms, call the emergency clinic of your local public health care service provider or the emergency number 112.

Mehiläinen’s instructions for occupational health customers concerning the coronavirus (in Finnish).

Remote appointments, personal appointments and phone appointments are available in other occupational health care services concerning medical care and work ability support. Appointments can be booked via any channels you currently have access to (online booking, OmaMehiläinen booking, OmaTyöterveys telephone service or TerveysHelppi).

In non-urgent matters, our occupational health customers are also served by their own occupational health teams, which can be easily contacted by sending them a message via the OmaMehiläinen app or the Occupational Health tab of the online service. An expert will reply to your message when they are available, which is why the service is not suitable for urgent matters. Information about the availability of experts is displayed in the service.

What are your recommendations concerning sick leave policies during the epidemic?

We recommend all employers to apply the self-reporting policy more extensively in order to place less stress on the health care system and to avoid unnecessary appointments. Kela does not require a sick leave certificate during the waiting period (1+9 days). Supervisors can issue additional sick leaves according to the condition of the employee.

The occupational health care service provider and the experts of Digital Clinic only issue sick leave certificates in cases of incapacity for work. This means that we do not issue sick leave certificates to asymptomatic people who have been exposed to the coronavirus or who are returning from a trip, for example.

By relaxing the rules on sick leaves, all employers can reduce the stress on the health care system during the epidemic and help the system to focus its resources on those who need them the most. Learn more about the recommendations of the Confederation of Finnish Industries (in Finnish).

What are the occupational health care service provider’s policies for assessing the need for sick leaves during the epidemic?

In the current exceptional circumstances, we assess the need for sick leaves at personal appointments as well as through various remote occupational health care services in order to avoid unnecessary personal appointments and to prevent the epidemic from spreading. The need is always assessed carefully and with the same criteria as applied in personal appointments. Home care instructions are also provided during these appointments. If necessary, additional personal appointments or examinations can be arranged.

Regarding the sick leave policy, we have returned to the normal practices what we had before the epidemic with occupational health nurses and Omatyöterveys phone service.

  • Occupational health nurses can issue sick leave of a total of 1–3 days in remote or phone appointment, unless other policy has been agreed with the company
  • Nurses of the OmaTyöterveys phone service can issue sick leave of a total of 1–3 days, unless other policy has been agreed with the company

If the illness and need for absence persists for more than 3 days and whenever the patient's state of health requires or suspects coronavirus infection, the patient is referred to a doctor's assessment either to remote or local clinics or to Digital Clinic according to the symptom and treatment need. In this case, the need for sick leave is also assessed by a doctor.

Risk assessment and measures at the workplace during the epidemic

Employers must look after occupational safety in these exceptional circumstances too. The hazard and risk assessment reports of workplaces must be updated to take the coronavirus epidemic into account and new instructions and operating methods required in these circumstances must be created. If necessary, your company’s occupational health physician will assist you in the assessment of work-related risks and with instructions how to work safely.

The primary mode of action in this situation is to avoid unnecessary close contacts in order to minimise the employees’ exposure to the coronavirus. Employers must assess the necessity of meetings and other gatherings in terms of their health. If this is not possible, any work performed at the workplace must be arranged so that the risk of exposure is minimised. Such arrangements may include, for example, cleaning more frequently and intensively, instructing employees about hygiene, setting up airborne infection protection barriers, instructing employees about how to avoid exposure to the virus, looser placement of workstations, changing the work shift arrangements and providing instructions for situations in which an exposure or illness is suspected. It is also not recommended to gather in break rooms if it is not necessary.

If the risk of an infection at the workplace has increased significantly, for example, if the work involves continuous personal contact, personal protective equipment such as respiratory equipment, protective gloves, eye protection and, if necessary, protective clothing must be worn. Personal protective equipment must be maintained, cleaned and changed regularly.

Source: https://www.tyosuojelu.fi/web/en/working-conditions/biological-agents/corona 

Learn more: Guidelines for workplaces concerning the coronavirus epidemic (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) 

Can the novel coronavirus be spread by people without symptoms?

Yes. It is currently estimated that the infectiousness begins about a day before the onset of symptoms. It should be noted, however, that some infected people are also completely asymptomatic or very mildly symptomatic and may also spread the disease.

THL Guidelines for Assessing Exposures:  Persons exposed to COVID-19 are defined as individuals who have been in contact with COVID-19 during the 24 hours prior to the onset of symptoms in the case and 14 days after the onset of symptoms in the case. If the COVID-19 case is asymptomatic, the exposed persons are defined as those who have been in contact with the COVID-19 case 48 hours before sampling (those exposed are mapped for two days before sampling) and 14 days after sampling).

Can people without symptoms returning from abroad come back to work? Which countries involve the highest risk?

