In light of the national emergency we are living caused by the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), at BLP we have developed this communication to hep inform our clients on the most important factors to take into consideration in the workplace for their companies.
Starting Sunday, March 15 at 11:59 pm, the Honduran Government decreed the suspension of work for 7 days in the public and private sectors to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. This suspension includes certain exceptions that can be granted to companies who request authorization from the Honduran Government. In order to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all companies that continue to operate must comply with the safety and hygiene protocol for centers of work across the country (the Protocol), which you can find attached to this memo. Any employer who does not comply with the Protocol will be sanctioned in accordance with the Labor Inspection Law. We recommend that Employers take greater measures and care with employees over 60 years of age and those with pre-existing conditions, such as respiratory diseases, diabetes and hypertension. The option of teleworking may be considered for this population, and if they are unable to perform their tasks in this format, then Employers should consider granting leave with pay.
How to handle the suspension of work in your organization?
It is recommended that you put a teleworking or work from home policy in place for all employees that are able to perform their responsibilities remotely. For roles or tasks that cannot be performed remotely, employees must be granted leave with pay for the duration of the ordered suspension. We do not recommend discounting these days from employees’ accrued vacation days, given that the suspension of work was ordered by the government considering a national emergency. This suspension of work was not caused by the employee.
What if an employee does not want to come into the workplace for fear of infection?
In the cases where the company has authorization to operate and the employee refuses to come in for fear of infection, as the employee refuses to attend his work responsibilities, we recommend that the employer discuss with this individual employee the option of using their vacation days to account for the same amount of days that they do not come into the workplace. If the employee uses all of their vacation days, the employer may consider granting a leave without pay. Please keep in mind that all these agreements must be made in writing with the corresponding notifications.
What to do if an employee presents symptoms of COVID-19 at the workplace?
In this case, the employer must immediately comply with the Protocol. Pursuant to Executive Decree No PCM-019-2020, the employee must notify the employer if they present any symptom related to COVID-19 or similar symptoms that affect the respiratory system.
In the event that the employee notifies their employer that they are presenting related symptoms, the employee must be sent home and asked to quarantine themselves. They should also be asked to immediately get tested to confirm or discard that they have been infected with COVID-19. If the test comes out negative, the employee is to return to work. The employee must notify the employer of the test results as soon as possible.
In the event that the employee notifies the employer that the COVID-19 test result is positive, the employer shall (a) take all necessary measures in the workplace, per the Protocol, and (b) keep all information related to the case confidential to avoid any type of discrimination of the employee.
What happens if the order for suspension of work is extended past 7 days?
In the case that the suspension of work is extended by the Honduran Government, Employers have the ability to suspend work contracts, pursuant to article 100, paragraph 2 of the Work Code, and the relevant procedure established by Law.
On March 20, the Department of Security mandated a Lockdown for the entire country of Honduras starting at 6:00pm until 3:00pm on Sunday, March 29, when the Government will inform on additional measures related to COVID-19. The sectors that are exempt from the Lockdown are agriculture, industrial agriculture, agricultural export and food distributors. Authorization is required to obtain an exemption from the Lockdown. Additional exceptions to the Lockdown exist for telecommunications and media organizations that request authorization to continue operating.
We have a 24/7 service to address your legal queries related to the effects of COVID-19 in your company. Contact us through our Help Desk for immediate assistance at: [email protected]. Access to our Media Room for further information about legal aspects related to Coronavirus in Central America at this link.