November 20, 2020
*As of November 20, 2020
As the coronavirus continues to spread, guidance from health experts, countries and companies is changing. As a result, the approach countries are taking can vary substantially. Here is a snapshot of actions taken by countries where our members have a sizable employee footprint.
*Note: This is a fluid and rapidly changing situation; validate the current requirements in any country in real time before making any decisions.
Impact for Employers
- Employee-owned businesses that have been affected by COVID-19 will be able to apply for state funding through the Self-Managed Work Program. Founded in 2004, the program helps employee-owned businesses maintain jobs, improve their competitiveness and provide an adequate, safe working environment. The government has recently clarified that self-managed enterprises, including co-operatives managed by worker-owners, qualify for emergency financial assistance under the program.140
- The government has rolled out several measures to help support small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including: 141
- Expanding its credit program to cover employee wages
- Extending the maturity dates of debt; and
- Creating an ARS30 billion ($453 million) guarantee fund for companies.
- Argentina had more than 600,000 small businesses before lockdown, of which, more than 42,000 have already closed since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 20% of Argentina's population works in informal jobs and, although companies are officially prohibited from laying off workers because of Covid-19, the collapse of these businesses has left hundreds of thousands of Argentines without work.56
- Argentina has enacted a battery of measures, listed below, designed to slow down the spread of the virus and buy time:
- Anyone who is required to be under quarantine must follow it or face criminal prosecution. The national Ministry of Security released a telephone number that people can call to report someone they suspect of flouting the rules. The government has also sent a text message to the more than 180,000 Argentines and residents who have returned to the country since the start of March, reminding them of the mandatory quarantine. "Not complying is a CRIME," it said.1
- Municipal officials have lists of people who have recently returned from abroad, and health workers are doing daily checks to make sure travelers are at home. The same is happening with tourists who arrived during the pandemic and must now stay in their hotel rooms.1
- Authorities in recent months have begun allowing limited activity in cities and provinces with fewer infections. But Argentines nationwide are still required to wear masks in public, gatherings of more than 10 people are banned everywhere, and much of the country remains effectively locked down. However, many Argentines are flouting the restrictions.148
Impact for Employers
- Brazil’s current state of emergency has triggered government spending beyond the country’s annual budget. This spending will assist with health needs and support employment. Brazil’s Minister of Economy, Paulo Guedes, announced several measures to mitigate the economic impacts of the coronavirus, which is estimated to have reached R$147 billion.101
- Brazil has implemented an employment and income preservation program, where employees will be paid in proportion to their reduced working hours or for the temporary suspension of their employment contract. Hourly or independent workers will receive the benefit in accordance to their registration in the country’s social security system.141
- Most of the Brazil’s governors have imposed strict isolation rules in their respective states, including suspending schools, prohibiting intercity buses, shutting down shops, bars and beaches and canceling concerts. All but three of Brazil’s 27 states have taken these actions.3
- Foreigners, except residents and immediate family members of Brazilian nationals, are not allowed to enter the country.4
- National confusion has fueled the spread of the disease and contributed to making Brazil an emerging center of the pandemic. The country’s disorderly approach has further saturated intensive care units and morgues and contributed to the deaths of medical professionals. 136
- Brazil declared a state of emergency, which frees up funds for the federal government to fight the coronavirus.5
- Eight months after the pandemic reached the country, Brazilians are showing signs of fatigue with social distancing measures. In the country's largest cities, shops, schools, cinemas and gyms have reopened, and beaches, bars and restaurants are regularly packed with crowds.131
Impact for Employers
- The Canadian government and legislators approved a wage subsidy worth C$71 billion ($50 billion) on March 27.6,7 The subsidy will provide a 75% wage subsidy to eligible employers for up to 12 weeks, capped at C$847 a week and will be retroactive to March 15, 2020.6,7 This subsidy aims to prevent further job losses, encourage employers to re-hire workers previously laid off as a result of COVID-19, and help better position Canadian companies and other employers to more easily resume normal operations following the crisis.6
- The Canadian federal government announced that the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) application form is now available. An online calculator was also launched to help employers apply for the CEWS. The calculator helps employers determine specific line amounts they will need to enter the CEWS application and estimate the amount of CEWS they may be eligible to claim, prior to the release of the CEWS application form. The calculator also allows employers to print their statements, and then use them to quickly and easily enter required information into the CEWS application form.110
- Canada’s Large Employer Emergency Financing Facility (LEEFF) recently opened applications. The program provides support to employers with annual revenues of more than $300 million, whose credit needs are not being met through conventional financing. The program is open to large commercial businesses in all sectors (except those in the financial sector) and certain not-for-profit businesses such as airports. The program will deliver bridge loans with no upper limit for big Canadian businesses struggling to keep employees on the payroll through the pandemic. The program aims to help large corporations experiencing "extreme stress" survive the economic downturn caused by the COVID-19 crisis. To qualify, businesses must be looking for financing of $60 million or more and have significant operations or large numbers of employees in Canada, and must not be involved in any ongoing insolvency proceedings. There is no upper cap on the loans, which will be based on the cash flow needs of companies for the next 12 months. Each applicant will be assessed on a case-by-case basis.138
- Canada and the United States have agreed to keep the Canada-U.S. border closed. For companies, this means that non-essential business travel continues to be restricted. Travelers who possess work permits or work permit approval letters are permitted entry to Canada, however they may face extensive questioning as to the urgency and importance of their travel. Travelers coming from the United States may apply for a work permit or business visitor entry at the border, however they would have to demonstrate the essential nature of their travel. Canada Border Services Agency officers are consistently applying a restrictive standard in permitting entry to Canada.168
- As Canada's most populous province grapples with a second wave of the coronavirus, employers in Ontario now must issue screening questions to workers and essential visitors about COVID-19 before they come into the office. The Ontario government has enacted a mandatory COVID-19 screening tool for organizations and businesses effective Sept. 26. The short questionnaire covers whether a person has COVID-19 symptoms, has had contact with someone with a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19, or has traveled outside of Canada in the past 14 days. If the worker or essential visitor answers "yes" to any questions, he or she should go home to self-isolate and contact his or her health care provider for a COVID-19 test. The screening also ensures employers are providing safe workplaces in accordance with their duties under Ontario's Occupational Health and Safety Act, said Hilary Page, an attorney with SpringLaw in Toronto. The screening should be administered every day before staff, students, contractors and volunteers enter the workplace. Essential visitors, such as delivery and maintenance workers, should also be screened prior to arrival.146
The Canadian government is also providing $27 billion in direct assistance to workers and families that includes:8
- A temporary boost to the Canada Child Benefit payment by nearly $2 billion.
- Introduction of an emergency care benefit of up to $900 biweekly for 15 weeks for those who must stay home and don't have paid sick leave. Eligible people include those who can't access Employment Insurance (EI) benefits and are sick, or those taking care of a child or someone who is sick.
- A $5 billion emergency support benefit through the Canada Revenue Agency to support workers who are facing unemployment, as well as an additional amount for low-income people through the Goods and Services tax credit.
- Waiving the 1-week waiting period for EI sickness benefits for 6 months and waiving the requirement for a doctor's note to access this assistance.
- Extending the tax filing deadline for individuals to June 1 and allowing taxpayers to defer payment until after August 31.
- Providing eligible small businesses with a 10% wage subsidy for the next 90 days, up to a maximum of $1,375 per employee and $25,000 per employer.
- Allowing lenders to defer mortgage payments.
- Other targeted support for vulnerable groups, including seniors and the homeless population; implementing a 6-month interest-free moratorium on student loan payments; and supporting Indigenous people and women and children fleeing domestic violence.
- The U.S.-Canada border has been closed to non-essential cross-border traffic since March 21, with repeated 30-day extensions.8 The government relaxed the rules on June 8 to allow foreigners who do not have COVID-19 to visit immediate family in Canada — including spouses and common-law partners.139 Those visitors must stay for at least 15 days and quarantine for 14 days.139
- On the U.S. side, the land border is open only to essential workers, such as truck drivers. It is closed to all Canadian visitors. But any Canadian can fly into the United States with few restrictions.139
- Alberta is implementing new restrictions in some regions to slow the spread of COVID-19. The province will suspend indoor group fitness programs, team sports, group performance activities, as well as reduce operating hours for bars and pubs for 2 weeks. The measures will apply to Edmonton and surrounding areas, Calgary and area, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Fort McMurray and Red Deer. 117
- In Manitoba, sharp new "code red" COVID-19 restrictions recently kicked as the province tries to slow the spread of the virus. Under the new restrictions, schools will stay open, but everything from non-essential retail to theatres and restaurant dining rooms will be closed.117
- Quebec Premier François Legault announced that schools might have to close this winter, which would extend the holiday break, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.117
Impact for Employers
In Chile, the government has responded to the coronavirus by announcing a 350 million Chilean UF stimulus plan. President Sebastian Pinera has outlined several tax measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.9 The monthly provisional payments of corporate income taxes were suspended until June 30, and payments for VAT and income taxes were postponed until June 30 for companies with annual sales of less than 350,000 UF. Qualifying small and medium-sized businesses received an early tax refund in April.9
Chile’s government implemented "emergency measures" that would benefit 2.6 million informal workers who lack unemployment coverage.10 The stimulus also grants additional benefits to small business, including credit lines guaranteed by the state to help bridge the gap while most remain shuttered during the pandemic of COVID-19, the potentially lethal respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.10
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera declared a 90-day state of catastrophe as cases of the new coronavirus mounted, giving the government powers to restrict freedom of movement and ensure that the food supply and basic services remain operational. The order would also ensure more security for hospitals, protect supply chains for medicines and allow the government to enforce quarantines and isolation measures.11
- Chile closed its borders to all foreigners for an undetermined period. Chileans returning home from areas with a significant number of cases of the coronavirus must quarantine for 14 days.12
- Chile opened shopping malls to the public on May 1. People are required to wear face masks, undergo temperature checks, and not gather in groups. Social distancing will also be required, and stores will only allow a limited number of people inside at one time.
