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Supply Chain Innovation

Country-Specific Updates on Provisions for Workers in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

Thursday, June 18, 2020

The World Health Organization declared the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), first reported in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. The impact of the pandemic is unprecedented in modern history. Nations, businesses, and communities face public health, medical, economic, and political considerations as they end the spread of the virus. One essential consideration is the protection of factory and farm workers.

The Fair Labor Association Workplace Code of Conduct includes provisions on employment contracts, sick leave, protections for vulnerable workers, and factory closure and retrenchment designed to ensure that workers are treated fairly. The FLA is monitoring government announcements related to workers' rights during the global coronavirus pandemic, and will provide guidance as needed. Affiliated companies are expected to evaluate local laws against FLA standards and maintain the higher standard.

Updates are organized by region:

  • The Americas: Brazil, Canada, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, United States
  • Europe, Middle East & Africa: Egypt, Ethiopia, Italy, Jordan, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, Turkey
  • East Asia: China, Japan, South Korea
  • South Asia: Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
  • Southeast Asia: Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam

The Americas

Brazil

Brazil declared a “public calamity” (Decree 88/2020) through December 2020 on March 20. Most regional governments have implemented mitigation measures, including school closures and restrictions on public gatherings and non-essential services.

Provisional Measure 927/2020 allows employers to require telework of their employees without an amendment to the employment contract; require employees to use their vacation time if they cannot work due to the pandemic; implement layoff measures up to four months; and suspend payments to the Employees’ Severance Guarantee Fund for March, April and May 2020.

Provisional Measure 936/2020 creates an emergency employment and income maintenance program, which allows for a national salary subsidiary through the payment of an emergency income benefit; reduces working hours and salaries as much as 70 percent up to 90 days while allowing workers to file for unemployment; and suspends labor contracts temporarily without salary benefits. 

Canada

The federal government is providing an Emergency Response Benefit payment every four weeks for up to 16 weeks for eligible workers impacted by COVID-19. Thje government has provided $3 billion in support to increase wages of low-income essential workers with individual provinces responsible for determing which workers will receive the benefit and how much.  On March 18, Canada’s prime minister announced the Emergency Care Benefit, as part of economic measures to help citizens throughout the pandemic. This benefit is for those that do not receive paid sick leave or have access to employment insurance and will provide up to $900 bi-weekly for up to 15 weeks. The measures did not include a national paid sick leave policy, but the Canadian Labor Code has been amended to provide employees with up to 16 weeks leave related to COVID-19. There are also reports of employers adopting revised sick leave policies to reduce the spread of the virus. 

Some provinces have announced plans to reopen from emergency restrictions on public gatherings and businesses with variations from province to province.

Dominican Republic

The country's state of emergency will be in effect through June 12, extending the original March 19 declaration, which included the suspension of all economic activities with exceptions for manufacturing factories that provide preventive and protection measures and adjustments to working schedules.

The Employee Solidarity Assistance Fund program is part of the government’s economic relief package, which will contribute over 90 days an amount equal to 70 percent of a worker’s contracted salary per month (never less than RD$5,000 and up to RD$ 8,500) to every worker affected by the temporary suspension of their employment contract under the provisions of the labor code. The fund is applicable once an employer obtains suspension authorization from the Ministry of Labor. For manufacturing facilities that have authorization to keep operating, workers will be fully compensated; the government will contribute a bonus of RD$5,000 with the remaining salary paid by the employer.

The government encouraged employers to take measures to isolate vulnerable workers (60 years and older, pregnant women, workers diagnosed with a chronic illness like diabetes, coronary heart diseases, among others) and recommended that workers should be compensated by the employer, even through an annual leave payment. Workers’ entitlement to medical leave for non-work related illnesses consists of a subsidy of 60 percent of their insured earnings in the last six months or 40 percent if the worker is hospitalized, starting from the fourth day the sick leave was issued and up to 26 weeks (Law 87-01 Dominica Republic Social Security regimen, article 131).

