A few weeks ago, our country was outraged by the tragic deaths of two young McDonald's workers following a kitchen explosion that claimed their lives. However, this tragedy is not an isolated event. Regrettably, we have one of the highest accident rates in the region, with a total of 34,800 occupational accidents in 2019, of which 236 were fatal.
Precarious work and lack of compliance with labour standards pose an exponential risk to the life of workers, together with the lack of legal protection in the verification of these accidents. Therefore, in response to this sensitive, high-profile issue, the Government decided to carry out a reform of one of the main compulsory labour insurance schemes: Seguro de Vida Ley [Compulsory Life Insurance].
The previous legal framework made it obligatory to take out insurance after 4 years of employment, but it was also optional after 3 months. It covered natural death (with compensation equivalent to 16 salaries), accidental death (with compensation equivalent to 32 salaries) and total or permanent disability due to accident (with compensation equivalent to 32 salaries).
However, through Emergency Decree 044-2019, it was established that this insurance must be taken out from the first day of work, meaning that 2,900,000 workers will benefit from it, according to figures from the Ministry of Labour. Although it does not solve the core problem, it offers a more expeditious support and compensation system (regardless of any corresponding compensation for damages and losses).
It is regrettable that such insurance and other forms of civil liability are not taken out by natural persons or legal entities engaged in risky activities as a way of protecting their assets against damage caused by their activities and, instead, they must be taken out by requirement whenever a tragedy occurs.