- More than 100 shopping malls are planned to reopen over the next several weeks, as the country relaxes restrictions to slow the spread of the coronavirus.57
- Moderate to low risk jurisdictions, in Chile, will be placed under a general community quarantine that is less restrictive.57 Coronavirus lockdowns for parts of the Chilean capital Santiago were lifted on July 28. Residents in the less populous and wealthier eastern suburbs of the capital can now gather in small groups and leave their homes without police permission.175
- Chile announced it would begin issuing immunity cards that act as passports, allowing travelers to clear security at airports with a document that will show that they have recovered from the virus.109 However, the WHO advised governments to hold off on issuing immunity passports.It has not been proven that a successful recovery from COVID-19 means that a person is protected from a second infection. They advised that immunity passports for travel or return to work should not be issued until evidence demonstrates its validity.118
- The metropolitan region of the capital Santiago—home to 7.1 million people, has eased it’s lockdown. Restaurants, bars and nightclubs remain closed, but people in the capital can go out for a stroll.162
Impact for Employers
- Mexico could force the closure of companies in non-essential sectors if they refuse to suspend operations during the current state of emergency. Many companies with non-essential activities have refused to stop working, despite the emergency. All companies that refuse to suspend work will have an inspection certificate drawn up, the health authority will carry out the closure and the public ministry will investigate them. Firms will be investigated over the possible crime of damage to health.102
- In Mexico City, factories reopened under strict sanitary rules a day after travel curbs were lifted. Under a phased reopening announced by Mexico City's authorities, about 340,000 factory workers have returned to their jobs. Between March and May, more than one million jobs were lost across the country. The impact of the measures, however, is thought to be much worse as Mexico has high numbers of people in the informal economy.157
- Mexico's federal government has given automakers, mining firms and builders, with activities deemed essential, the green light to restart work, though some states have implemented their own restrictions as the pandemic rages on. However, in Chihuahua—home to several auto part producers—the state government has limited employee attendance to 50% in auto manufacturing plants. This reduction in workforce has the potential of shutting down some U.S. car plants if they fail to receive Mexico-produced parts.163
- As the number of confirmed cases continues to rise throughout the country, President López Obrador has urged Mexicans to stay at home as much as possible to help limit the virus’ spread.13 On April 1, health officials in Mexico declared a public health emergency as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases surged.14Mexico’s government also shutdown “non-essential activities” to the private sector and prohibited gatherings of more than 50 people to fight the virus’ spread.100
- The United States and Mexico agreed to restrict non-essential travel over their shared border.4
- Mexico's government will not allow in-person classes this year, which means Mexico's 30 million students will all be forced to learn remotely. Officials say the coronavirus pandemic is still too dangerous to allow kids back in the classroom. Only 56% of households have access to the internet, according to government statistics. The government has decided the best way to teach children is over the airwaves, with 93% of households having a television. The government will also use radio programs to reach kids with no TV or internet, the majority of which the government says live in remote indigenous communities. The government plans to have 640 programs, across 18 radio stations in 15 states of the country, with many being recorded in indigenous languages unique to different regions. Both the TV and radio programs will run through December but is subject to change based on how the pandemic plays out over the next several months. Government officials overseeing the program say the goal is to get kids back in the classroom as soon as possible but doing their best for now.16
- Approximately 300 municipalities throughout the country were given the green light to restart economic activities and lift sheltering-in-place recommendations.142
- In the state of Baja California Sur, some hotels and restaurants resumed activities.157
- Small shops have reopened, while professional services and some other workers are have returned to work. Street markets and the historic city center may be allowed to reopen. Churches and restaurants have also resumed activities at a reduced capacity.157Despite reopening, Mexico City’s mayor recently announced new and stricter measures to avoid crowds as well as a short lockdown for the city.66
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to adjust restrictions “to regulate the use of public and private spaces” according to epidemiological risk, the federal government of Mexico established a bimonthly traffic-light monitoring system aligned with health protocols to guide Mexico’s states through the country’s phased reopening plan.174
Impact for Employers
- Australia has announced federal relief proposals that total around $320 billion (AUD). State governments have also announced relief packages and in some cases deferrals of payroll tax payments (Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, Victoria, Western Australia).17
- The federal relief package includes direct payments to citizens. For job seekers impacted by the downturn, there will be payments of $550 every two weeks in addition to current income support payments. The government expects these payments to cost $14.1 billion. There is also a broad-based, $750 one-time payment to eligible recipients—this is expected to cost $4 billion.17
- Individuals will also be able to temporarily access up to $10,000 from certain retirement accounts.
Through a new wage-subsidy scheme, employers will be able to receive a $1,500 payment per retained worker every two weeks. Businesses qualify for the subsidy if their revenues have fallen by 30% (50% for businesses with revenues greater than $1 billion) in the relevant time period relative to a year earlier. The subsidy will be in place for 6 months.17
- Aid packages provide relief to businesses through subsidized loans and central bank lending, and temporary relief from insolvency laws, immediate expensing (instant asset write-off), and accelerated depreciation.17
- Immediate expensing will now be available for assets costing less than $150,000 on a per-asset class basis. Eligibility is expanded to include businesses with annual revenues of less than $500 million (the current cap is $50 million). This measure applies until the end of June.17
- Accelerated depreciation will be provided temporarily for businesses with less than $500 million in revenues. In addition to current depreciation deductions, the policy allows an additional 50 percent deduction but only applies to assets purchased after March 12 and put into service by June 30, 2021.17
- Businesses subject to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) can apply for deferred payments if they are facing cash-flow challenges. Also, businesses that receive credits or refunds under the GST can switch from quarterly to monthly filings to speed up their refunds.17
- Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the one-week waiting period for existing sickness benefits will be waived for employees in Australia. Casual employees and independent contractors, including gig economy workers, can qualify for the sickness allowance, which is a means-tested payment that provides up to $560 for singles without children and $1,010 for couples out of work due to illness.18
- Under the model work, health and safety laws, an employer has a primary duty of care to take steps to ensure worker health and safety. Employers need to keep their employees informed about the situation and the safety measures that are in place, keeping vulnerable employees in mind. Employers are permitted to “stand down” employees during natural disasters and emergencies that require closure. If employers have no applicable enterprise agreement during stand down, an employee does not need to be paid but the employee will continue to accrue leave in the usual way. Employees should be directed to take accrued and unused annual leave before they are placed on unpaid stand down. Employers should also be mindful there is no breach of antidiscrimination laws based on illness/medical condition and on the basis of association, especially when putting plans into effect.101
Across Australia states have varying Covid-19 restrictions and coronavirus lockdown rules. 107 They include:
- There are no longer any restricted local government areas meaning one set of gathering rules apply across the whole state. Up to 30 guests are allowed inside a home including the members of the household.
- Across Queensland public gatherings are restricted to a maximum of 50 people, these limits do not apply to businesses operating with a Covid-safe plan.
- Restaurants, cafes, pubs, registered clubs, RSL clubs and hotels (with a Covid-Safe Checklist) can seat any number of patrons as long as the two square meters person limit is observed. Venues with a floor space less than 200 square meters can have a maximum of 50 people, not exceeding a limit of one person for every two square meters.
- Libraries, museums, art galleries, historic sites, indoor cinemas, concert venues, theatres, arenas, auditoriums, stadiums, nightclubs, outdoor amusement parks, zoos and arcades have been allowed to open with a Covid-safe plan.
- Anyone can enter Queensland unless they have been in a Covid-19 hotspot in the previous 14 days, in which case they will be refused entry.
New South Wales (NSW)
- The government issued advice asking people not to host, or go to, a gathering of more than 10 people at home. But the law in NSW currently allows 20 people from different households to visit. There is no limit to the number of guests you can have over per day, as long as there are no more than 20 at a time and guests can stay overnight. If there are more than 20 visitors at a home, every person can be held individually responsible for a breach of the public health order.
- Anyone can enter NSW unless they have travelled to Victoria in the last 14 days. Those travelling from Victoria require an exemption to enter the state and must quarantine for 14 days. Residents within 50km on either side of the VIC/NSW border can travel within that region if they hold a valid permit. That will change on 23 November, when the border completely reopens. The Queensland border is closed to people from NSW who have been in a Covid hotspot – including Greater Sydney. Borders with South Australia remain open but all arrivals from the state are being screened.
- From November 9, a household can receive up to two different adult visitors, either together or separately, each day. Intimate partners and dependents of the visitors are excluded from caps. Outdoor gatherings are limited to up to 10 people.
- Restaurants, hotels, cafes and bars have a maximum outdoor capacity of 70 and a maximum indoor capacity of 40 people. Further limits are based on a venue’s capacity to maintain a 1.5 meter distance between patrons. Bookings of up to 10 people per table are allowed, and the 10 people can be from different households.
- No permit or approval is required for anyone wanting to enter Victoria. Victorians, on the other hand, are restricted from entering other states.
- In Victoria, students over the age of 12 must wear a face mask if they are learning or doing onsite supervision, unless they attend a primary school.
- Businesses can only offer services where a face mask can be worn by both the client and the service provider for the duration of the service.
- Up to 1,000 people are allowed in an undivided outdoor space as long as there is at least two square meters of space per person. Up to 250 people can attend each undivided space in indoor recreational facilities, such as libraries, arcades, play centers, cinemas, museums, national institutions, historic sites, and galleries, the two square meter rule permitting. Up to 1,000 people are also allowed per undivided outdoor space.
- Those who have been inside a declared hotspot in the past 14 days are not allowed to enter Tasmania unless they have been granted an exemption under the G2G PASS system, and non-essential travelers will be required to undertake and pay for hotel quarantine.
- There is no limitation to the number of guests you are allowed as long as there is no more than one person per two square meters.
- Cafes and restaurants (including in pubs, bars, hotels, casinos, clubs) can open to up to seated diners, with one person per every two square metres. Venues are allowed to serve food and alcohol to non-seated patrons. There is no requirement for businesses to maintain a patron register.
- People cannot enter Western Australia unless they are granted an exemption on application.
Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
Up to 100 people can gather outdoors or in public indoor areas as long as there is at least four square metres of space per person.
Northern Territory (NT)
- There are no limits on gatherings, but people should maintain physical distancing. Gathering of over 100 will require to completion of a Covid-19 checklist.
- All businesses can reopen as long as they have a Covid-19 plan. People can purchase alcohol from a bar. Licensed gaming activities, including have also restarted.
- People can enter the Northern Territory if they fill out a border entry form up to 72 hours from entering and present an application upon entry. They are required to legally declare that they have not been in an area the state considers a Covid-19 hotspot in the past 28 days. Penalties of up to $5,000 in fines and up to three years in prison apply for providing misleading information on the border entry form. Travelers and returning residents from Covid-19 hotspots must complete 14 days of mandatory quarantine at their own expense, which is $2,500 per person.
- Public libraries, art galleries, museums, zoos, cinemas and theaters, music halls, nightclubs, amusement parks, community centers, stadiums, sporting facility and similar entertainment venues can open.
To reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading through international travel, the Australian government is:19
- Screening travelers who arrive in Australia and ensuring they self-isolate on arrival.
- Continuing surveillance around the country’s borders.
The Government is also:
- Delivering a $17.6 billion economic support package to encourage investment and keep people in jobs.
- Delivering a $2.4 billion health package to protect all Australians.
- Providing $669 million to expand Medicare-subsidized telehealth services for all Australians so everyone has access to quality health care, while at home.
- Delivering support to Australians experiencing domestic, family and sexual violence due to the fallout of coronavirus.
- Providing $74 million to support the mental health and well-being of Australians.
- Funding home delivery of most prescription medicines for those unable to get to their local pharmacy.
- Securing face masks to help protect medical professionals.
- Tracing coronavirus cases.
- Providing information on the country’s response and how people can protect themselves and others in English and other languages. 19
State and territory health authorities are:
- Testing people that are suspected of having the virus.
- Monitoring close contacts of confirmed cases daily.
- Imposing travel restrictions between states.
- Opening fever clinics. 19
Qualifying businesses can carry their 2020 losses forward for 8 years (up from 5 years).20
- China has approved a 1.3 trillion Yuan economic boost after its coronavirus disruption; this includes epidemic prevention and control, aid for unemployment insurance, and infrastructure for its public health system. 20
- China’s first phase of public health response to COVID-19 focused on short-term measures to stop the virus spreading from Hubei to the rest of the country, and within the general population. School closures, transport bans and workplace shutdowns helped to limit transmission of COVID-19.21 As these temporary containment measures are gradually lifted, the next phase of the response is focused on mitigating the risk of COVID-19 across the general population over the long term. This means finding ways to integrate infection prevention and control as a routine part of daily life for everyone across all settings.21
- China's Xinjiang region has been under a formal lockdown for over a month. The lockdown started at the end of July when Xinjiang faced growing numbers. Citizens were forced to take shelter inside their homes to help stop the spread.129
- Wuhan, China reopened its borders. However, a government surveillance app is required to enter and exit the region. The Chinese government has begun to track some of its citizens through software that analyzes their personal data to sort individuals into color-coded categories – red, yellow or green – corresponding to their health status and level of risk for COVID-19.22
- Some of China’s tourist sites have been allowed to reopen. However, these sites cannot receive more than 30% of “real-time number of visitors.” Sites have been encouraged to promote contactless services such as mobile payment, e-tickets and guide machines to avoid cross-infection.108
- Authorities in Beijing have imposed new curbs to prevent a second wave of the virus: 124
- People who feel ill must wear a face mask in public, and anyone who does not cover their nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing will be fined.
- People must use their own utensils when eating shared meals. Under the new guidelines, eating on public transport is banned.
- Public places must always identify social distancing lanes to allow people to keep at least 1 meter apart.