El Salvador

The government announced the economy will begin a phased reopening on June 16 with the manufacturing and textile sectors reuming operatons. The president announced on May 5 that the country’s quarantine restrictions would be tightened, including restrictions on purchasing food and medicine. The announcement extended nation's state of emergency adding to previous declarations on April 12 and in March. The garment sector will remain shut, with the exception of those factories that have shifted production to PPE equipment. According to the government regulations, employers must keep paying workers’ wages. However, private sector associations are advocating for changes to make it the responsibility to the Social Security Institute.

A new employment protection law will provide financial relief to workers. The law is applicable to for small and medium sized businesses (up to 100 workers), but many maquila workers will be excluded because most garment factories have more than 100 workers.

On March 22, El Salvador’s president announced a 30-day quarantine, with the exception of some sectors, including the maquila sector. Under the new regulations, the maquila sector can restart operations with only 20 percent of each factory workforce and must adhere to social distancing and protection measures. On March 14 the congress approved a series of emergency measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus into the country, and now prohibits employers from dismissing or reducing the salary of workers in quarantine or those under migration or sanitation restrictions. The labor guarantee extend up to three months. Medical leave due to the coronavirus will be considered as temporary sick leave for a non-work related illness and the Social Security Institute will provide the medical leave payment. Workers 60 years and older, pregnant workers, and workers with chronic illness are to stay at home and are entitled to the full leave payment by their employer.

The Ministry of Labor has developed a digital platform to accept labor violation complaints. The platform includes information on measures to address the spread of the virus and provides guidance to help businesses to apply for economic assistance.

Guatemala

The nationwide lockdown was extended through July 5, with the borders closed and curfews continuing seven days a week. Previous announcements were made on May 4, April 25April 12, March 17, and March 14. The Ministry of Labor and Social Security reported that it has received 8,624 complaints, many related to layoffs, non-payment of benefits, and overcrowding since the start of the pandemic.

The Ministry of Labor updated its protocol regarding the suspension of workers' employment contracts during the nationwide lockdown, and approved health and safety regulations for public and private sector employers. There has been a report of a large number of workers in a textile plant testing postive for COVID-19

Regulations have been published to implement the employment protection fund. The government will invest 2,000,000,00 quetzals to provide workers in the private sector with suspended employment contracts compensation of 75.00 quetzals daily. Based on the presidential mandate, maquila and manufacturing factories can decide to remain open if they are granted authorization from the Ministry of Economy and comply with preventive and protective measures in the workplace and provide transportation for workers. The factories may decide to temporarily suspend operations (for two weeks or less) if they seek authorization from the Ministry of Economy.

The Ministry of Labor has approved an electronic procedure for registration, control, and authorization of total suspension of employment contracts without payment to workers. CSOs have expressed their disagreement with this measure.

Haiti

The prime minister announced that Haiti would reopen its textile factories starting on April 20. The government had declared a state of emergency on March 20 with schools, universities, vocational centers, and factories closed and gatherings of more than ten people banned. Labor advocates have questioned whether the workers at re-opened textile factories are being adequately protected. 

Honduras

The country is gradually opening its garment factories beginning May 18. Previously, the nationwide lockdown was extended to April 26. Earlier, the government announced economic relief measures, including a temporary solidarity contribution (funded in the case of the garment sector by contributions from the government and the private sector) and social security benefits for those affected by employment contract suspension, for workers subject to suspension of their employment contracts. The Ministry of Labor published a list of companies that have joined the economic relief plan for workers affected by suspension of their employment contracts.

On March 26 the secretary of Labor and Social Security issued executive decree PCM-021-2020 to confirm that the holidays granted by article 339 of the labor code are valid during the national health emergency but will not be calculated or compensated with the special rate established in article 340. Based on article 348, employers may grant annual leave for the days that workers do not report during the state of emergency. Employers are exempt from the 10-day advance notice requirement for annual leave. Implementation of such actions must include a written agreement between workers and employers that is emailed to the secretary of Labor and Social Security to be validated by the labor authority in compliance with article 379. 

On March 11, the Honduran Maquila Association held a forum to educate workers on how to detect the virus and prevent its spread in the workplace. Workers will be entitled to 14 days of medical leave pay at 75 percent of their contracted salary at the start of medical leave.

Mexico

The president announced a plan to gradually reopen the country's economy beginning June 1. The reopening plan includes safety protocols and guidelines for each state. Non-essential activities are suspended until May 30, extending a national public health emergency with some states beginning operations.

