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COVID-19: Back To Work in Chile

1. Emergency Measures

Decrees, orders or guidelines in effect and pertaining to reopening facilities.

Companies must always maintain the required sanitary and environmental conditions in the workplace to protect the life and health of its employees. Therefore, companies must comply with applicable regulations and, in particular, with:

  • the nationwide health alert;
  • the several resolutions of the Ministry of Health that have established sanitary measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19;
  • the recommendations for action in the workplace from the Ministry of Health;
  • the sanitary protocols for the operation of companies by the Ministry of Economy;
  • the sanitary protocol for Cleaning and Disinfecting issued by the Ministry of Health;
  • the instructions by the regional health authorities (“Seremi de Salud”);
  • the instructions for transit permits in zones under quarantine by the Ministry of Interior and Public Security and the Ministry of National Defense;
  • the safe-passage permits and authorisations to move through a specific area once curfew has been established; and
  • the resolutions by the Ministry of Finance which indicate areas or territories affected by an act or declaration of authority, and the activities or establishments exempted from the stoppage of activities, in order to access the benefits referred to in Law No. 21,227 (special status to receive unemployment insurance benefits when labour contracts are suspended).

Optimal approach to keep track of the latest updates.

Employers are encouraged to monitor current updates on following Spanish language sites:

2. State Aid

Government subsidies and special relief resources allocated to support employers, and workers, in their efforts to maintain employment and pull through the crisis.

Unemployment insurance benefits are available in exceptional circumstances (e.g. suspension of labour agreements). For more information, please visit: https://www.cariola.cl/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19.-UNEMPLOYMENT-INSURANCE-TEMPORARY-RULES.pdf

3. Health and Safety Measures

Requirements mandated by law or any official guidance.

The Government has established several quarantine periods in many places throughout the country, as well as extensive testing controls.

Measures typically implemented by employers and the associated legal risks, limitations, obligations and issues to consider.

All existing measures (as of June 2020) as provided in the various guidelines issued by Chilean health authorities, are detailed in section I. Emergency Measures above.

4. Teleworking

Policies and procedures for telework once the business reopens.

As from April 2020, a new law is in force to regulate remote work. Employees are entitled to disconnect and rest at least 12 hours, and employers must provide the work tools and assume connection costs. This will certainly be an option when reopening.

5. Managing COVID-19-Related Employee Issues

Management of quarantine, childcare and medical leave for employees affected by COVID-19.

Medical leaves are permitted to cover sickness periods, including childcare in some cases. When an employee is under a medical leave certificate, the salary is covered by the social security system (capped amounts/rates apply).

Employees who fear infection and refuse to work.

An employee cannot refuse to work, except if granted with a medical leave certificate. However, if an employee reasonably considers that the employer has not taken the necessary health protection measures, and believes to be at serious risk, the law allows for the employee to leave the workplace. Employers can challenge this action before in court or before the Department of Labour.

Disclosure of employees who are infected.

The employer must report to the health authority (or by means of the administrator of the labour accidents insurance) any accident or professional disease that occurred at the workplace; including COVID-19 infections.

6. Cost-Reduction Strategies

To what extent can employers implement the following cost-reduction strategies as a result of COVID-19, and what are the primary limitations on each? 

  • Furloughs.

By agreement with employees.

  • Salary reductions.

By agreement with employees.

  • Redundancy.

Permitted except as it regards employees covered by the special unemployment insurance status, when the labour contract is suspended.

  • Facility closure.

Permitted. It is important to point out that when the closure has not been imposed by the authorities, the employer shall continue paying salaries.

7. Best Practices

Tips, recommendations and common pitfalls.

  • provide opportunities for working remotely, if possible;
  • avoid in-person meetings;
  • taking vacation in advance (by agreement or imposed by the employer and applicable to all employees);
  • training on health prevention measures;
  • travel restrictions, except in case of a business emergency;
  • flexible working shifts to ensure social distancing;
  • prohibition on the use of collective lunch areas or break rooms;
  • mandatory use of masks and gloves and handwashing policies.
Any questions

Ask our member firm Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos in Chile