- Anyone who spits in public will face a $28 penalty.
- Citizens are also expected to “dress neatly” and those infringing the rules face fines. New rules go into effect June 1.
- Social distancing rules remain in place across the country.124
- In Beijing, a spike in cases from a wholesale market led the capital to shut down schools and sporting events.132
Impact to Employers
- India's lockdown left millions of migrant workers unemployed. Many of whom are from rural areas but spend most of the year in India's cities working and living in employer-sponsored dormitories.24
- India will be announcing a stimulus package worth around 1 trillion rupees ($13 billion) that focuses on helping small and medium businesses weather the coronavirus outbreak.25
- Due to COVID-19 eligible employees can seek a nonrefundable advance (withdrawal) of up to 3 months’ basic wages and dearness allowance. Alternatively, eligible employees can draw up to 75% of the amount standing to employees’ credit in the Employee Provident Fund account, whichever is less.101
- The Indian government will release 180 billion rupees in tax refunds to small businesses and individuals immediately and impose expenditure curbs on a host of departments for the April-June period.25
- The government proposed several interventions to restrict the spread of COVID-19, including: 26
- Closure of all educational establishments (schools, universities, etc.), gyms, museums,
- cultural and social centers, swimming pools and theatres. Students should be advised
- to stay at home. Online education will be promoted.
- Possibility of postponing exams may be explored. Ongoing exams to be conducted only
- after ensuring physical distance of 1 meter among students.
- Encouraging private sector organizations/employers to allow employees to work from
- home wherever feasible. Meetings should be done through video conferences, as much as possible, and those involving large numbers of people should be minimized or rescheduled unless necessary.
- Ensuring that restaurants enforce handwashing protocols and proper cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces. Ensure physical distancing (minimum 1 meter between tables) and encourage open-air seating where practical with adequate distancing.
- Keeping already planned weddings to a limited gathering, postponing all non-essential social and cultural gatherings.
- Calling on local authorities to have a dialogue with organizers of sporting events and competitions involving large gatherings, possibly advising them to postpone such events.
- Calling on local authorities to have a dialogue with opinion and religious leaders to regulate mass gatherings and ensure that no overcrowding occurs (at least 1 meter distance between people).
- Calling on local authorities to have meetings with traders’ associations and other stakeholders to regulate hours, exhibit Do’s and Don’ts and post key messages at places where essential services are provided, such as drive-in marketplaces, bus depots, railway stations and post offices.
- Conducting all commercial activities at a distance of 1 meter between customers and enacting measures to reduce peak hour crowding in markets.
- Avoiding non-essential travel, with buses, trains and airplanes maximizing social distancing during public transport and ensuring regular and proper disinfection of surfaces.
- Having hospitals follow necessary protocol related to COVID-19 management as
- prescribed and restricting family/friends/children visiting patients in hospitals.
- Maintaining hygiene and physical distancing and avoiding shaking hands and hugging as a matter of greeting.
- Following special protective measures for delivery men/ women working in online ordering services.
- Keeping communities informed consistently and constantly.
- In India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, the government passed the Uttar Pradesh Public Health and Epidemic Disease Control Ordinance to help tackle the rapid growth of COVID-19. The law prescribes a maximum punishment of a life term if death be caused by intentional COVID-19 affliction.160
- India's federal government and some state governments plan to extend a five-month Covid-19 lockdown, possibly by another month, with infection rates in the country rising the fastest in the world. The western state of Maharashtra, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in India, plans to extend the lockdown beyond August 31. The northern state of Punjab is considering the same approach. Tamil Nadu is expected to extend the lockdown through next September for some activities and in certain areas. West Bengal state may also continue the lockdown in a sporadic manner on certain days of the week.121
- Shopping malls and restaurants opened their doors and mosques, temples and gurdwaras began welcoming back worshippers, with strict limits on congregation numbers and physical distancing measures in place. In Delhi, the 400-year-old Jama Masjid mosque, one of the biggest in India, is planning to limit worshippers to 3 visits a day, instead of 5.150
- While major cities such as Delhi and Mumbai were among the initial hotspots of the virus in India, newer cases are emerging in rural areas where healthcare infrastructure is much weaker. A fresh lockdown was imposed in the rural eastern state of Bihar, where cases have been rising after thousands of migrant workers returned from cities following a strict lockdown to contain the virus spread.169
Impact to Employers
- Under the policy of large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), each province, regency and mayoralty have determined their own limits. Workplaces need to determine as soon as possible what their new health protocols will be to provide a sense of security for both their staff and business partners. 154
- Health Minister Terawan Agus Putranto announced health protocol guidelines for businesses for the era of the “new normal.” Therefore, even after local authorities have removed the PSBB measures, daily life at work faces long-term challenges. 154
- Employers and unions, or any workers’ representative body, will have to look to businesses in other countries that have designed their own health protocols and to the World Health Organization’s website. 154
- In general, those who return to their workplaces should be essential workers who are healthy; those even with mild symptoms of COVID-19 must stay home and be given sick leave. The WHO also advises businesses to display educational posters on safe distancing practices, encourage proper hygiene such as regular hand washing and disinfecting of work surfaces and retain the contact details of meeting participants for purposes of contact tracing.154
- Jakarta’s Governor eased lockdown restrictions after COVID-19 cases and deaths in the capital decreased.153
- Workplaces, places of worship, grocery stores, restaurants and standalone retail shops are open with strict health guidelines such as having to operate at 50% capacity and ensuring people maintain a safe distance from one another. Public transportation has also resumed. 153
- Markets and shopping malls opened on June 15, and recreational venues opened June 2, while schools will remain closed during the transition to a new normal. 153
- Local authorities also must constantly monitor public transportation. While buses and trains are expected to operate at 50 % capacity, scenes of crowded terminals and stations show the daily risk of additional infection clusters. 154
Impact for Employers
- Employers in Malaysia must pay the full salary of their employees who work from home during the conditional movement control order (CMCO). The Malaysian government announced that workers involved in management and supervision work in the industrial and public sectors must work from home throughout the CMCO period that began on October 22. It also added that 10% of senior staff from the finance, administration, legal and IT departments in a company were allowed to work in their offices from 10 am to 2 pm for a maximum of three days a week.
- Employers are also not allowed to force workers to use their annual leave or unpaid leave during this period. Salary payments must be made as usual and employers should not force or direct employees to use their annual leave or take unpaid leave.50
- Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin announced an economic stimulus package valued at RM250 billion to support workers, employers and the health care industry. Key highlights of the stimulus package impacting employers and employees include:
- Payment of salaries generated by contractors involved in the service sector, such as cleaning services and supply of cooked food in government agencies.
- Provision of a wage subsidy of RM600 a month for 3 months for employers with a 50% drop in business since Jan 1, for workers with a salary below RM4,000.
- Government and BNM will set additional allocation of RM4.5bil for SME and micro entrepreneurs which will comprise of five initiatives.
- Free Internet from April onwards until the end of MCO
- Insurance and takaful companies will set a RM8 million fund to bear Covid-190 screening test costs of up to RM300 each for policyholders and much more. 42
- Malaysia extended a partial lockdown on its capital Kuala Lumpur and the surrounding state of Selangor for two weeks, as the country recorded the biggest jump in coronavirus cases since the start of the pandemic. The 2-week partial lockdown will be extended until November 9. The government has imposed curbs on movement, including the closure of schools and places of worship, though all other economic activities can operate normally.43
Impact for Employers
- The garment and textile industry have been disrupted, with global clothing brands canceling orders even for products already manufactured or in the process of being produced. This has exacerbated factory closures and layoffs. There is a risk that hundreds of thousands of workers in jobs linked to the global economy will be forced into part-time work for less income or lose their jobs.31
- The Sindh provincial government issued directives prohibiting employers from laying off workers during the lockdown period, ensuring payment of salaries, and establishing an emergency fund to address the negative economic consequences of COVID-19. The Sindh government has also set up a tripartite mechanism with representatives of employers, workers, and government to deal with salary complaints.31
- The federal and Punjab governments have announced economic packages for businesses and workers and monthly payments of PKR 3,000 (US$20) and PKR 4,000 ($27), respectively, for workers who lose their jobs. 31
- The Pakistan government has announced a tax reduction to help businesses deal with the economic impact of COVID-19.31
Impact for Employers
- Since March, over 4,000 companies have informed the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) of their cost-saving measures. More than 120 companies have applied to implement time-banking, which is a way for employers to manage costs and optimize the use of manpower, while supporting their employees with full pay during business downtime. The flexible work schedule allows employers to offset time-banked hours as future overtime payment, while employees are still protected from being overworked as the working hours and overtime cap under the Employment Act. The companies that applied for time-banking are mainly in the food and beverage, hotel, retail and manufacturing sectors. For companies that do not receive the 75% wage subsidies outside of the circuit breaker, this can help them manage business costs and retain manpower.158
- In unionized companies, controls are put in place for this practice as it is a negotiated position between the union and management. For example, limits on the number of hours to time-bank, the redemption rate, etc, are all subject to MOM's approval.158
- MOM is concerned that some employers may not implement time-banking fairly. Many employees felt that their employers have resorted to unfair cost-cutting measures, including wage cuts, retrenchment and work redeployment. To ensure fair and responsible implementation of cost-cutting measures, MOM requires employers to submit measures they intend to undertake.158
- The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) announced the penalties after conducting inspections on over 200 workplaces. Despite businesses being able to resume operations, employers must allow their staff to work from home as a default option unless they have no alternative other than to be in the office. MOM added employers will be asked to explain their actions if it receives complaints from employees who have been told to return to the workplace despite being able to work from home during the ‘circuit breaker’ period. If employers are unable to provide a reasonable explanation, MOM will take enforcement action to protect employees.