The secretary of Labor issued a document to address common/frequent labor questions regarding the implementation of the National Health of Emergency Decree. Mexican Labor Authorities have called on employers to implement good social responsibility practices and protect workers’ labor rights during the national health emergency. Advocacy groups have expressed concern about COIVD-19 spreading among workers due to a lack of health and safety measures in factories.

Workers can file complaints in case of violations to their labor rights by contacting Procuraduría de la Defensa del Trabajo.

Early measures impacted manufacturing and footwear factories. Employers are obligated to pay employees’ salary for one month (from March 30 to April) calculated based on workers´ contracted monthly salary (not minimum wage) and in the case of pregnant or breastfeeding female workers, they will not suffer prejudice in their salary, benefits and rights. Older workers, pregnant workers and workers with health problems should stay at home and their employer must pay workers’ wages. It is illegal to dismiss any worker case a worker diagnosed with COVID-19.

Nicaragua

A tri-partite labor agreement designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus at the workplace and address the consequences of the reduction of production orders was signed on March 24. Under the agreement, employers are authorized to take actions including: grant personal permits with a percentage of workers' salary; grant advance annual leave; shorten working days (by reducing the number of hours or days); implement remote work or telework; implement temporary suspensions under article 38 of the labor code; and implement other practices that a company considers applicable with workers' agreement. The agreement entitles full compensation to workers age 60 or older, pregnant women, and workers with chronical illness who are temporarily suspended. The measures will be in force for 30 days.

Generally, sick leave for non-work-related illness may be granted to workers for up to 26 weeks and can be renewed for another 26 weeks (Nicaragua Labor Code, article 37); workers’ salaries are paid by the Social Security Institute. The first three days of sick leave are typically unpaid unless otherwise stated by the employer. Some FLA members sourcing or producing in Nicaragua have negotiated agreements with unions to suspend operations for 15-business days and provide workers fully compensation.

Peru

The nation has extended its quarantine through April 26, building on an announcement from March 26. The government has suspended certain constitutional rights such as freedom of movement and assembly and has ordered that all workers from the private and public sector (with certain exceptions) must work from home during the emergency. Workers diagnosed with the coronavirus will be temporarily suspended from work without affecting their salary. High-risk workers (immune-compromised and the elderly) must work from home and their labor rights must be respected.

Previously, the government announced short-term measures to help business and workers, including suspension of obligatory pension contributions for one month for low-income salaried workers (earning less than to 1,500 soles). The  government will pay 35 percent of wages for workers earning less than 1500 soles per month; workers are allowed to withdraw up to 2400 soles from their Compensación por Tiempo de Servicios.

United States

Many stay-at-home orders have expired with some state governors announcing plans to gradually reopen businesses. The National Governors Association posts state-focused updates here.

The Small Business Administration issued guidance for its Paycheck Protection Program on April 6. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration released Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19. An April 16 memo from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration allows for enforcement discretion related to good faith efforts for compliance with OSHA standards during pandemic.

The Department of Labor has published information on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, including details regarding paid leave rights and requirements. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guiadance for employers who operate office buildings, which includes recommendations on how to return employees to work safely. 

The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act of 2020, which modifies certain provisions of the CARES Act, was signed into law on June 5. On March 27, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) which provides $2 trillion to support business, health care and disease prevention, individuals and families. Many states have mandated the closure of businesses such as restaurants, non-essential retailers, gyms, and movie theaters. On March 18, the U.S. president signed a bill that provides paid sick leave to workers employed by the government or companies with 50 to 500 employees. Workers who are unable to work because of being quarantined and/or are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and seeking a medical diagnosis will be eligible for two weeks of paid sick leave at regular pay; or two weeks of paid sick leave at two-thirds of regular pay rate if they are caring for an individual who is subject to quarantine or have to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19. There are an additional 10 weeks of paid family leave at two-thirds the worker’s regular rate of pay for those unable to work due to a bona fide need for leave to care for a child whose school or child care provider is closed or unavailable for reasons related to COVID-19.