A pandemic is a situation where a virus has spread everywhere and there are no areas that can be said to be completely safe. According to the instructions given by the Government, all people returning from most of the countries must undergo a two-week period of voluntary quarantine-like conditions. Read more about THL's instructions for passengers and employees arriving in Finland. 

With regard to entering the workplace, the instructions of the workplace are followed. The occupational health care service provider will not issue sick leave certificates to people without symptoms.

When planning a business trip, it is important to carefully map the current epidemic situation in the destination country area, possible entry and other restrictions, and hygiene recommendations. At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the adequacy of insurance cover and to think with special care about the operating model in case of travel illness or quarantine.

Read more about travel destinations and border regulations:

What are the high-risk groups of the novel coronavirus?

According to current information, people aged 70 and over are at a higher risk of a severe coronavirus infection. The risk of a severe coronavirus infection can also be increased by the presence of underlying conditions that have an adverse effect on the immune system or the functionality of lungs or the heart, including: severe heart diseases, poorly controlled lung diseases, diabetes that involves organ damage, chronic liver or kidney failure, diseases that compromise the immune system, such as a cancer actively treated with cytostatic therapy and medications that severely compromise the immune system (for example, large doses of cortisone).

The attending doctor or occupational health physician can estimate whether the underlying conditions are so severe that the person is at a high risk of a severe coronavirus infection. They will also determine whether the medication should be changed and assess the need for protection. Other general factors that compromise the functionality of lungs and may increase the health risks of a coronavirus infection include morbid obesity and daily smoking. Quitting smoking should be actively encouraged to all smokers. High-risk groups defined by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare 

Can a person who belongs to a high-risk group work during the epidemic?

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health has given workplaces guidelines on how to assess the risks of persons who are susceptible to the more severe forms of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. During the coronavirus epidemic, employers must assess whether the employees’ risk of contracting a coronavirus infection is higher than the risk of other population groups. The risk assessment must include, for example, the number and duration of personal contacts and the availability of protection.

Your company’s occupational health physician will assist you in the assessment of work-related risks, if necessary. As a general rule, people of working age (under 70) who are able to work do not need to be absent from work because of the epidemic. Instead, increased attention must be paid to the minimisation of risks and making protective arrangements, if necessary. However, all situations must be assessed on a case-by-case basis by paying attention to the risk of exposure related to the work, the possibility of using personal protective equipment and the employee’s condition. Personal occupational health physicians or attending doctors can assist employees in the assessment of personal risk and the need for protection, if necessary. If possible, remote work or alternative tasks that include a lower risk of exposure should be preferred. If the employer requires, the occupational health doctor issues an opinion on the employee's suitability for his or her work during the corona epidemic.

As a rule, if an employee’s family member belongs to a high-risk group, there is no reason not to work. The risk assessment of family members is taken care of by their own doctors.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Health’ instructions for employees who are susceptible to the more severe forms of the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus 

Guidelines for workplaces concerning the coronavirus epidemic (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health) 

What to do if an employee’s family members experiences respiratory tract symptoms?

According to the current recommendation, anyone with symptoms that resemble those of coronavirus (such as cough, runny nose, sneezing, sore throat, fever, diarrhoea or nausea) should seek a coronavirus test and stay home and wait for the test result. Those living in the same household with the person tested and other close contacts may usually go to work, following the employer’s instructions. They are recommended to avoid any additional social contacts whenever possible. However, if there is a strong suspicion that the COVID-19 test result will be positive (e.g. the person has been exposed to coronavirus), it is recommended that any close contacts stay home, until the test result is known.

If one or more of the family members have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the asymptomatic family members are quarantined or encouraged to stay home for 21 days from the onset of family member symptoms (by asymptomatic testing). In the case of a suspected COVID-19 disease, we also recommend all family members to stay home. If the work involves personal contact with people belonging to high-risk groups (such as social welfare and health care work), the risk of spreading the disease must be assessed particularly carefully. Personal occupational health physicians can help in the assessment, if necessary.

How is the novel coronavirus transmitted?

The novel coronavirus spreads primarily by airborne transmission when an infected person sneezes or coughs. Recent studies indicate that the novel coronavirus may also be transmitted through the air, that is, through aerosols. However, their significance in transmitting the virus still remains unclear. It is also unclear how long the airborne virus remains infective and what the role of ventilation is. Ensuring adequate ventilation, keeping adequate distances between people and limiting the number of people in the same space reduce the risk of possible airborne infections in everyday life.

The virus can also be spread by contact with a surface that has recently been exposed to the respiratory discharge of an infected person. According to current knowledge, however, the role of contact with surfaces in the spreading of the virus is not significant. No infections caused by contact with an exposed surface, food item or other items have been detected. Coronaviruses do not remain viable airborne or viable for days on surfaces in varying temperatures.Common cleaning agents are effective against the coronavirus.