- The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has asked employees returning to workplaces to minimize socializing as it warned that group lunch breaks, birthday celebrations and team bonding activities are disallowed. These updated measures are aimed at cutting the risk of coronavirus transmission in the community, as Singapore exits its eight-week circuit breaker on June 2. Even as some workers return to work, MOM said that workplaces would still have to roll out safe management practices. For workers unable to work from home, companies must ensure that they minimize socializing inside or outside the workplace.33
- Singapore’s Building and Construction Authority and trade agency, Enterprise Singapore, will step up enforcement and act against errant employers. Penalties may include stop-work orders and fines.33
- Companies resuming operations in the first and second phases should:
- Allow work-from-home as “the default”. Employees who have been working from home must continue doing so and go to the office only if there is no other option
- Review work processes and provide the necessary technological equipment for workers unable to work from home
- Continue holding online meetings as far as possible
- Cancel or postpone events that entail close or prolonged contact, such as conferences, seminars and exhibitions
- Pay special attention to vulnerable workers, such as those who are older, pregnant or have medical conditions
- For workers whose roles do not allow them to work from home, companies need to: 33
- Stagger working and break hours to reduce possible congregation at common spaces, such as pantries and canteens. Working hours must be staggered into at least three different times, with no more than half the employees working within each block. Firms unable to stagger working hours must find other ways to prevent workers congregating at common spaces, such as arranging for different groups of staff to enter and exit through various doors
- Arrange working hours such that employees can avoid travelling on public transport at peak periods
- Roll out shift or split-team arrangements, with one team restricted to one site. Employees in different teams are not allowed to interact with one another, even away from work
- Stop workers from socializing or congregating in groups during meals or breaks
- Cancel or postpone all social gatherings at workplaces, such as birthday celebrations and team-bonding activities
- Stop all social gatherings outside the workplace and remind members of staff not to engage in these activities
- Ensure all employees wear masks at the workplace. Firms must also have enough masks for all workers
- Use the SafeEntry digital check-in and check-out system. Those who are unwell will be refused entry
- Ensure staff are 1meter apart at all times by demarcating common spaces, such as having barriers between workstations
- Stagger delivery times for different suppliers
- Increase the cleaning of workplaces
- Provide soap and toilet paper at all restrooms and hand-washing stations
- Provide hand sanitizer in places such as reception areas, lift lobbies and entrances
- Companies must also monitor the health of workers. They need to: 33
- Ensure regular checks for temperature and respiratory symptoms on-site twice daily
- Encourage employees to download and activate the TraceTogether contact-tracing mobile application
- Require employees to monitor their health before returning to the workplace if they are unwell
- Prepare an evacuation plan for unwell workers or suspected Covid-19 patients. This includes requiring those who are ill to leave the workplace and see a doctor immediately, and tracking and recording such cases
- Have a follow-up plan if there is a confirmed Covid-19 patient, such as emptying or cordoning off areas where he or she worked, and thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting exposed areas. Work sites with confirmed cases could have their business suspended for public health reasons
- Employees who are unwell must:33
- Submit medical certificates to their employers and the diagnoses provided. These include whether they were tested for Covid-19 and the test result
- Visit only one clinic for check-ups
- Separately, MOM updated its advisory on transport arrangements that employers provide. From June 2, employers, transport providers and drivers must ensure these measures are in place when ferrying workers in vehicles such as private buses, vans and lorries: 33
- All workers must wear a mask at all times
- They should not talk or interact with one another
- In a lorry or van, the clear floor space of the deck available for each seated passenger shall not be less than 0.496 sqm. This will mean a 25 per cent reduction in the passenger capacity allowed for each lorry or van
- Employers must also arrange for private transport to move workers in dormitories to and from their workplaces, with no other passengers
- Employers are expected to provide additional paid leave to affected employees for the following:
- Quarantine or self-isolation period imposed by the destination country on the employee
- Delay in employee’s return to Singapore, due to circumstances such as flight availability,
- Mandatory Stay-Home Notice (SHN) or company-leave of absence that the employee may be required to serve upon their return to Singapore.34
- The MOM advises that employers should comply to employees’ requests not to travel for work and they should not be penalized for doing so. For non-work-related travels, employers should obtain a travel declaration from their employees on whether they have any upcoming overseas travel plans to – including, but not limited to – the affected areas covered by mandatory stay-home notice requirements. If an employee proceeds with their plans, employers may require the employee to use their own annual leave to cover the duration of any mandatory stay-home notice, leave of absence or any extended period of travel in the destination country. In the event the employee does not have enough annual leave, he or she should be allowed to take advance leave or go on no-pay leave.34
- The MOM requires all new and existing work pass holders currently out of Singapore and In-Principle Approval holders, who have yet to enter Singapore (including their dependents) to obtain the MOM’s approval before commencing their journey to enter Singapore. All affected work pass holders will be placed on a mandatory 14-day stay-home notice upon entering Singapore. When making the application, employers will be required to declare to the MOM that they have made suitable arrangements for the affected employees and should inform the affected employees (including their dependents) not to make travel plans to Singapore until approval has been received from the MOM. Employers and work pass holders have a joint duty to ensure that the entry approval and SHN requirements are complied with, and that employers are responsible to ensure that their work pass holders on SHN can obtain meals and other daily essentials, and to make the necessary arrangements if the work pass holders are unable to make their own arrangements. 101
- The (MOM), the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), and the Singapore National Employers Federation (SNEF) - have jointly updated the Tripartite Advisory on Managing Excess Manpower and Responsible Retrenchment in view of the evolving COVID-19 situation to provide clearer guidance to affected employers on the appropriate measures to manage excess manpower. These include: (a) implementing a flexible work schedule, where employers can consider reducing weekly working hours, thereby creating a “time bank” of unused working hours which can then be used to offset the increase in working hours in subsequent periods; and (b) and focusing on training and upskilling, where employers can tap on training support schemes under the Skills Future movement, redeployment programs under the Adapt and Grow initiative, and other government grants. As of March 12, 2020, employers registered in Singapore and with at least 10 employees are required to notify the MOM within a week if they implement any cost-saving measures, which affect the employees’ monthly salaries, and indicate that they have done so fairly.101
- Singapore’s National Wages Council (NWC), will allow companies to gain a competitive advantage and be better prepared to grow when the economy recovers. Employers are being encouraged to tap on government support schemes to implement training plans that meet employees’ current and future requirements, redesign jobs and train employees for new job functions, and invest in training all employees in emerging skills, so that they continue to be employable and are not at risk of redundancy. 35
- The NWC urges employers to refrain from reducing employees’ wages reduction and retrenchment, unless necessary. When necessary, employers should carry this out in a graduated approach, with deeper reductions at the management level and for higher-wage employees. This will help reach the desired effect of reducing total wage costs. Reduction in wages should be applied to local and foreign employees fairly. The NWC also encourages employers, if possible, to pay out the annual wage supplement as recognition for employees and to retain them.35
- For employees with a monthly variable component (MVC), employers can adjust it downwards, with the amount depending on the employer’s situation and key performance indicators. For companies that have not implemented MVC, the NWC recommends considering basic wage cuts of up to 10%.35
- The government revealed a “Solidarity Budget”, which includes cash payouts and additional support for jobs, since all businesses providing non-essential services have been ordered to close. Employers will receive a 75% wage subsidy of gross monthly wages for the first S$4,600 paid in April for each employee. The first Jobs Support Scheme (JSS) payout will be brought forward from May to April and is designed to help keep jobs and allow business operations to resume quickly. The expectation is that all firms to make use of this JSS support to continue paying their workers and not putting them on leave without pay during this time or retrenching them.36
- For firms that hire foreign workers on work permits and S-passes, the monthly foreign worker levy due in April will be waived. Additionally, from April 21 onwards, employers will also receive a foreign worker levy rebate of S$750 for each work permit or S-pass holder.36
- Support for skills upgrading will also be enhanced throught the JSS. This includes training support for the arts and culture and land transport sectors. From May 1, 2020, 90% absentee payroll rates will be extended to all employers, to provide additional cash flow relief when employees are sent for training. 101
- Singapore’s Ministry of Law will be introducing a bill to allow businesses and individuals to defer certain contractual obligations, such as paying rents, replaying loans or completing work, for a period. The bill will also ensure that property owners pass on the property tax rebate in full to tenants.36
- Those that are self-employed will also benefit, with the Self-Employed Person Income Scheme (SIRS) extended to automatically include self-employed persons who earn a small income from employment work. The current annual value threshold will be raised from S$13,000 to S$21,000 to include those who live in condominiums and other private properties. 36
- The Singaporean government advises that all employers should step up their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs) and prepare for widespread community transmission. They should take certain measures to safeguard the well-being of their employees, particularly vulnerable employees. Prior to executing a BCP, employers should clearly communicate and explain to employees the measures that are being implemented, as well as their roles and responsibilities. Where possible, unionized employers should engage their unions on their BCPs early to provide assurance to employees.101
- In Singapore, there has been a recent surge of new COVID-19 infections among low-paid migrant laborers from China and South Asia. Many of whom live within crowded dormitories.105 The government announced that it will ramp up COVID-19 testing amongst this population.112
- Singapore’s response to COVID-19 will total S$59.9 billion or about 12% of the country’s GDP. 36
- The government announced that businesses with economic activities that do not pose a high risk of transmission of COVID-19, will resume. Besides the essential businesses that are already operating, businesses that operate in settings with lower transmission risks such as manufacturing firms will be allowed to open.147
- Authorities have urged workers to continue working from home unless “demonstrably necessary”, such as where there is a need to return to the office to access specialized systems and equipment that cannot be accessed from home, or to fulfil legal requirements. 147
- Work pass holders entering Singapore under the scheme that requires them to stay for longer periods of at least 90 days will be required to serve a stay-home notice. However, the stay-home notice period has been shortened from the usual 14 days to a period of at least 7 days.
- The governments of Singapore and Malaysia have developed a periodic commuting arrangement. This scheme allows for longer-term travel for work and business-related travel between both countries, with travelers having to remain in the destination country for at least 90 days before returning for home leave. Travelers under this scheme can only do so via the two land border crossings at Woodlands or Tuas checkpoints. Applications for the periodic commuting arrangement scheme must be submitted by employers on behalf of their employees beginning at 12pm on Aug 10.180
- Travelers entering Singapore under this scheme are required to serve a stay-home notice of at least seven days and undertake a Covid-19 polymerase chain reaction swab test.
- The employee can commence work only after serving the SHN and testing negative for the coronavirus infection. If tested positive for Covid-19, the employee will undergo medical treatment. The cost of the accommodation for the SHN, swab test and medical treatment if required, will be paid for by the employee or his employer. Those returning to Singapore for short-term home leave after working for 90 days in Malaysia can apply for a waiver of SHN.
- In lieu of SHN, the returnee will undergo a Covid-19 PCR test upon arrival at Woodlands Checkpoint or Tuas Checkpoint in Singapore, at his own cost.180
- All Singaporeans, permanent residents, long-term passholders and short-term visitors entering Singapore will be issued a 14-day stay-home notice (SHN) and will have to provide proof of the place where they served their 14-day SHN. For example, they can provide a hotel booking covering the entire period, or a place of residence they or their family members own.37
- Those in-country have been asked to defer all overseas travel.38
- Singapore lifted its coronavirus lockdown in three phases June 2. The following activities are allowed: 133
- Everyone, except for the elderly will be allowed to leave their homes for important activities. However, masks must be worn when leaving home. Following the lifting of the lockdown, the Ministry of Health will closely monitor the number of new cases. If the transmission remains low and stable and the infections among foreign workers under control, Singapore will enter the second phase.
- During the second phase, more social activities will be allowed, which may allow Singaporeans to dine in, and retail shops and sports facilities may reopen.
- In the third phase, all restrictions will eventually be eased but with strict guidelines. This phase will allow elderly people to go out, while practicing social distancing and avoiding crowded places. Borders will also reopen.
- Applications for cross-border travel between Singapore and Malaysia for long-term pass holders and essential business and official travelers will start on Aug 10 - but with strict precautionary measures in place before, during and after their visits. For example, all travelers must have documentation - applied for by their companies or host agencies - to show that the authorities of the visiting country had approved the trip and be tested for Covid-19 upon arrival. Those entering either country for shorter-term visits of up to 14 days must also adhere to a controlled itinerary for the duration of their stay and download any contact tracing applications as required by the authorities.180
- Short-term visitors will also not be allowed to use public transport for the duration of their stay, except for private-hire cars, taxis or company transport.180
Europe, Middle East and Africa
Impact for Employers
- Austria has allowed thousands of small shops to reopen, while it keeps strict social-distancing rules in place, and plans to open larger shops later.44
- For businesses that need to reduce working hours, labor subsidies are being provided. There is also direct aid being provided to sole proprietorships and family-owned businesses in addition to the tourism and cultural sectors.45
- For corporate tax payments, taxpayers can apply to have their advance payments reduced to zero or to receive a payment deferral or an installment plan. Applications can be submitted until October 31, 2020.45
- People will be required to wear a mask in supermarkets and pharmacies.46
- An increase in COVID-19 cases has prompted the government to implement restrictions on private gatherings. Indoor gatherings will be limited to 6 people, while outdoor gatherings will be reduced to 12. Funerals are exempt from the rule. To respond to local outbreaks, states will be able to impose regional restrictions, including curfews.122
- In restaurants, the number of guests has been reduced to no more than 10 per table. People are required to wear masks in train stations, markets and nursing homes.170
- Austria announced a partial shutdown that will see restaurants and bars closed for four weeks, cultural, sports and leisure activities canceled, and residents asked to stay home after 8 p.m. as the government tries to stem a sharp rise in coronavirus infections. The restrictions will apply until the end of November. Restaurants and bars will be closed except for deliveries and takeout, and hotels closed to tourists. Companies affected by the shutdown will be compensated with 80% of their revenue from last November but will have to keep on their employees.152
- The new restrictions include a curfew telling Austrians to stay at home between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m., although they can go out for reasons that include exercising and going to work. The curfew is intended as a “ban on visits” and to prevent private parties that have driven infections. People have been asked to work from home when possible. People from a maximum of two households will be allowed to meet. 152
- The chancellor characterized the new restrictions as a “second lockdown,” but they are more lenient than the ones Austria applied during the first phase of the pandemic. This time, non-essential shops and hairdressers can stay open. The government also aims to keep schools and kindergartens open, though older high school students and universities will be switched to distance learning. 152
Impact for Employers
- The government is considering applications for businesses that wish to cancel income tax prepayments, defer tax payments (for VAT or income tax), or extend their filing deadline for corporate income tax returns.49
- Payroll tax and labor market contributions payment deadlines in April through June are extended four months. If a business’s original deadline was July 10, it now is November 10.49
- Losses incurred in 2020 can now be carried back for two years (previously no loss carrybacks).49
- The government announced a new package that includes wage-subsidies for employees under quarantine, if a business is closed due to government order, or if a business experiences COVID-19 related economic difficulties. It also includes new loans and loan guarantees.49
- The Czech Republic moved swiftly to impose restrictions on travel, ban large events and close non-essential businesses after declaring a state of emergency on March 12.