 

Europe, Middle East & Africa

Egypt

The government released a new set of precautionary measures adding to its three-phase plan to address an COVID-19, with strict measures applied until the number of new cases begins to decrease. Previously, a limited curfew was in effect; this curfew has a limited effect on night shifts in some factories. Otherwise, no lockdown has been declared Amnesty International reports that Egyptian business owners have pressured the government to keep private businesses open. Meanwhile, the government announced a stimulus package that will cover wages of workers in tourism and selected sectors. The government is offering a one-off monetary compensation (EGP 500) offered to informal workers registered in the database of the Ministry of Manpower.

Ethiopia

The federal attorney general has unveiled rules for the state of emergency, which prohibits companies from laying off or terminating employment. Better Work reports eight factories in Hawassa Industrial Park have suspended operations for as many as 22 days. Approximately 14,000 workers have been asked not to work but will receive full salaries, according to the factories.The government shut all land borders except for essential imports.

The Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions called for owners and managers of public and private sectors to be responsible and take necessary measures to protect workers from this epidemic.

Italy

The government-issued mandatory lockdown of businesses, which suspended all retail and wholesale commercial activities except for basic public services, has been extended to April 13. The government recommends that workers be granted holidays and leave permits to the maximum extent possible. Employers are encouraged to coordinate with work councils and trade unions on the use of holidays and leave time. If a worker is prevented from work due to sickness, medical quarantine or mandatory quarantine, they can use sick leave, paid by the Italian National Social Security Institute; the employer pays the first three days of sick leave.

Employers that temporarily suspend operations or temporarily close may apply for CIGO “Cassa Integrazione Guadagni Ordinaria” and receive support from the Italian National Social Security Institute for the partial to full payment of workers’ salaries for a maximum period of 13 continuous weeks.

A joint letter from unions and NGOs asks for immediate measures to safeguard the health and safety of irregular migrant workers and asylum seekers living in the country.

Jordan

The government will ease daytime movement restrictions, and the public sector will return to work on May 26. Earlier, the country lifted all restrictions on economic activity to allow businesses to resume with lower staff levels and strict social distancing and hygiene guidelines. The move ends earlier lockdowns declared on March 29 and March 17 and incuded a country-wide curfew

The government announced initial financial support such as suspending some provisions of social security payments. All employees will be covered with disability, death, unemployment, and maternity insurance. Employees affected by a change in payments by their employer will be able to contribute voluntarily during this period. urrently, there is no obligation for employers to pay workers during the lockdown and there is growing concern about the large international migrant worker population that may be living in factory dormitories.

Migrant workers have a new deadline to leave the country, as authorities said that they would give priority to the employment of citizens given current circumstances. There are approximately 800,000 migrant workers in Jordan, most from Egypt. They are concentrared in the agriculture, construction, and catering industries. The Alliance Against Violence & Harassment has demanded all migrant workers be granted legal residence.

Portugal

The nation's state of emergeny was extended 14 days on April 2, following a March 19 emergency declaration. There are restrictions of movement of people, meetings, and strikes for vital industries, such as healthcare, defense, security. A financial support package for households and companies effected from the pandemic was announced. Workers will now be able to take paid sick leave without the waiting period.  There is additional support in which workers can receive two-thirds of their gross monthly compensation, up to six months, with the limit of three monthly payments of 1,905 EUR.

South Africa

A phased easing of restrictions started May 1 and will continue in June to reopen the economy fully under strict health protocols and social distancing rules.

The Southern African Clothing and Textile Workers’ Union, the Apparel and Textile Association of SA, and the SA Apparel Association agreed 80,000 clothing workers would be guaranteed full pay for a six-week lockdown period. Human Rights Watch called for the government response to respect citizens’ rights and dignity, and ensure the provision of essential goods and services without discrimination.