The risk of infection by contact with surfaces is primarily present in hospitals and other health care units that include lots of ill people and patients with symptoms. At home, the same instructions as applied in the case of other diseases are valid: clean actively and avoid using the same towels, for instance.

Learn more:

Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s new industry-specific instructions to prevent coronavirus infections 

Instructions issued by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health for workplaces 

More information about the cleaning guidelines for workplaces (Finnish Institute of Occupational Health ) updated 28.5.2020

WHO Q&A about the novel coronavirus 

What do the terms isolation and quarantine mean and when are they applied?

According to the Communicable Diseases Act (1227/2016), the physician in charge of communicable diseases in a public service employment relationship either with the municipality or joint municipal authority for hospital district may order a person, who has or is justifiably suspected of having a generally hazardous communicable disease or a disease that is justifiably suspected of being generally hazardous, to be isolated or quarantined.

Isolation refers to isolating a person with an infectious disease from the healthy population. Isolation can be performed at home or in a hospital. The purpose of isolation is to avoid further infections.

Quarantine refers to limiting the freedom of movement of a healthy person. Some infections diseases, including COVID-19, can be spread before the onset of any symptoms. The purpose of quarantine is to prevent the asymptomatic infected (exposed) person from spreading the infection to other people. Persons close to the person exposed to an infection are not placed in quarantine as they have not been in close contact with the infected person, unlike the person placed in quarantine. Persons close to the quarantined asymptomatic person are not considered to be able to spread the disease. There is a period of time between becoming infected and the disease becoming infectious. This is why the family members of an asymptomatic person who has been exposed to an infection do not need to limit their lives. If the exposed person begins to experience symptoms, the possibility of a coronavirus infection must be examined. According to the results of the examination, the quarantine can be extended to their family members, if necessary. The family members cannot spread the disease prior to this. Instructions related to isolation and quarantine are available, for example, on the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare website .

What is the infectious disease allowance and under which circumstances is it paid?

The infectious disease allowance compensates for loss of earnings when a person has been ordered to be away from work, quarantined or isolated in order to prevent the spread of a communicable disease. Persons who have retained their work ability are also eligible for the infectious disease allowance. Guardians of children under the age of 16 are entitled to the infectious disease allowance if their child has been ordered to stay home due to a communicable disease, preventing the guardian from working. Persons who work remotely and do not suffer a loss of income are not entitled to the allowance. The allowance is not paid for the duration of a holiday.

A decision regarding absence from work issued by the physician in charge of communicable diseases of the municipality is also required for the infectious disease allowance. Quarantine and isolation requires a decision issued by the physician in charge of communicable diseases in a public service employment relationship either with the municipality or hospital district. Medical certificate A with corresponding information signed by the physician in charge of communicable diseases is also an adequate document. A recommendation or request to stay at home made by the employer is not sufficient for the payment of infectious disease allowance.

More information about the infectious disease allowance (The Social Insurance Institution of Finland) 

Pregnancy and coronavirus

According to current knowledge and experience, the risk of contracting coronavirus or a serious case of COVID-19 for pregnant women is not any more significant than the corresponding risk for other women of the same age. According to current knowledge, COVID-19 does not increase the risk of complications with pregnancy or cause any foetal anomalies. There are no indications that the SARS-CoV-2 virus can enter the foetus through the placenta. More information about the coronavirus and pregnancy (Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, in Finnish) 

Guidelines for occupational health care service providers issued by the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health on 29 May:  As there is no complete certainty of the effects of COVID-19 on pregnancy, it is recommended that pregnant health care sector employees should not work in units where coronavirus patients are treated. The possibility of physical overload in work performed with personal protective equipment should be paid extra attention during late pregnancy (from pregnancy week 28 onwards). Whether pregnant employees are safe or whether they should be transferred elsewhere should be considered in all units where unscreened infection patients are treated. The risks posed to pregnant employees in dental care, early education and child welfare service units should also be considered.

According to Kela, under certain circumstances, pregnant employees working in health care or early education are entitled to special maternity allowance due to the coronavirus if no alternative work is available.

More information about pregnancy and the special maternity allowance (Kela) 

For how long must a person who has contracted a coronavirus infection remain away from the workplace?

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare has updated the instructions dated 5 May   concerning the isolation of patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

Patients with mild symptoms can stay home. The minimum duration of isolation at home is 14 days. If the symptoms persist after 14 days, the patient must stay at home until they have been without any symptoms for at least 2 days (48 hours). No control samples are required. Employees in social welfare and health care must remain at least 2 days (48 hours) without any symptoms before returning to work. If fewer than 14 days have passed since the onset of symptoms when returning to work, the employee must wear a surgical mask all the time and they are not allowed to treat patients with severe immunodeficiency. No control samples are required.