- The Czech Republic will go into lockdown mode again to try and contain the coronavirus. From October 22 at 6 a.m. [until November 3 at 11:59 p.m.], free movement of the population will be prohibited, with a few exceptions. The government has asked people to only travel when necessary to work, to visit family, to purchase necessities, to see a doctor or the authorities. Non-essential shops have closed. However, grocery stores and pharmacies remain open.83
Impact for Employers
- Denmark announced three tax measures to boost business liquidity. The deadline for VAT payments has been extended (different deadlines depending on firm size) and companies will be granted four additional months to pay their labor contributions originally due through the end of June. The government is also lifting the ceiling on businesses’ tax accounts so that corporations won’t have to pay negative interest rates when placing cash in the bank. That limit is rising from the current level of DKK 200,000 to DKK 10 million until the end of November 2020.47
- Workers who are sent home will receive 90% wage support for three months. The government is also covering sick leave costs from the first day of leave.47
- The Finnish government has recommended public sector employees work remotely to the extent possible. It urged the private sector to do the same but added the decision is ultimately up to the workplace.190
- The country initially used a "containment strategy" that was based on "fast diagnosis, contact tracing and quarantine of those evaluated to be at risk." But as the virus spread, Denmark moved to a "mitigation strategy," banning large gatherings and seeking to protect the most vulnerable people.48
- Danish health officials began cautiously recommending using masks in early July, advising their use in certain circumstances, including when travelling home from areas considered high-risk or on the way to being tested for coronavirus.181
- Denmark's lockdown never got as strict as those in many other nations, where people were limited in leaving their homes. People in Denmark could still go outside, attend events with fewer than 10 people, and get takeaway food and drinks from restaurants and cafes. The Danish restrictions include border controls and bans on public gatherings of more than 10 people.48
- Denmark became one of the first European countries to relax coronavirus restrictions on education. All primary schools opened on April 20. Middle schools and high schools opened on May 10.103
- Hairdressers, tattooists, salons and spas, psychologists, physiotherapists, chiropractors, dentists and driving instructors have been allowed to reopen their shops.106
- Danes began returning to work in May, but workplaces have restricted the number of employees allowed, leaving public transport half empty.143>
Impact for Employers
- Chancellor Angela Merkel’s administration will make it easier for businesses to apply for aid to offset wages during furloughs.51
- In Germany, the employer must ensure occupational health and safety standards according to the specific “SARS-COV-2-Arbeitsschutzstandard” issued by the Federal Labor Ministry. This standard provides an action plan to be acknowledged and implemented by employers and includes technical measures that must be in place to limit the spread of the virus – namely: 172
- Workspaces must be organized providing distance between employees;
- Physical meetings and business trips should be avoided;
- All work equipment must be disinfected periodically,
- More flexible work schedules should be introduced;
- The handling of suspect cases of infection has to be organized to avoid any spread in the company;
- Protective equipment, such as masks, must be distributed to the employees.
- If an employer fails to comply with the guidelines, employees may refuse to return to office. Furthermore, any damages, which would occur by disobedience to these rules would lead to the employer’s liability. A works council, if existing, must participate in implementing these measures, as well as the health and safety specialist (“Fachkraft für Arbeitssicherheit”) and medical officer (“Betriebsarzt”). 172
- Germany was one of the first countries to develop a testing system for COVID-19. It's early access to reliable tests for COVID-19 meant that it could have a better handle on who was infected, isolate contacts, and treat those who need care.52
- Social distancing and aggressive efforts at contact tracing — including the unveiling of a smartphone app have been put in place to ensure safety.
- On November 2, bars, cinemas and clubs closed. Restaurants are limited to delivery and carry-out service, and people can only be allowed to meet outside with members of another household in groups of no more than 10. Chancellor Angela Merkel urged the population to stay home and refrain from unnecessary travel and visits, even visiting relatives. The new rules announced are like lockdown restrictions in the spring, and they will remain in place until the end of the November.29
- Schools and nurseries will remain open. Church services are not affected by the new measures and can continue if hygiene rules are observed.
- Retail stores will remain open, but there are restrictions on how many customers may be inside at a time. Hairdressers will stay open, but beauty and tattoo parlors will be closed because social distancing cannot be maintained.
- In addition to cinemas, other entertainment venues are closed, including amusement parks, concert halls, operas and theaters. Gyms and swimming pools are also closed and professional sports are only allowed without spectators.
- Hotels will only be available for "absolutely necessary" and non-tourism purposes.29
Impact for Employers
- Hungary will raise its budget deficit to 2.7% of economic output from 1% to help finance an economic stimulus package including massive subsidized loans to Hungarian companies.54 The package will help jump-start the economy, which has taken a major hit from the novel coronavirus pandemic. Subsidized loans to Hungarian firms would total about 2 trillion forints ($6 billion).54
- The Hungarian government is providing relief for social security contributions.55 Employers will not be required to pay the employer side of social security contributions (17.5% + 1%) from March through June. Employees will only be liable for their 4 percent health-care contribution rather than the total 18.5% social security contribution.55
- The Government issued a decree that relaxed the rules of the Labor Code and data protection from several aspects for the period of pandemic. Employers may: unilaterally send the employee to work from home; change the work schedules on short notice; take necessary steps to control and review the employees’ health. Employer and employee may deviate from the Labor Code in a separate agreement. The provisions of collective bargaining agreements being against the said rules are not applicable.101
- In Hungary, employers are generally obligated to provide a safe working environment and to carry out occasional risk assessments. Risk assessments are to be carried out every three years, or earlier if there is a substantial reason. Employees returning to the physical workplace after COVID-19 calls for an extra-curricular risk assessment. Failure to prepare the risk assessment analysis can result in punitive fines being imposed on non-compliant businesses.172
- The National Public Health Center has published guidelines regarding what precaution measures employers are advised to be taken to ensure safety at the workplace. These include common sense recommendations such as employees should go back to the office gradually rather than all at once, individual offices are preferred over open space solutions, increased hygiene and cleanliness requirements should be implemented, HVAC systems should be regularly maintained and used with care etc. 172
- Employers may continue to monitor the health of their employees when entering the office and prohibit coming to the workplace for employees who show symptoms of the disease. It should also be noted that the fact alone that someone fears getting infected at the workplace is not a justified reason to deny coming to work.172
- Nationwide, elderly people are advised to keep staying at home. Stores, open-air museums and outdoor spaces of restaurants and hotels, and beaches and baths have reopened. 58
- It will be mandatory to wear a mask on public transport and in shops and keep a distance six feet from other people. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said that authorities would hand out fines to anyone failing to wear a mask where required. 58
- Hungary has yet to impose restrictions on mass events, with schools and shops remaining open and football matches operating throughout the pandemic.58
Impact for Employers
- Employers who temporarily lay off or reduce the hours of their employees due to the crisis will be eligible to get a refund from the tax authority for €410 per week for up to 12 weeks. The government is also providing sick pay of €350 per week for two weeks for qualifying individuals. Unemployment benefits have been expanded from €203 per week to €350 per week for individuals who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. For businesses affected by the pandemic, rates payments were deferred until May 31.59
- One in five companies have laid off all their staff, while half of Irish small and medium companies expect revenue to decline by at least 60% through July.60
- Irish government announced that employers should assign the task of reviewing public health and government guidance to senior employees. Employers must also communicate information and instruction to employees, as it is a legal duty of the employer. The Government has advised that employees should remote work if possible. The Government has also introduced bills to provide support for those who have been affected by COVID-19, such as providing income support.101
- The Health and Safety Authority and the Data Protection Commission in Ireland have both published guidance to assist employers and employees in relation to working from home as part of the national response to COVID-19. Employers must ensure the health safety, and welfare of all employees, when an employee works from home. There is no duty to do an inspection of the employee’s home, but asking the employee to provide information about their workspace at home should suffice. For example, is there enough workspace to accommodate all work equipment? The employees’ responses should be recorded, and if an employee has needs, an employer must take immediate action and establish how the problem will be addressed. Specific risk assessment measures should be taken if an employee is pregnant, a night worker, a young worker under 18, or a worker with a disability. 101
- The Return to Work Safely Protocol (the “Protocol”) was published by the Government to guide employers on how they can allow their employees return safely to the workplace. This plan takes account of employers existing obligations under Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 (the “2005 Act”) and sets out a number of pre-return and post return obligations which should be followed to ensure a safe place of work. Prior to letting employees return to work, employers should:172
- Update health and safety assessments and statements;
- Put in place action plans for potential Covid-19 cases detected in the workplace;
- Prepare pre-return to work forms for employees;
- Implement temperature testing;
- Identify risk factors i.e. vulnerable and at-risk employees.
- Employers’ obligations under the Protocol continue even when employees return to work. These duties include:
- Provide training and guidance on workplace safety measures in line with public advice;
- Maintain and update the COVID-19 case response plan – this includes designating one self-isolation area in the workplace for any suspected cases;
- Train employees in respiratory measures and provide necessary equipment to facilitate this assistance;
- Update first aid training to take into account COVID-19; and
- Keep a log of all group work for the purpose of contact tracing.
- Ireland rolled a new national lockdown. Under the new restrictions, set to last until Dec. 1, people in Ireland are being asked to stay at home and to exercise within only a three-mile radius of their homes. Restaurants, cafes and bars can stay open for takeaway and deliveries, but most nonessential retail establishments will close, including hairdressers and barbers. Only 10 people will be allowed at funerals. Only “essential workers” will be permitted to travel to work, with construction projects and most manufacturing allowed to continue.61
- In Northern Ireland, the Executive has agreed to a range of significant time-bound interventions to curb the spread of Covid-19. The following measures went into regulatory effect on October 16 and will be in place for a period of four weeks:189
- Bubbling to be limited to a maximum of 10 people from two households;
- No overnight stays in a private home unless in a bubble;
- Closure of the hospitality sector apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11.00pm remaining.
- Other takeaway premises will be brought in line with hospitality with a closing time of 11.00pm;
- Close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics.
- No indoor sport of any kind or organized contact sport involving household mixing other than at elite level;
- No mass events involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply);
- Gyms may remain open but for individual training only with local enforcement in place;
- Funerals to be limited to 25 people with no pre- or post-funeral gatherings;
- Off licenses and supermarkets will not sell alcohol after 8.00 pm;
- Wedding ceremonies and civil partnerships to be limited to 25 people with no receptions. This will be implemented on October 19. Venues providing the post-ceremony or partnership celebration that weekend may remain open for this purpose but may not provide other services for people who are not part of the wedding or partnership party and this will be limited to 25; and
- The following advice will be added to the existing health guidance:
- Work from home unless unable to do so;
- Universities and further education to deliver distance learning to the maximum extent possible with only essential face to face learning where that is a necessary and unavoidable part of the course;
- No unnecessary travel should be undertaken.