Spain

The government lockdown, announced on March 13, has been extended to April 12. Mass layoffs are taking place while the government has declared some financial measures to help companies, such as suspension of mortgage payments, financial help for the elderly and vulnerable, and safeguards against hostile takeovers. Local laws in Spain allows employers to suspend employment contracts during force majeure cases, such as official health alerts, which would allow employers to not be legally required to provide workers with their legally owed compensation. If companies do not follow legal procedures and suspend work, then the absence of the workers should be treated as paid leave. Any leave time that employees due to the pandemic will be considered as occupational illness. The subsidy, paid by the Spanish Social Security, amounts to 75 percent of the employee’s monthly base contribution, unless the CBA provides that the company must pay additional sums to complete the employee's full salary. The base contribution is the employee’s total monthly remuneration subject to the annually fixed maximum and minimum limits. Currently, the maximum limit for full-time employees is 4,070.10 EUR per month and the minimum ranges from 1,050.00 EUR to 1,466.40 EUR depending on the employee’s professional category. Business closure and mass layoffs are possible under strict provisions defined by government and approval from local authorities is required.

Turkey

New legislation prohibiting the termination of employment contracts took effect on April 17. The legislation gives employers an option to provide unpaid leave where workers will receive 39.24 TRY/day payment from unemployment insurance (55% of existing LMW excluding income tax refund). The process for approval of short work allowance has been simplified and employers may apply for retroactive benefits. The govermnent will extend job protection programs and prohibitions on layoffs/terminations until October. A new stimulus package is expected to increase employment and provide financial relief for businesses. 

 

Turkey's clothing and textile production shrank 20 percent during the pandemic. 

Measures announced on April 3 include a partial curfew for citizens under age 20 and a 15-day ban on vehicles entering or leaving 31 provinces. The government has issued a controlled lockdown such as closing schools, cafes, restaurants, and limiting public gathering, including mosques, shopping malls. The lockdown includes a curfew for elderly and chronically ill citizens. Employers are urged to follow telework (work from home) alternatives, as much as possible. Working youth, including seasonal agricultural labor, will be exempt from the confinement order. Employers are obliged to provide safe working conditions in light of existing health and safety regulations. Additional precautions are to be followed by employers, shared by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Family, Labor and Social Services.

Paid sick leave is available for all workers and covered by the Social Security Administration; paid annual leave is available for workers and covered by the employers. Workers have a right to refuse to work under unsafe conditions through applying workplace health and safety committee and/or local authorities, especially if there are confirmed COVID-19 cases in the workplace; employers must continue to pay salaries until the danger is eradicated. More than 8 million people were unemployed in February with young women accounting for the highest number.

The Turkish government announced several different measures for supporting workplaces suffering from negative effects of the COVID-19 outbreak, such as suspending payments of social security premiums and taxes. The government announced simplification of the short work allowance procedure, where salaries of the workers covered by unemployment insurance and extending the duration for compensatory work to four months.

A civil society organization has asked governments to take steps to protect informal workers.

East Asia

China

Unemployment may hit 70 million due to factory closures. The National People's Congress opening has been pushed to May 22 delaying major government economic stimulus as lost wages and layoffs anger Chinese workers and fuel workplace disputes.

The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security has launched a 100-day free online vocational training program to promote employment and alleviate poverty. China has set up unemployment social assistance for up to six months for the unemployed not eligible for unemployment social insurance benefits and increased social assistance to families in difficulties. Small and medium-size enterprises with a low layoff rate are eligible for a refund up to 100 percent of previous year’s unemployment contributions. In Hubei province, all enterprises are covered.

The FLA published recommendations on protecting workers' rights in China during the coronavirus outrbreak in February 2020.

Japan

Some curbs on activity may be eased allowing parks and museums to reopen, but the government is preparing to extend its state of emergency for another month beyond May 6. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has published support measures for companies impacted by COVID-19. The Business and Human Rights Lawyers Network published guidelines for mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on workers, particularly migrants and those in the informal sector.

South Korea

The Korea Federation of Textile Industries has demanded that Kohl’s reconsider its commitments to manufacturers following the retailer’s decision to cancel orders across the board. Fabric mills have incurred dramatic financial losses in the face of canceled orders or payment term extensions. Trade unions, NGOs, and the public were instrumental in pushing the government to protect vulnerable citizens, respect human rights, and address the deep-rooted inequalities highlighted by social-distancing measures.

Migrant workers face unpaid leave as manufacturers shut down. Some migrant workers report they have not received shutdown benefits despite their employment insurance enrollment. 

