The labour laws of the Dominican Republic are of public order and, therefore, are mandatory. An employer can extend benefits beyond the established provisions. However, it is prohibited to include terms that are less favorable to an employee, nor can an employee waive any right set by the law, for his protection.
Dominican Republic labour laws protect employees. Some basic principles provided by law will govern any employment relationship in the Dominican Republic. The most relevant principles are:
- prevalence of the facts: in determining the labour consequences, the pertinent facts surrounding an employment relationship will prevail over the official documents;
- prohibition of harmful changes: employers are prevented from introducing changes in employment conditions that are harmful to employees, regardless of whether the employee has previously consented to the change; and
- joint responsibility (a group of companies): companies that belong to a group of legal entities under the same control, direction or management are jointly responsible for the obligations of any company belonging to that group, concerning labour relations.
Article 62 of the Dominican Constitution regulates the right to work. It stipulates that work is a right, a duty and a social function exercised with the State’s protection and assistance. It is an important purpose of the State to promote decent and remunerated employment.
Law No. 16-92 (commonly called the “Labour Code”) and Decree No. 258-92 (Regulation for the Application of the Labour Code) are the primary sources of law regulating labour relations in the Dominican Republic.
Law 87-01 establishes the Dominican Social Security System to regulate and develop the reciprocal rights and duties of the State and citizens, regarding financing for the protection of the population against the risks of disability, unemployment by advanced age, survival, illness, maternity and occupational hazards.
Regulation No. 522-06 on Hygiene and Safety at work, establishes the norms and procedures applicable to all branches of labour activity carried out in the national territory.
Executive Power had to be used to regulate critical elements of the government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically, the Special Protocol for Safety at Work to combat COVID-19 and the elaboration of the Ministry of Labour Resolution regulating telework.
Protocols for COVID-19
On 17 May 2020, the Ministry of the Presidency issued the General and Sector Protocol for Labour Reintegration. This document provides general and sectoral protocols to be followed by all companies nationwide. It also serves as a framework to guide each sector with planning its re-opening.
The guide indicates that government authorities may modify the protocols according to the population’s primary health indicators as they evolve.
The High-Level Commission for the Prevention and Control of the Coronavirus will publicise all information related to changes that arise in the protocols. Employers should immediately comply with such measures.
The first steps are to routinely clean and disinfect (at least every two hours) all surfaces frequently touched in the workplace, such as workstations, keyboards, telephones, handrails and doorknobs.
It suggests increasing ventilation levels, avoiding low temperatures in offices and maintaining air conditioners (cleaning or changing the filter), by improving the percentage of outdoor air circulating in the system. Installing high-efficiency air purifiers in closed or air-conditioned spaces, disabling finger clocks, markers and fingerprint access systems in offices and processing lines will avoid cross-contamination.
The protocol recommends checking the temperature of each employee or client, using digital infrared thermometers, before they gain entrance to the company’s offices or premises. Employers should also ensure that the person(s) taking the temperature of individuals entering the facilities wear gloves, masks or respirators, and when finished, wash their hands and arms properly.
The employees who present symptoms associated with the coronavirus must notify their supervisors. Furthermore, they are required to stay at home, seek medical assistance immediately, and do not return to work until they meet the criteria to suspend isolation, following a negative PCR test result in consultation with healthcare providers.
Employees who are negative for COVID-19, but who have a sick family member at home must notify their supervisor, remain at home and, if possible, work remotely or perform other tasks with similar characteristics that the company requires. They must eventually send their employer evidence showing that the member of their nuclear family is no longer affected by the virus.
Employers must insist on the need for their employees not to stigmatise people who are ill or suspected of having COVID-19, since this virus can spread to anyone and without them knowing it. Consider using video conferencing or teleconferencing when possible for work-related meetings and encounters.
On 12 November 2020, the Ministry of Labour issued Resolution 23/2020 on work regulation as a particular modality of telework. This Resolution guarantees the minimum legal requirements for a telework contract. Following the Teleworking Resolution, the working hours must be previously agreed upon in writing and in compliance with the legal and conventional limits in force. The Resolution establishes that employees have the right to digital disconnection outside of working hours.
The transition from the face-to-face mode to the telework mode must be done with the employee’s voluntary acceptance in writing. If the parties have signed the employment contract under the modality of face-to-face work, any party may request, within a pre-established period, to return to the modality of face-to-face work, unless it is impossible to fulfill this obligation for legitimate and justified reasons.
The employer must provide the employee with the necessary equipment, including hardware and software, work tools and the support required to perform the tasks.
The control systems implemented to protect the employer’s assets and information must respect the employee’s intimacy and privacy. Video cameras cannot be used to monitor teleworkers’ labour.