- The half term holiday break for schools and colleges will be extended to a two-week break to run from October 19 - 30.
- Places of worship will remain open with a mandatory requirement to wear face coverings when entering and exiting. This will not apply to parties to a marriage or civil partnerships.
- The retail sector will also stay open. Further engagement is planned to ensure that the sector does everything it can to help suppress the virus.
Impact for Employers
- COVID-19 has left millions of Italians temporarily unemployed.62 In response, Italy’s governmentunveiled a 400 billion euro stimulus to help businesses.62 The “Cura Italia” (Cure Italy) decree was signed by the Italian government to help established companies survive the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.5 The program will provide 340 billion euros in government-backed loans to help export-oriented companies with high turnover rates and protect companies from being purchased by non-Italian competitors.62
- The “Cura Italia” decree also adopted several measures to protect the health and well-being of citizens and ensure that businesses survive. One such measure includes providing access to wage compensation funds (WCF) and supplementary funds.63 Both funds cover 80% of the total remuneration payable to an employee for time not worked due to COVID-19,5 which will ease the burden on employers.63 The decree also bars companies from laying off workers without "justified objective reasons."64
- In addition to providing support for working Italians, in March, the government provided self-employed and seasonal workers with a 600-euro (US$680) payment to help cushion the pain of lost business.64 Bonuses of 100 euros will also be provided for low-wage employees.64
- Italy introduced new legislation in regard to short-time work. Employers can require employees to suspend their work activity in full or in part, while the Italian National Security Authority will provide up to 80% of an employees’ lost salary for short-time work. Short-time work is accessed through a variety of programs:
- “Cassa Integrazione Guadagni Ordinaria,” available to industrial (and similar) companies employing more than 15 individuals;
- “Fondo di Integrazione Salariale,” available to commercial (and similar) companies employing more than 15 individuals; and
- “Cassa Integrazione Guadagni in deroga,” available to all businesses and particularly small ones. In all cases of short-time work, a fast consultation process with unions is required. Employers can access all these social programs for a maximum of nine weeks.101
- As a result of the COVID-19 emergency, Italy has introduced new legislation to implement several stimulus programs for employees in the form of parental leave. Parents who are staffed as employees or are self-employed workers have an extra parental leave period of up to 15 days; (b) as an alternative to parental leave, parents may access a “babysitting bonus” of up to EUR 600.00 to cover those services; (c) self-employed workers and collaborators enrolled with the so-called “gestione separata” of the Italian National Security Authority can access a EUR 600.00 bonus for the month of March 2020; (d) seasonal employees can access an indemnity for the month of March 2020 equal to EUR 600.00; and (e) for individuals who worked in the company’s premises in March, a “una-tantum” bonus, consisting of EUR 100.00 for employees who have a total income up to EUR 40,000.00.
- Italy introduced new legislation to implement further protections to employees during the COVID-19 emergency. From March 17, 2020, until May 16, 2020, employers cannot start collective dismissal procedures. Meanwhile, any collective dismissal procedures started after February 23, 2020, and still pending are suspended. Additionally, during the same period, employers cannot dismiss employees based on economic reasons, though they may still dismiss for just cause, justified subjective reason, or failure to pass the probationary period. After May 16, 2020, unless new guidelines are published, employers may proceed with dismissals as customarily done before, pursuant to the laws or the National Collective Bargaining Agreements (NCBA) applicable to the employment relationship.101
- Employers are obliged to adopt a protocol compliant with law, describing the measures aimed at assessing if personnel may have been at risk of contracting the virus. The main initiatives adopted so far in this regard are:172
- daily checks of body temperatures of the personnel when entering the workplace,
- medical checks through serological tests and swabs when necessary,
- written statements of the personnel declaring not to have been sick or in contact with people affected by COVID-19, and further initiatives usually described in the so-called “DVR”, the document containing the risk assessment.
- Social distancing measures will continue for months to come, and church services will remain banned. 125
- Italians are now able to move between regions and can now travel through Italy by train. Travel to and from other European countries is also permitted - depending on the rules in the destination country - but non-European travel remains off-limits.82
- Public transportation including airlines, trains, and buses continue to operate, but with reduced frequency.67
- Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte imposed new restrictions on gatherings, restaurants, sports and school activities in an attempt to slow a recent surge in coronavirus infections. The government decree will be valid for 30 days. It bans parties in restaurants, clubs or in the open air and strongly recommends that people do not hold parties in their homes or host more than six guests at any time. Weddings and other ceremonies can be attended by no more than 30 people. The decree firmly advises that face masks, which are already obligatory in public buildings and outdoors, should also be worn at home when non-family members are present82
- Italy is shutting cinemas, swimming pools, theatres and gyms. Bars, restaurants and cafes must stop table service by 6:00 pm, however shops and most businesses will remain operational. Under the new measures, the bulk of secondary school teaching will be conducted online instead of in the classroom.123
- Italy’s regions have been divided into three zones - red for the highest risk, then orange and yellow. In the red zone are Lombardy, Bolzano, Piedmont and Aosta Valley in the north, and Calabria in the south.In these areas, which cover about 16.5 million people in a population of 60 million, residents can only leave home for work, health reasons, essential shopping or emergencies. All non-essential shops are closed. Bars and restaurants are also shut but people can exercise near their homes if they wear masks. Hairdressers can remain open.
Impact for Employers
- A jump in jobless claims during the lockdown is raising pressure on the French government to use furlough to keep people tied to jobs, even if they do not work. Emmanuel Macron is planning a new virus furlough program where the state covers a large share of lost incomes for up to two years to protect jobs. the new program emulates the emergency one put in place to protect jobs during the pandemic lockdown. If unions and business agree on a reduction of working time in exchange for job security, the government will pay 85% of furlough costs for as long as two years. That subsidy will decline slightly to 80% for deals signed after Oct. 1. The French government will also finance as much as 80% of the cost of training. The program offers an alternative to downsizing and allows companies to retain as many jobs as possible. The state will also have to sign off on the deals, which cannot reduce working hours by more than 40%.159
- The government also rolled out a €45 billion aid package for small businesses and other hard-hit sectors of the economy.68
- France’s COVID-19 stimulus package offers companies an opportunity to take advantage of government funding and get back on track with their skilled and trained workforces intact. Provisions of the stimulus package include € 8.5 billion for keeping people employed for two months.69 Under this scheme, the state will cover 70% of a worker’s gross salary, or 100% for employees earning minimum wage or less. In either scenario, the state reimburses companies entirely for all salaries paid up to € 6927 of the gross income.69
- France enacted a Title III law, as an economic emergency measure to assist companies in the COVID-19 epidemic. This law contains several measures, such as facilitating implementation of part-time work and furlough; authorizing employers to require employees to take or modify their dates of paid leaves; allowing companies to derogate to public policy rules and collective bargaining provisions related to working time, weekly rest and Sunday rest. It also allows modification of the following: dates and conditions of payment of “purchasing power” premiums; dates and conditions of payment of a profit-sharing plan; and the means of information and consultation of staff representatives, so that it can deliver its opinion, and suspend the on-going professional elections.101
- A partial activity scheme to prevent economic dismissals is available, so employers can suspend the work of their employees or reduce working time, while maintaining 70% of the salaries during a temporary period and being reimbursed by the State. To help companies facing COVID-19, the government simplified the existing scheme. As of March 1, 2020, companies can request the new scheme be used when: they have been required to close as a consequence of public decision; they are facing a decrease of business; or when it is impossible to implement the minimum health and safety measures. On March 25, 2020, the decree modified the calculation rules of the allowance and it provides more flexibility in the application process for employers. This new scheme will apply until December 30, 2020. 101
- In France, employers have a general duty to provide a safe workplace, as well as a duty to undertake workplace risk assessments and take appropriate steps to reduce or eliminate risks. These obligations are enforced by the labor authorities, and ultimately backed up by the threat of criminal sanctions. Until July 1, working from home was the usual way to work during the COVID 19 crisis, but as the virus is now better controlled in France: employees are now required to work at the office, unless they have objective medical reasons to stay home172
- Companies in France have the obligation to update their risk assessment documents with regards COVID-19 exposure and recommendations, and to put in place in-house health and safety policies to comply with the French government’s guidelines. These measures include ensuring a minimum distance between staff and rotations or the use of masks (provided by the company) when social distancing is not possible etc. A company’s explanatory document is also required and must be communicated to the staff setting out the new rules on how to work securely at the office.172
- Before re-opening their offices, companies in France are should inform and consult beforehand with the works council (so-called CSE), notably regarding the risk assessment document and the explanatory note to the staff.172
- Effective September 1, France made face masks compulsory in most workplaces as it grapples with a resurgence in coronavirus cases. The new rule will likely apply to all shared spaces in offices and factories where there is more than one employee present. Individual offices will be exempt.184
- France’s Labor Minister announced that working from home will be mandatory, except when it is technically impossible.183
- The government has made mask-wearing mandatory in all indoor public spaces. They have also made Covid-19 tests obligatory for travelers from approved countries and not permitting general travel to and from 16 countries, which include the United States and Brazil. 182
- Beginning October 30, France will go into a nationwide lockdown with just schools and essential businesses staying open until Dec. 1. Most nonessential businesses in France will close — including bars and restaurants — and movement outside one’s home will be strictly limited. Private and public gatherings will be banned. Schools will remain open. Some economic activity — public services, factories, farms and construction sites — will continue, and restrictions on retirement home visits and burials will not be as strict as in the spring.53
- People will only be allowed to leave the house for essential purposes: food shopping, commuting to work (if it isn’t technically possible to work from home), medical or imperative family reasons. Outdoor exercise would be allowed for one hour per day and within 1km.183
- Visiting family or friends (or receiving them in your home), community sport and travel within France (including to holiday homes) are all not allowed. Individual sports such as jogging are permitted.
- For every outing, citizens will need to show a government document. Other attestations can be issued by an employer where the employee needs to travel to work or by a school if children need to be taken to school. A €135 fine can be issued for non-respect of this rule.
- France’s EU borders will remain open, its exterior borders will close. Anyone arriving from non-EU/Schengen areas must have a Covid-19 test showing a negative result or they will be tested.
- Bars and restaurants, shops (except for essential goods) and theme parks will close. Food shops, petrol stations, tabac and newsagents, chemists, care hire, creches and schools will remain open.
- Children as young as six will have to wear face masks during lessons.
- Sports clubs and conservatories must close. Hotels may remain open, but their restaurants must close and only use room service. Public transport will stay open at the current levels of service.183
Impact for Employers
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has arranged a fiscal stimulus package, including a 50 billion naira ($138.89 million) credit facility to households and small and medium enterprises most affected by the pandemic.
The CBN is providing a 100 billion naira ($277.78 million) loan to the health sector, and a 1 trillion naira ($2.78 billion) to the manufacturing sector.73 In addition, the interest rates on all CBN interventions have been revised downwards from 9% to 5%, and a one-year moratorium on CBN intervention facilities has been introduced, effective March 1.73
- The government has restricted entry into the country for travelers from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, Spain, Japan, France, Germany, the U.S., Norway, the U.K., Switzerland and the Netherlands. Those coming from high-risk countries are asked to self-isolate for 14 days.4
- Domestic flights have resumed after 3 months of restrictions to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, to help reopen the economy. Only airports in the capital, Abuja and the center of commerce Lagos have been reopened for flights, while the other airports reopened in mid July. 65
- The federal government has threatened to impose a new lockdown, following an increased rate of COVID-19 cases in the country, especially amongst government leaders.74
- Poland’s government has announced the entire country will become a “red zone” of strict anti-COVID-19 restrictions. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki appealed to Poles to strictly observe the restrictions to protect lives. The measures, expanded from local red zones, include always wearing a mask outdoors and switching all primary schools to remote learning.190
- Restaurants and other eateries can provide takeout only for another two weeks and gatherings cannot exceed 5 people, except for professional activity. People over 70 are asked to stay home, and a system of support in delivering supplies is being put in place.190
Impact for Employers
- The government will roll out about 1 trillion rubles ($13.5 billion) of new spending to help stimulate the economy.76 The money will go toward subsidizing salaries of workers idled by isolation measures to fight the coronavirus.76
- Russia will allow small and medium-sized businesses operating in certain industries to defer all taxes for 6 months, except for VAT and social insurance payments (only for micro-enterprises). Russia is also providing tax holidays for taxes and social security contributions until May 1 for companies engaged in tourism and aviation industries. The social insurance rate will be reduced from 30% to 15% for salaries exceeding the minimum wage. Small and medium-sized businesses will be granted a three-month grace period for rent payments to the government. Pharmaceutical and medical supplies and equipment will be exempted of import duties payments. A moratorium on tax audits until June 1 is expected to be implemented. Other tax measures include a 13 percent income tax rate on interest accrued on deposits exceeding 1 million rubles (USD $12,700). The government is considering a review of some double tax treaties to impose a 15 percent tax on dividends from Russia.