 

South Asia

Bangladesh

The Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh announced financial support, including earmarks for the national government to provide cash assistance to workers in export industries. Nearly 900 facilities have restarted operations since April 26, despite the extension of a nationwide lockdown until May 16. Factories are instructed to follow safety regulations set by the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Export Association. Health Minister Zahid Maleque said readymade garment factories will operate with strict health rules. BGMEA has audit teams conducting surprise factory visits focused on factories’ health and safety monitoring system.

The government asked garment factory owners to pay workers 50 percent of their basic salary as an Eid bonus before the festival and another 50 percent after based on a decision from a tripartite meeting, but employers in the Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority are unlikely to make the payments. The State Labour Minister announced that those who could not work during April will get 60 percent wages; those who worked the full month will receive full wages; and workers who resumed work after 26 April will get 60 percent wage of 25 days and full wage for the remaining five days. The government announced a $588 million stimulus package to pay wages, charging two percent interest on loans to factory owners. Banks are disbursing wages to workers based on the government's stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore. The employer will have to pay back the loan within two years.Agovernment official said that factory owners who do not pay their staff during the coronavirus lockdown risk being sued. The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments has launched an investigation to ensure factories are following procedure and paying workers based on a Tk 5,000 crore package for export-oriented factories to cover salaries for three months. Thousands of garment workers are protesting non-payment of wages, including protests over closed factories, unpaid wages, and inadequate safety measures in Savar, Narayanganj, and Chittagong. The Bangladesh Bank extended the deadline for opening mobile financial service accounts for the employees of export-oriented factories. The accounts are for receipt of government support and wages during the crisis. State Minister for Labour and Employment Munnujan Sufian had directed all industry owners to pay the March salaries to their workers before April 16 even as hundreds of readymade garment factory workers in Savar, Narayanganj, and Gazipur took to the streets demanding wages that have been withheld. Protests were also reported in Dhaka.

Nearly 36 million people lost their jobs over a two-month period due to the coronavirus. Garment workers face ruin as global brands ditch clothing contracts amid coronavirus pandemic, according to media reports.

Human rights organizations urged the government to create a specific fund for migrants and their families in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

NGOs have raised concerns on the drop of purchase orders, delayed payments from buyers, and raw material delays. The president of the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association has raised concerns to global buyers on the cancellation of purchase orders and the harm it will cause to workers and engaged international rights groups to support payment of local suppliers. The Bangladesh government has written to the European Union urging intervention with buyers who have cancelled garment orders.

The Department of Inspection for Factories and Establishments is expected to announce guidelines for reopening garment factories soon even as officials note that 500+ BGMEA factories have resumed operations on a limited scale. Garment factory owners closed their factories through April 25, in line with the government's decision to extend closures. The lack of clear guidance to factories about operations severely impacted workers, who traveled back and forth from their homes as guidance changed. On March 24 the government imposed travel restrictions; however, has yet to issue mandates for quarantines, lockdowns, or business shut downs. The World Health Organization strongly recommended Bangladesh follow stricter measures and implement lockdowns to slow down the spread of virus. Workers are entitled to receive 14 days of paid sick leave and 10 days of casual leave; mass layoffs are subject to approval of local authorities. Employers may lay off workers for work stoppages exceeding three days and must pay severance for workers who have at least one year of service with the employer.

The International Monetary Fund approved a USD 732 million emergency pandemic loan on May 29.

India

The government extended the nationwide lockdown through May 31 with guidelines for regional exemptions including interstate movement of passenger vehicles and buses. The government may pay salaries for three months and provide load guarantees to small and media businesses. Apparel exporters will produce personal protective equipment in the short-term and aim to make India a hub for sourcing PPE kits over the next few years.

The Labor Department stopped issuing notices to employers even with more than 700 unpaid wages complaints from workers. The government released an order to provide clarification on earlier lockdown orders and exemptions. Exemptions for textile or garment factories include locations outside of rural areas, in areas with access control such as Special Economic Zones and Export Oriented Units, and Industrial Estates and Industrial Townships if arrangements are made for workers to stay on or near the facility. The government announced some industries will be exempted from extended lockdown and provided guidance.

