Should I have a contingency plan in the company? What measures should the plan provide for?  

Although the law does not expressly impose the obligation to prepare and adopt a Contingency Plan, in practice, at least all entities authorized to keep performing their activity during the State of Emergency are obliged to adopt social distancing, sanitary and hygiene measures and rules, in compliance with the guidelines issued by the Directorate for Primary Health Care.

Therefore, the services authorized to keep their activity during the State of Emergency shall be limited to the activities deemed essential, which means that the workforce in their premises shall be proportionally reduced.

Furthermore, employees shall bear a company identification card or a credential from the respective employing entities to enable them to travel on public roads and to move from their home to their workplace.

In this sense, it is advisable for such companies and establishments to prepare a Contingency Plan, containing, at least:

  • A list of the workplaces which are temporarily closed and those that will operate under a minimum services regime;
  • The composition of the teams attending work;
  • The regime under which the members of such teams should provide work (either in the workplace or at home);
  • Rules of organization of work and interaction between employees at the company’s premises and at home;
  • Hygiene and safety rules within the company’s premises specially designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including rules on social distancing, in line with the guidelines issued by the Directorate for Primary Health Care.
  • The procedures to be adopted in the event of any employee presenting symptoms of COVID-19 infection.

 

Do I have to take special measures regarding pregnant employees, employees with reduced working capacity, breathing difficulties or under-aged employees?

The derogatory measures do not foresee any special measures to ensure an increased level of protection to pregnant employees, under-aged employees, employees with reduced working capacity or breathing difficulties.

To the extent that there are employees in one of the situations described above, specific measures should be considered to ensure an increased level of protection in the case in question. Such measures should, whenever possible, be articulated with the recommendations of health authorities.

 

Being prophylactic isolation of employees necessary or recommended, should I wait for a decision by the health authority or can I determine it in a preventive manner? Will employees in isolation be able to continue working from home?

If there is reason to suspect contagion by COVID-19, the isolation of the employee should, as far as possible, result from a decision by the health authority. If it is not possible to timely obtain this decision, the isolation - and consequent abandonment of the company's facilities, should that be the case - must be determined by the employer, with the employee being required to comply with this order.

Employees infected with COVID-19, as well as employees to whom a health authority has determined a situation of active surveillance / prophylactic isolation (quarantine), are subject to mandatory confinement and, to the extent that the symptoms do not prevent the performance of the professional activity, remote working mechanisms may be implemented, and it is up to the company to create the necessary conditions for this purpose.

 

What is the impact of this isolation on the employment contract? Do employees maintain the right to their remuneration?

If isolation is not an obstacle to the performance of professional activity, in principle, such confinement shall be neutral from a labour standpoint. The employee shall, in principle, maintain the right to remuneration. However, a case-by-case analysis shall always be carried out.

 

Which social benefits can employees access to?

A derogation regime of suspension of employment agreements has been established (Decree-Law no. 7/2020 of 7 May), which shall be in force during the State of Emergency and for the following three months, without prejudice to an extension.

This regime has allowed companies' employees who meet the minimum requirements to access this derogation regime to maintain their employment relationship and obtain, on a monthly basis, compensation corresponding to 2/3 of their salary, which may not exceed 4 times the minimum wage of the civil service. This compensation shall be determined based on the average salary for the two months preceding the declaration of a State of Emergency. When employing more than 30 employees, companies must bear the full remuneration of at least 7% of all employees. When employing less than 30 employees, companies must bear the full remuneration of at least 10% of its employees.

The payment of the compensation will be made by the employing entity, upon receipt of up to 85% of its total amount, to be transferred by the Resilience Fund, through the Social Security (Decree-Law no. 8/2020, of 7 May).  For its part, the employing entity shall bear at least 15% of the compensation.

This regime has retroactive effect to 1 April 2020.

 

In the case of employees with scheduled vacation, what to do? Can I change the vacation map? Can I close the company, so employees may enjoy their vacation?

Changes to previously scheduled vacation should, preferably, be made with the agreement of the employees.In exceptional situations, employers may make changes to previously scheduled vacation when pressing operational requirements of the company so justify, but the employee is entitled to compensation for any damage proven to have been suffered on the basis that he would have enjoyed the entire holiday period in the scheduled dates.

Employers may close their premises in whole or in part in certain periods expressly foreseen in the law, imposing employees to enjoy holidays during such periods.

 

What are the consequences of the closure of schools on the rights of employees who stay at home to provide support to their families?

Employees’ absence from the regular workplace or the abstention from the provision of work at home, when it has been determined, to provide support to their children will only be considered justified if the employee so requests and the employer authorizes such absence or abstention.

 

 

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This information is being updated on a regular basis.

The information provided and the opinions expressed herein have been prepared with the help of VdA Legal Partners and are of a general nature. They are not in lieu of appropriate legal advice in connection with specific cases.