Health emergency due to coronavirus “circumvents” Labor Law

The coronavirus health emergency sparked controversy on its effect on the labor market; particularly in regard to the obligation of companies or employers to pay 100% of the workers’ usual salary.

This, because various articles of the Federal Labor Law (LFT) make it possible for employers to pay only a compensation of one minimum wage, when the authorities of the country stated that the full salary would be covered.

What the Government says

In a decree published in the Official Gazette of the Federation, the Executive Power declared a health emergency period due to force majeure from March 31 to April 30, 2020, in order to avoid the massive spread of Covid-19 in the country.

This implies the suspension of activities – economic, labor, public and social – that are not essential for the progress of the country, with the guarantee – assured the authority – that workers receive their full salary during the emergency.

Why is the law being circumvented?

Óscar de la Vega, founding partner at the De la Vega & Martínez Rojas Firm, explained that by declaring a “health emergency caused by force majeure events”, the government evades Articles 43 Bis, 427 – Section Seven – and 429 – Section Four – of the LFT; these articles establish a compensation of one minimum wage for a maximum of 30 days for workers who stop activities due to the health contingency.

“Alluding to force majeure is an illegal and improper act, to request companies to cover the full salary of their employees during the suspension of activities; this is an instance that applies exclusively to human incidents, such as a war, invasion or bombings”, he pointed out.

What does this controversy entail?

Germán de la Garza de Vecchi, a partner at the Mowat Firm, pointed out that the government’s health emergency promotes uncertainty and leaves the real obligation of the companies to pay the workers’ full salary open to interpretation.

He recalled that, in his morning conference, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador publicly confirmed that such a controversy is “a matter of interpretation”, that “it should not reach courts” and that “the solidarity of businessmen” should be sought to work it out.

Pregnant women, the elderly and coronavirus

The declaration of the health emergency established that pregnant women, people over 60 years of age and those suffering from a chronic illness, such as diabetes or hypertension, must remain at home given that they are part of the population at high risk of coronavirus contagion.

This means that, regardless of the activities, priority or non-priority, they must cease to work in order to avoid contagion by Covid-19 and receive 100% of their usual salary during the 30 days of the contingency that was declared by the Federal Government.

Notify your company

The Director of Institutional Relations of ManpowerGroup México, Héctor Márquez Pitol, explained that – if you are pregnant, are elderly or fall in the category of high-risk population, you must notify your company immediately, with the objective of complying with the provisions of the health emergency.

“Contact your area manager, the director of Head of Human Resources and explain your situation. They must implement the official measures and will surely pay your full salary, as requested by the government”, he said.

If I have questions

The head of the Department of Labor, Luisa María Alcalde, said that all “all labor -related questions on the decision by the health authority of suspending activities due to force majeure for 30 days due toCovid-19” will be addressed.

Note published in Publímetro, México Section by Mario Mendoza