Covid-19 in Mexico: Labor effects of declaration of sanitary emergency

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published on 6 April 2020 | reading time approx. 4 minutes

  

​On 30 March 2020, a decree was published in the Mexican Federal Official Gazette whereby the General Health Counsel of Mexico declared the pandemic caused by covid-19 as a sanitary emergency caused by force majeure reasons. Additionally, a complementary decree was published including the specifications of essential and non-essential activities on 31 March 2020.

  


By these decrees, it was ordered to all entities in the public, private and social sectors were ordered to suspend, immediately and until 30 April 2020 (“Sanitary Emergency Period”), the performance of any kind of activity except those classified as “essential”, as follows:
  1. Activities that are directly necessary to attend to the health emergency, such as the work activities of the medical, paramedical, administrative and support branches throughout the National Health System. Also those involved in supply, services and provisioning, among which the pharmaceutical sector stands out, both in its production and distribution (pharmacies); the manufacture of inputs, medical equipment and technologies for health care; those involved in the proper disposal of biohazardous and infectious waste (BHW), as well as the cleaning and sanitation of medical units at different levels of care;
  2. Those involved in public security and citizen protection; the defense of national integrity and sovereignty; the pursuit and administration of justice; and legislative activity at the federal and state levels;
  3. Those involved in the fundamental sectors of the economy: finance, tax collection, distribution and sale of energy, gasoline stations and gas, generation and distribution of drinking water, food and non-alcoholic beverages industry, food markets, supermarkets, self-service shops, grocery stores and sale of prepared foods; passenger and cargo transport services; agricultural, fishing and livestock production, agro-industry, chemical industry, cleaning products; hardware stores, courier services, guards in private security work; day-care centers and children's stays, nursing homes and stays for the elderly, shelters and care centers for women victims of violence and their children; telecommunications and media; private emergency services, funeral and burial services, storage and cold chain services for essential supplies; logistics (airports, ports and railways), as well as activities whose suspension may have irreversible effects on their continuation;
  4. Those directly related to the operation of government social programs; and
  5. Those necessary for the conservation, maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure that ensures the production and distribution of indispensable services, namely: drinking water, electric power, gas, oil, gasoline, turbosine, basic sanitation, public transport, hospital and medical infrastructure, among others that could be listed in this category;
On the other hand, it is important to emphasize that this last decree order the temporary suspension of non-essential activities, what, regardless the circumstances, cannot be understood as a waiver or authorization for employers to terminate the labor relationship with their employees, despite their businesses were classified as essential activities or not.

Applicable labor regulations for non-essential activities

If the activities of the Company are not considered as “essential”, the company must suspend activities immediately, as the government may carry out inspections and may impose fines over the legal entities that do not follow this executive action. Likewise, employees are entitled to not attend physically to their work place but are entitled to receive full payment of their salaries during the Sanitary Emergency Period or for the time that the Federal Government extend these same measures. 

According to labor law, this term shall not be considered as vacation period, if the company has the possibility to continue carrying out its business or administrative activities remotely, can provide employees the possibility to work from home or other place that does not represent the gathering of people as stated by the Decree. In case the Company does not have enough liquidity to cover salaries for this period, there are several options for the company considering its own labor conditions, which shall be evaluated case by case. 

After the Sanitary Emergency Period, if the outbreak is controlled, the Mexican government will instruct non-essential companies to slowly return to their activities. 

Please consider that these terms should be evaluated case by case, since there are changes in the labor conditions, so may be subject to carry out additional internal ruling for this scenario. 

Applicable labor and sanitary regulations for essential activities

Even if the company perform activities considered as essential, company must grant special permission to not attend to the workplace and receive full salary to employees that may be vulnerable to COVID-19 such as Senior (60 years old and onwards), pregnant, breastfeeding, disabled individuals, individuals with non-contagious chronic diseases (hypertension; heart, liver, kidney, metabolic or lung insufficiencies, diabetes, obesity) or with autoimmune diseases or during treatment that compromises their immune system.
Company shall carry out a strict compliance of the sanitary measures ordered by the State and Federal Government as follows: 

a) Meetings or congregations of more than 50 people may not be held;
b) Individuals shall wash their hands frequently;
c) Individuals must sneeze or cough covering nose and mouth with a tissue or forearm;
d) No kissing, shaking hands or hugging (distant greeting); and
e) All other current healthy distance measures issued by the Federal Ministry of Health

Regulations for infected employees with covid-19

If an employee is infected by covid-19 virus, shall file his/her temporary sick leave in the Mexican Institute of Social Security online after filling a questionnaire, after attending the specific health institutions and have got the official diagnosis in writing. Effective Social security and labor provisions to sick leave shall be applicable for these cases. 

As stated by the Ministry of Labor, companies are not recommended to terminate employees due to economic reasons and to prevent labor lawsuits or conflicts. As stated there are other legal provisions that may be implemented to protect the employees’ labor rights and to help companies to survive to the crisis.
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