- The Russian government issued guidance stating that there is no need to ask workers or visitors to an employers’ premises for their consent for these checks. The rationale is that working at, and visiting the premises, imply that consent was given. However, employers need to post a notice on the premises about temperature checks and destroy the temperature checks data within 24 hours. Employers may deviate from these requirements based on guidance provided by local or regional authorities 101
Russia’s capital now has one of the largest facial recognition systems in the world and it is using it to police its quarantine restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The system allows police to search in, real-time, across cameras for a person using just a single image. If the system detects a match, it sends an alert to a police command center. The technology is being used to monitor those who have tested positive for the virus or deemed high risk of having it, including those returning from abroad. The system can also be used for contact tracing, allowing police to follow an infected person’s movements over previous days.120
- Food shops remain open, as well as other essential services, but cafes and restaurants can only offer takeaway meals.77
- On May 12, the national period of non-working days concluded for all sectors of the country’s economy. However, large public events remain banned and people must still follow strict sanitation requirements. Construction and farming were the first industries to restart.72
- Russia's second-largest city St. Petersburg has banned residents from attending funeral services regardless of the cause of death of the deceased.134>
- Moscow's lockdown restrictions eased on June 8, and the country has partially reopened its borders. Different regions can decide when to reopen their restaurants, cafes and hotels.132
- Moscow is enforcing its rules on wearing masks more vigorously amid an uptick of new coronavirus cases. Police started issuing 5,000 ruble ($68) fines to metro passengers in the Russian capital for failing to wear protection. Stores are also demanding that customers wear masks after city hall stepped up inspections.176
- To curb the recent spike in infections, Moscow’s mayor advised anyone with chronic health problems or those older than 65 to stay home. He also ordered employers to send at least 30% of their staff to work remotely beginning Oct. 5.151
Impact for Employers
- Saudi Arabia’s government unveiled stimulus measures amounting to 120 Saudi billion riyals ($32 billion) to support the country’s economy. The sum includes a 50 billion riyals package to support small and medium-sized businesses.79 It also includes 70 billion riyals to aid businesses by postponing of tax payments and exemptions of various government levies and fees.79 The relief measures in the new stimulus package include exemptions on expat levies, postponing some private sector fee payments to the government, and postponing the collection of customs duties on imports. It also allows employers to extend exit and re-entry visas free of charge for three months and enables businesses to postpone paying value-added tax, income tax and other levies for the next three months.79
- In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) instructed private sector establishments to suspend work at their main offices and instead activate work from home procedures. They must also reduce the number of employees working in their branches, offices and other facilities to a maximum of 40% of the total headquarter (HQ) workforce. The work from home initiative was initially for 15 days, but is to continue until the Ministry of Interior and MHRSD advises otherwise. MHRSD has mandated that 14 days of paid leave (in addition to all usual leave entitlements under the labor law) must be granted to employees in categories, which are identified as high risk regarding COVID-19. These include those with autoimmune disease, cancer, respiratory illness, chronic illnesses and pregnant women or breastfeeding women as well as employees aged 55 and above. Such employees are not obliged to work from home. The following sectors are exempt: vital infrastructure sectors and companies involved in food, medicine, and their supply chains. Any employer wishing to be exempt from the suspension must apply to the MHRSD for registration of the exemption. Those sectors still operating workplaces (i.e., branches, offices and other facilities, other than HQs) must comply with the mandated requirements, such as only 40% of the workforce may work on its premises and employers must require all employees to disclose if they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. 101
- Saudi Arabia ended a nationwide curfew and lifted restrictions on businesses on June 21, after three months of lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The nationwide curfew has also been lifted. However, restrictions will remain in force for religious pilgrimages, international travel and social gatherings of more than 50 people81
- Despite ending the lockdown and lifting of the curfew, the Ministry of Health has urged people to continue following precautions. The ministry has made the use of face masks in public places mandatory, with a fine of SR1,000 ($270) for failing to do so. In commercial establishments, employees of shops, gyms and salons will have to wear gloves and masks. All businesses must ensure proper hygiene and regular disinfecting of their spaces.128
The Saudi government encourages those experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to be tested. The government will pay for the treatment of anyone in Saudi Arabia that is diagnosed with COVID-19. All citizens and residents — including expats and those in violation of residency laws — who test positive will have their medical expenses covered by the government.80
Impact for Employers
The government is working on a proposal to assist companies and businesses through the following measures: 84
- Providing employees with wage payments through the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme, which will enable companies to pay employees throughout the lockdown.
- Paying employees that become ill from exposure at their workplace through the Compensation Fund.
- Encouraging larger businesses to pay their workforce during the lockdown period. If it becomes necessary, the South African government will use reserves within the country’s Unemployment Insurance Fund to extend support to those workers in small/medium companies and other vulnerable firms who are faced with a loss in income.
- Using the tax system, the government will provide a tax subsidy of up to R500 per month for the next four months for private sector employees earning below R6,500 under the Employment Tax Incentive, helping over 4 million workers.
- Accelerating the payment of employment tax incentive reimbursements from twice a year to monthly to get cash into the hands of compliant employers as soon as possible.
- Delaying 20% of tax compliant businesses pay-as-you-earn liabilities over the next four months and a portion of their provisional corporate income tax payments without penalties or interest over the next six months.
- Exploring the temporary reduction of employer and employee contributions to the Unemployment Insurance Fund and employer contributions to the Skill Development Fund.
- Funding for vulnerable firms and fast-track financing for companies critical to the country’s efforts to fight the virus and its economic impact.
- Assisting small/medium enterprises in the tourism and hospitality sector, under stress due to the new travel restrictions.
- Providing additional liquidity to the financial system through the South African Reserve Bank.
- Masks have been declared mandatory with all transport operators, employers, and owners of businesses and buildings now legally obliged to ensure everyone entering their businesses or premises are wearing masks.166
Since the national state of disaster was declared, the South African government has several regulations and directives in place to help mitigate COVID-19’s impact to health including:84
- Instructions to stay home, except for health workers in the public and private sectors, emergency personnel, those in security services – such as police and traffic officers, military medical personnel, soldiers – and others, who are necessary for the country’s response to the pandemic. The exemption also applies to those involved in the production, distribution and supply of food and basic goods, essential banking services, the maintenance of power, water and telecommunications services, laboratory services, and the provision of medical and hygiene products. Individuals will not be allowed to leave their homes except under strictly controlled circumstances, such as seeking medical care, buying food, medicine and other supplies or collecting a social grant.
- Encouragement of companies to continue their operations remotely, if possible.
- Continued transportation services for essential staff and patients.
- Deployment of the South African National Defense Force to support the South African Police Service to ensure the implementation of policies.
- Implementation of a public health management program to increase screening, testing, contact tracing and medical management. Community health teams will focus on expanding screening and testing where people live, focusing first on high density and high-risk areas.
- Development of a system to ensure that hospitals are not overwhelmed, which includes centralized patient management for severe cases and decentralized primary care for mild cases.
- Provision of emergency water supplies for informal settlements and rural areas.
- Establishment of a Solidarity Fund, where South African businesses, organizations and individuals, and members of the international community, can contribute. The Fund will focus efforts to combat the spread COVID-19, track its spread, care for those who are ill and support those whose lives have been disrupted.
- Regulations to prohibit unjustified price hikes, to help ensure shops maintain adequate stocks of basic goods and to prevent people from ‘panic buying.’
- President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that South Africa will increase its welfare provision to help poor households suffering because of the nationwide lockdown.104
- South African citizens and residents arriving from high-risk countries will automatically be placed under quarantine for 14 days. Non-South Africans arriving on flights from high-risk countries will be turned away. International travelers who arrived in South Africa after March 9 from a high- risk country will be confined to their hotels until they have completed a 14-day period of quarantine.84
- President Cyril Ramaphosa eased stringent coronavirus regulations on August 17. Ramaphosa said the government would also end a ban on alcohol and tobacco sales, allow restaurants and taverns to return to normal business - subject to strict hygiene regulations - and remove the ban on travel between provinces. Nearly all of the restrictions on economic activity across all industries have resumed.116
- Most schools in South Africa have reopened. Students in their final years of primary and secondary school have been allowed to return.85
- South Africa plans to open its borders to all international travelers who can present proof of a negative COVID-19 test, including those from the U.S. and Europe who are banned under current policies.