If a patient has been hospitalised, they must be isolated at home for a period of 2 days (48 hours) without any symptoms and at least 14 days since the onset of symptoms. People without any symptoms who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 with a PCR test must be isolated at home for 14 days from the sampling. If a person works in social welfare and health care and they return to work before 14 days have passed, they must wear a surgical mask all the time and they are not allowed to treat patients with severe immunodeficiency.

A decision regarding isolation or absence from work, daycare or an educational institution must be made in accordance with the Communicable Diseases Act (1227/2016).

What are the important aspects to bear in mind in remote work in terms of occupational safety and insurance?

The recommended primary location for remote work is the employee’s home or a similar location. Office hotels and other shared remote work premises should be avoided. New employees should be assisted in how to work remotely and good experiences and practices should be shared in the work community.

The employer’s responsibility over their employees’ health and safety also applies to remote work. However, the provisions of the Occupational Safety and Health Act are applicable with remote work only to a certain degree as the employer has a limited capability to monitor the working conditions and workload. Occupational accidents that occur while performing remote work are included in the scope of the statutory accident insurance. Compensation for these accidents requires a clear causal link between the accident and work performed according to the job description. As it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between work and free time in remote work, taking out an optional leisure time accident insurance at the expense of the employer or employee is recommended.

Sources: The Centre for Occupational Safety’s instructions for remote work  and The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s guidelines for remote work 

Are occupational health care services available to employees who are under the threat of being laid off or dismissed?

Whenever layoffs are made, employees are entitled to the minimum statutory occupational health care services.
(Occupational health care services in the event of layoffs, dismissals and possible unemployment , Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 22 April 2009). Under certain circumstances, employers are obligated to provide employees who have been dismissed on financial or production-related grounds with occupational health care services for six months from the end of the employee’s obligation to perform their duties (Occupational Health Care Act 1383/2001, section 2, subsection 3).

Medical care services and any additional services are available according to the occupational health agreement, unless otherwise agreed with the employer. We strongly recommend continuing to provide these voluntary occupational health care services at least during the coronavirus epidemic. We can also offer companies and their employees support in the face of changes and unemployment according to a separate agreement.

If you need to make changes to your occupational health agreement or you need support in the face of changes, please contact your own contact person (occupational health nurse or account manager).

Who can be tested for a coronavirus infection at Mehiläinen and how?

Mehiläinen has performed coronavirus tests on social welfare and health care customers and other groups of people specified by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare from 16 March. The capacity for analysis has been increased this spring and, currently, the samples taken at Mehiläinen are analysed by our laboratory service provider partners. In most cases, the results are available in 1–3 days. At Mehiläinen, you can get a referral to a coronavirus test from Digital Clinic, through a remote appointment with a doctor or occupational health nurse or from the respiratory tract infection clinics.

The primary coronavirus test performed on patients with symptoms is the analysis of a nose and throat sample (PCR), which is the only test that can be used to make a COVID-19 diagnosis. The price of the test is EUR 249. Mehiläinen’s drive-in testing stations and respiratory tract infection clinics around Finland are responsible for COVID-19 sampling. The testing criteria were specified by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare .

The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare recommends taking a sample for a COVID-19 analysis from all people who experience symptoms associated with a coronavirus infection or who are suspected of having been exposed to a coronavirus infection according to assessment by a health care professional. Non-targeted analysis of people without symptoms is not purposeful, however. If your company requires targeted testing of individuals without any symptoms in accordance with the instructions issued by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, you must make specific arrangements with your occupational health team.

Mehiläinen also performs test that analyse the presence of antibodies. These tests are performed on asymptomatic people who have recovered from a disease in order to determine whether the disease was caused by the coronavirus. At this stage of the epidemic, antibody tests are not suitable for non-targeted analysis at a workplace, for instance.

The antibody count is determined by an antibody analysis of a venous blood sample. In most cases, the results of the test are available in 1–3 days. The specificity and sensitivity of the test are very high. The price of the antibody analysis is EUR 92. A sample for this test can be taken at any Mehiläinen laboratory and, in most cases, its results are available in 1–3 days. It is not recommended to take this test before 3 weeks from the onset of the symptoms. A period of at least 2 days without symptoms after a possible coronavirus infection before the test is also required.

A doctor’s referral is required for coronavirustest. The need for the test and the criteria for issuing a referral are always assessed in Digital Clinic, at Mehiläinen’s respiratory tract infection clinics or by remote appointment with your occupational health care doctor. The prices for Digital Clinic and doctor’s appointments are specified in the occupational health agreement. Learn more about Mehiläinen’s coronavirus tests and antibody tests

Coronavirus and antibody tests justify for occupational health care compensations from Kela starting 1st of April 2020, when in the occupational health care contract has agreed about medical care and the employer and service provider have agreed on coronavirus tests. The costs belong to KELA 2.

Kela instructions 28.4.2020