The Government has published this week a guide for companies to know how to act in the workplace in the face of the corona virus crisis.
For example, it defines what is a situation of real, serious and imminent risk to the health of workers, and warns that the interpretation of a situation like that will be “restrictive” due to the social alarm situation that has been generated.
It will be the businessmen in charge of notifying these situations and of proposing the temporary closure of the companies through temporary employment regulation files. Of course, the labor authority will be responsible for authorizing them.
Only in the event that an emergency situation is declared by the Government, employers can stop paying Social Security contingencies of their employees. In addition, if there are contract terminations, workers will receive compensation paid by the Wage Guarantee Fund.
These are some of the clarifications, along with others very reproduced in recent weeks – is it mandatory to work from home? Who decides? – These are some of the questions that this guide answers
Will Companies Have To Close Due To The Real Risk Of Contagion Of Coronavirus?
Yes. In the event that it is detected that any worker “is or may be exposed to a serious and imminent risk” due to his work, the company must report said risk and take measures so that the activity can be interrupted “and if it were necessary, leave the workplace immediately. “
The guide itself is quite clear when it comes to exposing what is “a serious and imminent risk”. “Companies must proceed to stop work activity if there is a risk of infection by coronavirus in the workplace.”
Will The Companies That Are Closed Be Compensated?
Only if there is a declared emergency situation, something that for now there are no signs. In the event that the National Civil Protection System announces that emergency, “the suspension of contracts” and “temporary reductions in working hours” will be considered the result of “a situation of force majeure.”
In that case, employers will not have to pay workers’ Social Security contributions. If there are contract terminations, workers’ compensation will be paid by the Wage Guarantee Fund.
Can Employers Have The Right To Make The Decision?
As long as the decision is adopted in a majority manner by the workers’ representatives – a company committee, for example – and with the prevention delegates.
In addition, the guide provides that neither representatives nor workers may “suffer any damage arising from the adoption of these measures”, “unless they had acted in bad faith or committed gross negligence”.
Can The Employees Leave If They Think They Are At Risk?
In a situation of obvious risk, yes. The problem is to verify that risk.
The guide constantly refers to the Occupational Risk Prevention Law, which provides that workers have “the right to interrupt their activity and leave the workplace when they consider that it entails a serious and imminent risk to their life and health .”
“As for the immediateness of the risk, the assumption or the social alarm generated is not sufficient to understand the requirements fulfilled.”
What “IF” Companies Force You To Work From Home?
Although companies must paralyze work activity, the guide opens the door to activate “measures that allow the development of work activity in an alternative way”, to alleviate the risks to which workers were exposed in their Market Stall.
That does not necessarily mean that you telework. Although the Ministry’s guide does open the door to this measure, as long as it is adopted by “collective or individual” agreement.
In addition, in these cases telecommuting must be appropriate to the collective agreement of application, it must be “a temporary and extraordinary measure” – which must be reversed – and the company must provide “the technological means to be used by working people” . That is to say: you should not have to buy your own machinery.
What “IF” It’s Impossible To Work From Home?
If the company has not yet been forced to stop its activity – by determination of the health authorities, for example – it must take preventive measures. These measures will be very different depending on the sector to which the company is attached. But in its guide, the Ministry of Labor states that:
Work should be organized “so as to reduce the number of workers exposed” to the risks of contagion.
Specific measures will be taken for more sensitive workers.
Information on hygienic measures will have to be transferred, such as washing your hands frequently, not sharing objects or ventilating the workplace.
What Are The Steps A Company Should Take To Prevent COVID-19 From Affecting The Employees?
If the demand for the coronavirus crisis falls or supplies stop arriving, the Ministry of Labor protects the holding of an ERTE. The Temporary Employment Regulation File may suspend all or part of the working day.
To calculate these reasons of force majeure and to summon the ERTE with all legal guarantees, absenteeism rates due to medical leave, or the opinions of the health authorities that advise the closure of the signatures for the COVID-19 outbreak may be considered.
Of course, the company may also paralyze its activity without communicating the holding of an ERTE, so that workers will retain the right to their salary.
If The Company Temporarily Closes Without ERTE, Does It Affect Workers’ Wages?
No. The guide refers to article 30 of the Workers’ Statute, which is quite clear. If a worker cannot do his job because the employer “will be late in giving him work due to impediments attributable to him”, the worker “will retain the right to his salary”.