Impact for Employers
- The Spanish government declared a state of emergency, resulting in businesses closing or drastically reducing their operations. Any employees who do not provide essential services cannot go to work and must either work from home or receive a recoverable paid leave by the company. The government has facilitated simplified procedures for temporary redundancies for companies, both for force majeure and business-related reasons. Companies can be exempted, if requested, from paying social security contributions while the temporary redundancy plan, due to force majeure, is in force. These measures are subject to companies’ commitment to maintain jobs for six months from the date the activity is resumed.101
- The COVID-19 pandemic has led to multiple strict health and safety measures. An employee with a confirmed infection will be placed on temporary sick leave and not allowed to work. Employees susceptible to COVID-19 must contact the Health & Safety service to proceed with a medical exam; an employee’s refusal to do so may constitute a labor offense. Employees suspected of infection must contact the health and safety services to activate the company’s preventive protocol. Given that health data is highly sensitive, the employee must be informed of the treatment of his or her health data. If there are cases of contagion in the company, the preventive instructions established by the occupational risk prevention service must be complied with, to facilitate continuity of the business activities and the protection of the rest of the employees.101
- The Spanish government announced a €200 billion ($231 billon) package, to help companies and protect workers and vulnerable groups affected by the coronavirus crisis. €117 billion will be given by the state, with the difference covered by the private sector.87
- The government will also make it easier for people to be suspended from work, rather than laid off, so they can retain all of their benefits.87 Any workers affected by a temporary collective layoff, they will receive unemployment benefits, including those that would not normally be eligible. In cases of temporary contract suspensions or reduced working hours an exemption will been granted for 100% of employer social security contributions for companies with less than 50 employees, and 75% for the rest.87 The condition to access these benefits is for the employers to maintain the positions for 6 months once the activity is resumed. Individuals that are self-employed, that cease their business activity or see their revenues fall by at least 75% will be able to access the self-employed unemployment benefit for the period that the state of emergency is in place, even when the minimum period required has not been met.87
- Spain allowed workers to return to factories and construction sites, despite high daily death tolls.88
- Spain has declared a national state of emergency and imposed a night-time curfew in an effort to help control a new spike in Covid-19 infections. The curfew is in effect between the hours of 11:00 pm and 6:00 am. Under the measures, local authorities can also ban travel between regions. Spain’s President has asked parliament to extend the new rules, initially in force for 15 days, to six months.123
- In Madrid, people can travel outside their home districts for essential journeys only. Additionally, bars and restaurants cannot serve after 11:00 pm. There is also a maximum of six people that can be permitted to meet in any setting. The measures have been demanded by Spain's central government and take effect in nine towns around Madrid.28
- The regional government of Catalonia is ordering all bars and restaurants to close their on-site operations. They can only sell to-go items for the next 15 days. Shopping areas, theaters and gyms will operate at reduced capacity in an effort to avert an even bigger shutdown.187
Impact for Employers
- The Swedish government proposed an extension of the law on state aid for work with temporary reduced working hours and salary (RWH), to open the possibility to provide state aid to employers who suffer from serious and temporary financial difficulties, which could not be foreseen or avoided, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 16, 2020, a new proposal entails the State will take a greater part, up to three-quarters, of the costs for the RWH. Employer’s costs for salaries can be reduced by half, while the employee receives more than 90 percent of his or her ordinary salary. The aim is to support employers who suffer from serious and temporary financial difficulties to retain their staff, so that they are able to quickly ramp up productivity again when the situation changes.101
- The Swedish government proposed temporary reinforcement of unemployment insurance. The requirements concerning eligibility to receive money from an unemployment insurance fund will be temporarily relaxed due to COVID-19. At the same time, it is proposed that both the highest and the lowest amounts paid out shall be raised temporarily to alleviate the economic impact on people who become unemployed. Further, it is proposed that the six initial qualifying days will be removed, and that the unemployment insurance funds will receive funding for administration.101
- Sweden is allowing businesses to reclaim January-March’s tax payments for one year and then repay them.90 Sick leave will be paid by the government for April and May. Sweden’s aid package is SEK 300 billion. Businesses’ VAT payments and other outstanding taxes have been delayed by 12 months.90
Lockdown InformationOn November 16, authorities in Sweden banned gatherings of more than eight people as they grappled with the second coronavirus wave surging through much of Europe. The new restrictions followed other protocols coming into effect and include protective measures around nursing homes and bans on alcohol sales at restaurants and bars after 10 p.m. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven urged people not to go to the gym, library, have dinner out, or even have parties.91
Impact for Employers
Private sector businesses affected by the COVID-19 can restructure their contractual relationship with employees, in mutual agreement, through gradual procedures, according to a decision by the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. Businesses affected by measures taken to prevent the spread of coronavirus and need to reshuffle their business structure can gradually adopt the following actions, in agreement with their employees: 93
- Implement a remote work system
- Grant employees paid leave as well as unpaid leave
- Temporarily or permanently reduce salaries during an aforementioned time period
- Businesses with more employees than needed should register all additional staff on the virtual job market, so that they can be recruited by other businesses. Companies are obliged to provide these employees with accommodation and other dues, except for salary, if they are in the country or until they are hired by another company.
- Businesses seeking to recruit during a suspension of overseas hiring are required to:
- Post their vacancies on the virtual job market, search through available data, and select - whoever meets the requirements
- Apply for a work permit from the ministry, which will be provided online, and hire selected candidates. Businesses can choose from a transfer work permit of employee to new employer, temporary work permit or part-time work permit.
- Businesses seeking to temporarily reduce the salary of an employee need to sign an additional annexure. The validity of the temporary annexure is limited to the agreed-upon term, or if the resolution remains valid.93
Businesses seeking to permanently reduce the salary of an employee should first obtain the of Human Resources and Emiratisation’s approval, by applying for a 'change of a job contract's data' according to procedures.93
- The Dubai government announced new measures to lift restrictions on businesses, allowing gyms, movie theaters, leisure venues, educational and training institutes, child learning centers and all retail and wholesale establishments to reopen at varying limited capacities.94
- The United Arab Emirates lifted a curfew put in place three months ago to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Some restrictions however remain in place. Abu Dhabi still requires residents to obtain a permit before entering the emirate as it carries out mass-testing.144
- Dubai reopened to international tourists, in hopes of a much-needed boost to its economy.119
Impact for Employers
- Residents of England have been asked to work from home if they can.27
- Businesses will be expected to monitor crowd density in their premises, including at pinch points - such as doorways. Businesses have a legal duty to keep employees safe.127
- The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) is a government scheme set up to support U.K. employers who have been affected by COVID-19.95 Under the CJRS, U.K. employers are able to obtain a grant equal to the lower of 80% of the wages or £2,500 per month for each furloughed employee plus the associated employer’s National Insurance contributions and minimum automatic enrollment employer pension contributions (if payable) on the subsidized wage.95
- The CJRS will last for at least 3 months commencing on March 1, 2020 and is expected to be up and running by the end of April. Claims can be backdated to 1 March if applicable.95 The CJRS is open to all UK employers who have a PAYE payroll scheme (provided it was created before 28 February 2020) and have a U.K. bank account.95
- The U.K. government recently laid out The Statutory Sick Pay (General) (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 and state the following:96
- Persons isolating themselves from others in accordance with advice on coronavirus disease is deemed to be incapable of work”. Under this statutory rule, statutory sick pay (SSP) is payable, for eligible employees, from day one, as opposed to day four of sickness, and this will be applicable to absence or self-isolation relating to COVID-19. Businesses with less than 250 staff, as of 28 February 2020, will be able to reclaim two weeks’ worth of SSP per eligible employee affected by COVID-19. The temporary rules applicable to SSP will have retroactively go into effect starting March 13, 2020.96
- In terms of occupational sick pay (OSP), the requirement to pay individuals will be wholly dependent on what the employee’s contract states. Company contracts and handbooks will make clear whether or not an individual is entitled to OSP for the duration that they are absent from work due to illness; while the law has changed to accommodate emergency measures this does not automatically impact the contract.96
- The UK’s chancellor is set to announce a £2bn temporary job creation scheme for the under 25s. In the three-point plan, the government will fund six-month job placements for an estimated 350,000 18- to 24-year-olds, who are viewed as being at most risk of suffering the long-term consequences of unemployment during the crisis. Branded as the “Kickstart” job scheme, the package will include the government covering 100% of the national minimum wage for each young employee, for 25 hours a week. Employers will also be able to provide wage top-ups.164
- £111m in funding for new traineeships is expected to be announced. These programs for young people last up to six months and help teach key job skills, as well as offer work experience. The government will also offer businesses an £1,000 bonus to give work experience placements. 164
- A month-long government program to encourage people to return to restaurants began. The Eat Out to Help Out program gives diners a 50% discount, worth as much as 10 pounds ($13) per person, on meals they eat in restaurants from Monday to Wednesday throughout August. More than 72,000 eating establishments have signed up to the program. It estimates the plan will cost the government 500 million pounds. The UKHospitality trade body said 84% of businesses in the sector intended to take part in the initiative. 178
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a “world beating” operation to track down people who had been exposed to the coronavirus, giving the country a chance to climb out of lockdown without losing sight of where infections were spreading. However, the system was rushed and found to be staffed by thousands of undertrained and low-paid contact tracers.98
- On July 4, the 2m (6ft) social distancing guidance changed in England. When it is not possible to stay 2m apart, people should keep a distance of "one meter plus" - this means staying one meter apart, while observing precautions to reduce the risk of transmission. Northern Ireland has also announced it will reduce the distancing rule to 1-meter with restrictions. In Scotland and Wales, the 2-meter distancing rule remains in place for the time being. Businesses are being asked to help by:127
- 1 | avoiding face-to-face seating by changing office layouts
- 2 | reducing the number of people in enclosed spaces
- 3 | improving ventilation
- 4 | using protective screens and face coverings
- 5 | closing non-essential social spaces
- 6 | providing hand sanitizer
- 7 | changing shift patterns so that staff work in set teams
- The following places have reopened in England, where local lockdown measures are in place: 165
- Indoor theater, music and performance venues with socially distanced audiences
- Wedding receptions in the form of a sit-down meal for up to 30 guests are permitted
- The piloting of a small number of sporting events to test the safe return of spectators will resume
- Casinos, bowling alleys, skating rinks and soft play centers will be allowed to reopen
- "Close contact" beauty services such as facials, eyebrow threading, eyelash treatments, make up application and microblading will resume
- Pilots will take place at conference venues ahead of the expected resumption of business events from October 1 at the earliest
- Not all schools in England have reopened, some due to local council advice and some because they don't have the staff or space to safely accommodate pupils. Some parents have chosen not to send their children back.97
- Secondary schools in England have been allowed to reopen for years 10 and 12. Teaching of vulnerable children and those of critical workers in all year groups will continue.97
- Only a quarter of eligible pupils are allowed in school at any one time. Students who do return are encouraged to travel separately and avoid public transport.
- Plans to get all primary pupils in England back for four weeks before the summer holidays have been dropped. 97
- But some nursery and pre-school children - plus pupils in year 1 and year 6 - started to go back on June 1.97
- Wearing a face covering in shops and supermarkets in England is mandatory. Those who fail to comply with the new rules will face a fine of up to £100, the government has announced. The move will bring England into line with Scotland and other major European nations like Spain, Italy and Germany. Since mid-May, members of the public have been advised to wear coverings in enclosed public spaces, where they may encounter people they would not usually meet. Mask-wearing has been compulsory on public transport in England and at NHS facilities across the UK since June 15. Children under 11 and those with certain disabilities will be exempt.167
- The U.K.’s plans to block further spikes in coronavirus allow for ministers to lock down London. The Contain Strategy sets out the possibility of a power to restrict people’s movement and potentially close local transport networks. The strategy allows ministers to use public health laws passed in 1984 to close businesses and venues, impose restrictions on the movement of people, prevent overnight stays away from home, limit the size of gatherings, and shut down local and national transport systems.178
- Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England, with some exemptions. The law change will ban larger groups meeting anywhere socially indoors or outdoors, but will not apply to schools, workplaces or COVID-secure weddings, funerals and organized team sports. It will be enforced through a £100 fine if people fail to comply, doubling on each offense up to a maximum of £3,200.The new rules - which come into force on September 14 - mark a change to England's current guidance. 185
- People in England who refuse to self-isolate to stop the spread of coronavirus could face fines of up to 10,000 British pounds ($13,000) under tough new regulations announced to tackle a surge in cases. The rules will apply from September 28 to anyone in England who tests positive for the virus or is notified by public health workers that they have been in contact with someone infectious. Fines will start at 1,000 pounds ($1,300) for a first offence, rising to 10,000 pounds for repeat offenders or cases where employers threaten to sack staff who self-isolate rather than go to work. Some low-income workers who suffer a loss of earnings will receive a 500-pound ($650) support payment on top of other benefits, such as sick pay, to which they may be entitled.75
- Britain instituted a three-tier alert system that will group different regions of England under restrictions to avoid repeating a national lockdown.165
- London will move from a Tier 1 "medium" to the Tier 2 "high" alert level of coronavirus restrictions beginning October 17. This means Londoners will be banned from mixing with other households indoors in any setting, including in pubs and restaurants. Outdoor gatherings will be limited to six people and people should also avoid using public transport where possible.188
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a second national lockdown for England to prevent a medical and moral disaster for the NHS. Pubs, restaurants, gyms and non-essential shops will have to close for four weeks beginning November 5. Unlike the restrictions in spring, schools, colleges and universities can stay open. After December 2, the restrictions will be eased and regions would go back to the tiered system. 191 Under the new restrictions:
- People are being told to stay at home unless they have a specific reason to leave, such as work which cannot be done from home and education
- People can leave home for exercise medical reasons, food and other essential shopping and providing care for vulnerable people or for volunteering
- Meeting indoors or in private gardens will not be allowed
- Individuals can meet one other person from another household outside in a public place
- Pubs, bars, restaurants and non-essential retail across the nation will close but takeaways and click-and-collect shopping can remain open
- Leisure and entertainment venues, including gyms are closed
- Construction sites and manufacturing workplaces remain open
- People are still allowed to form support bubbles
- Children can move between homes if their parents are separated
- Clinically vulnerable people are asked to be "especially careful”, but people are not being asked to resume shielding
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