Costa Rica: Labor Legislation Against Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The first question we must ask ourselves is whether our legal system, in the labor field, is prepared for an emergency of the dimension and importance such as the one faced worldwide by CORONAVIRUS (COVID 19).

The answer must not only be found in our written laws, but also in the attitude assumed in the face of an urgency of this kind, by our political, administrative and judicial authorities.

Therefore, legal responses must be as effective and quick as the spread of the virus, because the problem itself requires it. A problem of this dimension requires equally urgent solutions from all.

We can say that we are not fully prepared to respond to all the requirements that arise in production and in companies, what to do – without assuming more future responsibilities – in times of crisis? What to do so that the Company survives and at the same time the officials are not so affected? 

Recalling that the salary is absolutely inalienable (article 11 of the Labor Code), solutions must be sought to protect the salary and, if this is not possible, solutions that tend to preserve jobs rather than lose them.

Jobs that can be done via teleworking, is an optimal solution because it preserves employment and wages but, above all, because the company does not paralyze its activity. Giving vacations, even if it is not their purpose, is another measure and even the advancement of vacations, by mutual agreement, is another solution in which employment is preserved and salary income is maintained. Sick leave is clearly a cause of legal suspension of the contract but it must be given for medical reasons.

Alternative solutions such as suspending the employment contract due to the crisis is another solution, but for this, an administrative procedure is required from the Ministry of Labor, in which the reasons underlying must be provided. In times of crisis, it must be expedited and granted if such reasons are proven, assuming there is no abuse on the employer’s part or an unjustified refusal to grant it. Balance must be the key; otherwise, the forced reduction of jobs, will be a reality, generating unemployment rate like the one that our country faced for the last quarter of 2019 that reached 12.4%.

Reducing the working day to part-time, the amount of social charges according to the fair amount worked and other similar measures requires expedited legal reforms or decrees in a state of emergency that endorses them. The worst thing that can happen to us is forgetting that it is the private sector that moves the country and leaving it at the expense of unreliable solutions for its future finances or claims of unpaid payments, would be to aggravate the crisis that would no longer be just health but productive and financial. Far from it, we are not a rich country. Costa Rica has been in a very serious financial crisis for a long time. Important economic measures have been needed. Depending on the kind of jobs, for some people it is not viable to stay home  because they cannot produce, neither for them nor for the country itself. Alternate measures not foreseen in the common law, have been enacted for ordinary situations and are urgently needed. We hope that our government will impose them in a timely manner.

Sylvia Bejarano
Costa Rica

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