In order to strengthen the containment of the spread of COVID-19 virus, the Executive has issued several guidelines for the public sector by which it declares, among other things, the preventive measures that must be applied at the workplace to avoid a further spread of the Coronavirus among the inhabitants of the Republic.
In this regard, the private sector is not exempt from obeying the health and safety provisions demanded by this health situation, so all companies must adopt specific actions in which their productive activity can be carried out hand in hand with the provisional measures to guarantee their employees optimal health and safety conditions during the working day.
However, even though employers strive to create healthy and safe working environments for their employees, through preventive strategies in terms of personal hygiene and cleanliness of work areas, the truth is that the occupational transmission of diseases caused by infectious diseases at work is a reality to which we are all exposed.
Therefore, given of the scenario we are facing, every employer must anticipate and determine on the best way to avoid a situation of contagion in the company, for which we suggest that the following measures to be taken can be assessed:
- Taking advantage of the teleworking regulations that were enacted last year in our country, it is extremely important to try to apply the teleworking in those positions whose functions allow it. For this, we suggest training employees about this modality beforehand (as regards the use of IT and communication resources as well as the terms and obligations that must be complied with), so that the nature of the employment relationship do not be affected.
- If it is not possible to apply teleworking for a certain position, the company can consider sending the employees on a vacation period or agree with the employee an absence leave with or without salary payment, this as an alternative security measure. If any of these measures were chosen, consider that the employees will not be banned from carrying out personal or collective activities, since it will not be a medical leave.
- Another option to assess is to manage the suspension of the employment contract before the Ministry of Labor; this in compliance with labor regulations that prohibit employers from generating a potential danger to the health of their employees. However, this procedure will be subject to the decision of said authority and may take a long time to resolve.
Now, in case of possible scenario of infection of one of the employees Costa Rica’s Social Security Authorities determined that, depending on the symptomatology, the doctors will proceed to issue the medical leave.
Regarding asymptomatic cases or as consequence of mandatory quarantines imposed by the health authorities, the Ministry of Health said yesterday - at a press conference –that a special medical leave will be issued for home isolation. Nevertheless, the country is still for the formal publication of the regulations to clarify all the details regarding this medical leave.
Likewise, all employers must consider that, upon reasonable suspicion that one of their employees is infected with Coronavirus, due to or as a consequence of the work they perform, this will be covered by the occupational risk policy issued by the National Insurance Institute. Therefore, the company must immediately notify the event through the virtual platform of said institution (RTVirtual) or send the information to the health centers of the Health Services Network, so that it is this institution analyzes the case accordingly.
Is evident in this exceptional context the importance for every company to have an internal policy that provides the company’s measures and procedures to prevent and contain infectious diseases among its employees. It is even extremely important to delimit the actions that can be interpreted as discriminatory to avoid generating harmful consequences derived from this reality that our country is facing.
On their behalf, the Ministry of Health has implemented a series of mandatory guidelines in all workplaces operating in the national territory, which can be consulted in the following link: https://www.ministeriodesalud.go.cr/sobre_ministerio/prensa/docs/lineamientos_centros_trabajo_revision_05032020.pdf.