The Spanish government has established different phases, applicable to provinces depending on the current impact of COVID-19, in order to return to the usual business activity. It is essential for employers to know which measures to prevent risk they must undertake and the measures to support their employees through the process of returning to the work place.
Order SND/399/2020, of 9th May, on flexibilization of certain restrictions established after the declaration of the state of alert in the application of phase 1 of the plan for the transition to a new normality.
Royal Decree 18/2020, of 12th May, on measures to deal with employment protection.
Order SND 422/2020, of 19th May, which rules the use of masks during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Our checklist below provides the employment considerations which will enable you to assess and control the risk of COVID-19 as lockdown measures are eased:
- Information: The government has recommended maintaining homeworking, at least until 3 months after the termination of the state of alert, for those employees who can develop their work remotely. It will be necessary to inform them about the risks of homeworking and to undertake the necessary preventive measures.
Regarding employees who will return to the workplace to develop their activity, it will be necessary to send them a letter informing about the return-to-work date. Moreover, it will be necessary to explain to them which measures the company has taken to prevent them from catching COVID-19 and give them the necessary training so that they can apply such preventive measures. Monitoring the fulfilment of the preventive measures and ensuring that responsible personnel (such as line managers) are fully informed of the protocols will also be needed.
- Listen: Employees may be concerned about both returning to the workplace and continuing to work remotely. Create an easy mechanism to ensure the workforce has a voice which is listened to (helplines, staff meetings or a centrally monitored email box). It is important to have fast communication with employees in case they discover that they have COVID-19, as the company is obliged to immediately move them away from work.
• External support: Consider employer support or advice with referral to consultants/specialists for those employees facing future hardship, particularly those with challenging personal circumstances, for example, disability and particular health problems.
• Health and well-being: Before employees come back to the workplace, it will be necessary to get in contact with occupational risk prevention services to assess and implement the necessary measures to avoid employees from being infected. Moreover, the occupational risk prevention services and the employer should consider the following:
- Continuous contact with employees: Keeping in touch with employees is critical in order to know their health situation and if they are at risk of being infected due to his/her personal or family situation.
- Support: Consider physical well-being support for those employees who have been considerably affected by the pandemic. Be understanding in relation to fears about not working at home, job losses and caring for others.
• Audit: Before employees restart their activity, it will be necessary for the employer to study the possibility of homeworking and the number of employees the company needs to develop the workplace environment for, as it is necessary to respect a two-metre distance between employees and provide them with the necessary protective equipment.
Additionally, before employees restart their activity, the company should ensure that the protective measures are implemented. Therefore, the company should inform the occupational risk prevention services so that they can analyse the risks and whether there exists any employee who has a special health situation to adapt to his job position.
• Risk assessments: Employers have a duty of care for their workforce. The guidance set out above under "Key resources" provides essential details on workplace COVID-19 risk assessments and sets out a very clear objective: that all employers carry out a COVID-19 risk assessment. Employers should update risk assessments for the workforce as a whole, in line with the government regulations, especially where they were undertaken in haste due to the lockdown. In particular, consider vulnerable employees and any extra protection they may require to be brought back to work. Consult with health and safety and employee representatives where applicable.
• Training: Ensure the workforce are clear on measures taken and what is expected from them. Keep clear records of training undertaken. Develop communication and training materials for your workforce prior to them returning to the workplace, especially around new procedures for arrival at work.
• Means of protection for employees and disinfectant measures: The company should provide means of protection to employees in order to avoid them from being infected (hydroalcoholic gels, masks, etc.), especially in the case that the company cannot guarantee a separation between employees of 2 metres.
The company should ensure that the work centre is duly and periodically cleaned, disinfected and ventilated according to the requirements. Moreover, the employer should ensure that employee uniforms or clothes are cleaned daily.
• Shielding: Employees with children or relatives who have health problems can ask for a reduction of the working hours, a change in their schedules or a non-paid permit.
Moreover, employees with special health problems can also ask for a change in their schedules and the adaptation of their workplace.
• Homeworking: As well as reviewing your homeworking policy. Employers will also need to consider what equipment will need to be purchased for remote workers.
• Travel: It is necessary to minimise non-essential travel and the number of people travelling together, and provide advice on cleaning vehicles between shifts, as employees may be concerned with these policies.
• Reorganisation/restructure: Employers can consider applying any of the following measures depending on the impact of COVID-19 in their businesses:
- To apply organisational changes, changes in their schedules or working hours especially for taking preventive measures.
- To apply a collective reduction of working hours for objective reasons (economic, technical, organizational or productive reasons).
- To apply collective dismissals. In this sense, bear in mind that the employment regulations have restricted the possibilities to implement collective dismissals. The company can consider implementing training to employees to be reallocated to other job positions to avoid collective dismissals.
Reviewing contracts, policies and procedures
• Annual leave: According to Spanish regulations, holidays should be agreed between the company and the employee. Employers should ensure that they comply with the regulations regarding holidays. In cases where the company have reached an agreement during the course of a collective suspension of employment contracts or reduction of working hours for objective reasons that rules the holidays of the employees, the company should review that the agreement is applied correctly.
• Bonus/commission schemes: Employers may consider the impact of COVID-19 on any bonus/commission arrangements.
• Contracts of employment: New working arrangements are inevitable. Consider whether the changes necessitate a change to the contract of employment and if it is necessary to apply for a special proceeding (for example a negotiation with employees) in order to implement these measures.
• Induction/supervision: In businesses which are predominantly operating remotely, employers will need to plan inductions and supervision appropriately, making use of virtual meetings and the technology available to ensure there is no detrimental impact on quality.
It will be necessary that employees register their working hours.
• Policies and procedures:
- Disciplinary procedures: Consider possible amendments to address social distancing breaches or other reckless COVID-19 behaviour. Government guidance has been very specific over measures which must be taken, employers will need to ensure steps are taken to enforce the new safety advice.
- Health and safety: Update policies and procedures to ensure the new measures are clearly spelt out. From enhanced personal hygiene to social distancing in the workplace, employees should be clear on what is expected from them and what they can expect.
- Homeworking policy: Review or implement the homeworking policy.
- Sickness absence: Social Security pays employees when they are on sick leave. Therefore, this protection is regulated by Spanish Law. When the employer suspects that an employee is infected by COVID-19, the former is obliged to send the employee to his/her home so that he/she can receive the appropriate medical treatment.
• Visas and immigration: Employers will need to consider delayed visa extension applications and how to address difficulties that may arise in satisfying Home Office requirements for permanent settlement as a result of COVID-19.
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