The National Congress, Ministry of Labour and employers are working to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees in Honduras, whilst adapting to new ways of working.

In the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak in Honduras, new laws are being enacted to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of employees within their working environment. In mid-May, the National Congress of Honduras approved a law making face masks and biosecurity manuals mandatory in the workplace. As businesses begin to resume operations in phases, biosecurity measures have become paramount to minimise exposure to COVID-19 whilst furthering commercial activities within the parameters approved by the Government. The Ministry of Labour has also been preparing various biosecurity manuals with help from occupational health experts and representatives from different sectors.

Over a short space of time, employers have had to identify risks, define a plan, put measures in place, and inform employees about the new safety procedures, as well as train staff on the correct use of personal protective equipment. To ensure the correct application of biosecurity measures by employers, the Ministry of Labor is entitled to carry out inspections of the workplace. Failure by the employer to comply with the terms of the biosecurity manuals may result in a temporary or partial closure of the establishment.

It is not expected that establishments will reopen at full capacity just yet. The intention is that employees that can work from home should continue to do so. The perception and implementation of telework is one of the most notable developments of the pandemic in Honduras – a country which currently has no telework legal framework in place. Legal commentators have insisted on the importance of setting out employees’ teleworking conditions in writing, especially in the context of the current situation where impromptu telework has been informally implemented for the first time in many organisations.

Industries that are further along in the ‘reopening’ stages, such as tourism and airlines, will face bigger challenges and may have to implement more drastic measures such as employment contract suspensions. In an attempt to reduce the impact of work suspensions, the National Congress has approved a law that provides temporary relief for suspended employees, consisting of contributions by the employer, the State of Honduras, and an advance from the employee’s severance fund.

The pressure that COVID-19 has put on employers is significant. Measures that are currently being implemented to survive the current crisis may also develop into permanent company policies, such as remote working. Likewise, we look forward to a new ‘telework law’, now that the demand for one is greater than ever.