Published in furtherafrica.com

 

At this time and in accordance with the Executive Decree of the Minister of Public Administration, Labour and Social Security, companies must prepare a Contingency Plan in order to account for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Accordingly, and by virtue of the decree, the plan must contain:

  1. a list of establishments or spaces within the company that are temporarily closed and those that will remain in operation;
  2. must express the organization of work and interaction between workers in the workplace and at home;
  3. the composition of the teams providing work;
  4. the rules under which the members of that team perform their work (whether at the workplace or at home);
  5. guidelines on hygiene and safety of the workspace as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  6. procedures in case any worker has symptoms of COVID-19.

As for the taking of COVID-19 screening tests – on workers for whom there is a suspicion of having been exposed to infection, or who are under surveillance – such a test can only be performed by authorized entities.

There are special cases which are considered especially vulnerable, such as pregnant women, people with respiratory problems or pathologies that result in less immunity. Workers who are sick with COVID-19 are exempt from the provision of work, as well as workers upon whom the respective health authority have determined an active surveillance or isolation (quarantine).

For the entire duration of the State of Calamity, the following workers are exempt from presential work, as long as they are covered by a barrier or sanitary cordon (as is the case in the Province of Luanda):

  1. pregnant workers;
  2. workers with children under the age of 12 under their care, provided that this exemption from attending presential work is bestowed upon only one of the parents;
  3. workers with a chronic disease considered at risk, according to the guidelines of health authorities;
  4. workers aged 60 or over.

The provision of work at home, or Teleworking, is mandatory for workers exempted from presential work – if conditions permit – in which case worker’s consent is waivered.

As for the remaining workers, whenever their duties permit, the adoption of the teleworking regime is recommended, however, the employee’s consent is necessary.

When there is an impediment to the full implementation of working hours in the teleworking regime, the employer must define rotation schedules, daily or weekly, taking into account the arrival and departure times.

The Contingency Plan must be known to all employees. Communication channels must be created to facilitate contact between the company and employees, bearing in mind that private life must be preserved.

Whenever and at all times when there is suspicion of contagion by COVID-19, the isolation of the worker should, as strictly as possible, result from a decision by the health authority. If it is impossible to establish immediate contact with the health entity, the isolation – and the consequent abandonment of the company’s facilities, if that is the case – must be determined by the employer, in conjunction with the organization’s health and safety services, with the worker being obliged to obey this order.

Employment contract and the right to remuneration.

If the worker is not prevented from carrying out his/her normal professional activity, the worker must, in principle, retain the right to remuneration. However, if isolation is impeding the provision of work, the worker is only entitled to the base monthly salary. However, this analysis must be done by the employer and the remuneration cannot be lower than the base monthly salary.

Within the scope of this pandemic, several measures to relieve the economic impact on families were approved, including in these measures the obligation of private sector companies to transfer back to the wages of their workers the amount of the Social Security contribution due by workers (3% of salary), in April, May and June 2020, in order to improve household income.

There were changes to the limitations imposed during the State of Emergency, regarding the booking or vacation alterations.

Regardless of the cases, for the duration of the State of Calamity, the alteration of previously scheduled vacations must be carried out with the agreement of the workers. If it is not possible to reach an agreement with a worker, the possibilities for the company to change the holiday schedule are limited, both in terms of the length and in terms of the consecutive period of vacation to be taken. However, in exceptional situations the suspension, be it partial or total, of the workplace’s activity for reasons related to the employer may be considered for vacation purposes, whenever the company’s economic imperatives are justified.

Provided that the partial or total suspension of the workplace seriously affects the financial situation of the company, the employer can, in principle, attribute as vacation the period of suspension of its activities, thus being imperative to notify the affected workers.

Whenever the isolation does not result from a situation of incapacity, the worker may continue to work remotely, and the company must ensure that the necessary conditions are met in these specific cases. The remote work must have the employee’s agreement, and eventual refusals must be managed by the company in order to safeguard the continuity of the work, also ensuring the legal guarantees that the worker enjoys.

Whenever workers have children under the age of 12, they are exempt from presential work, and this benefit may only be bestowed upon one parent, regardless of the minors in their care.

Absence of workers from their normal place of work or abstaining from work at home in order to provide support for their children will only be considered justified if the worker requests it and the employer authorizes that absence or abstention. This absence shall only be paid if the employer does not expressly say otherwise in regards to the respective authorization.

Measures to alleviate the economic impact caused by COVID-19 on companies were also recently approved, of which the following should be highlighted:

  • the creation of subsidized credit lines to micro, small and medium-sized companies in the productive sector.
  • the approval of the payment of social security contributions (8% of the payroll), for the 2nd quarter of 2020, in 6 monthly instalments from July to December, with no interest to be charged.

Labour legislation already offers a set of mechanisms that, in some ways, can mitigate workforce-related costs, among them, reduced working-hour regimes and respective remuneration, as well as ways of adapting working hours in crisis and post-crisis periods, thus reducing financial costs.

In order to facilitate the movement of all workers whose activities are not suspended, they must be accompanied, on their commute to work, by a credential issued and in line with the model approved by Presidential Decree No. 98/20, of April 9th.


 

Article by Salvador Pascoal “Caló”; Dejanira José; Marco Correia Gadanha

 

 

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