Trade unions called for a nationwide strike on May 22 to protest the suspension of labor laws and opted to take the matter to the ILO. Trade unions organized a protest in Bangalore against the proposed decision to exempt implementation of labor laws in Karnataka. Gujarat and Punjab have become the latest states to increase working hours for factories, even as Andhra Pradesh issued a directive to employers to maintain contract workers during the lockdown. Factory workers can be asked to work 12-hour shifts legally; four states are allowing a 72-hour work-week due to the pandemic.

Road accidents are a growing concern as workers have been killed while returning to home villages during the shutdown.

The nation's social security system guarantees 70 percent of salary be paid during sick leave. The Ministry of Home Affairs repealed a March 29 order that mandated payment of wages during lockdown.

The All India Central Council of Trade Unions submitted a memorandum calling for the Karnataka government to stregnthen labor laws. The Uttar Pradesh government withdrew its controversial order of 12-hour shifts for workers in industrial units after a notice from the Allahabad High Court, but an ordinance to exempt establishments from labor laws remains largely in place. Workers in Tirupur's textile industry have urged that the Employees' State Insurance Corporation to pay their wages. The Garments Exporters and Manufacturers Association appealed to the government to pay wages for April and May to garment workers. The Union Minister of Textile released a video raising concerns about the cancellations of purchase orders by global buyers and the harm it will cause to workers. The Synthetic and Rayon Textiles Export Promotion Council urged the government to compensate companies for the expenses incurred during the 21-day lockdown including wages and costs related to the cancellation and deferment of export orders. The Clothing Manufacturers Association of India warns that 10 million jobs might be cut in the country's textile industry without government support.

An online portal run by the Odisha government allows migrant workers stranded in different states to register to facilitate their return after the lockdown. A targeted public distribution scheme allows the poorest residents to purchase 5 kg of subsidized grains per month but migrant workers are not eligible.

Pakistan

The government is considering a new country-wide lockdown if needed after reopening some factoriesExperts are demanding the government develop a monitoring mechanism for proper workplace protections in factories and other work sites. Estimates suggest 18 million people could lose their jobs due to the pandemic lockdown. 

Prime Minister Imran Khan unveiled a financial relief package worth Rs1.2 trillion, which includes Rs200 billion designated for workers who lose their jobs or are seeing a reduction in employment opportunities; Rs100bn tax refunds to export industry to provide liquidity so that work isn't completely halted; Rs3,000 a month for four months for 12 million families; and the sale of five basic food items at lower prices.

The State Bank of Pakistan has introduced a temporary financing scheme to incentivize businesses to keep employees. On April 1, the finance ministry announced guidelines for disbursement of the Tk 5,000 crore stimulus package for the export-oriented sectors.

Labor leaders said the non-payment of wages and the forced dismissals of thousands of workers are a violation of government proclamations, threatening that protests may spread if injustice to workers is not stopped. Trade union leaders say more than a million garment and textile workers are set to lose their jobs and most will get no financial support. Home-based work has stopped, and workers face expenses for rent, food, and school fees. 

As of March 23, the national government had not declared measures, such as quarantine or lockdown. However, the Sindh provincial government declared a province-level lockdown for 15 days. The Sindh government ordered that workers shall not be laid off and their salaries should be paid in full during the lockdown period. Workers are entitled to receive 16 days of sick or medical leave with 50 percent of pay, and 10 days of casual leave with full pay. The Sindh High Court has mandated that clear instructions be crafted by May 4 for the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Ordinance.

Worker organizations have urged the government to provide universal social security to all citizens and amend the constitution to make social security a fundamental right. Appeals by the textile industry to the Sindh High Court seek relief from government orders on employee layoffs and paying workers in full.

Sri Lanka

The government extended its lockdown for a second time, through mid-May. Private sector businesses will pay employees on a prorated basis based on an agreement with the government, which means employers do not have to pay the full salary of an employee who has not been required to report to work or work from home. Generally, employers will apportion and pay wages for days worked based on basic salary; wages for days not worked are apportioned at the higher rate of either 50 percent of the basic wage or Rs 14,500/-. The Ceylon Federation of Labor has expressedf concern over the tripartite agreement to pro-rate wages.

The apparel sector will lose USD 2 billion for the three-month period beginning in March due to supply chain disruptions, and the apparel industry is likely to lay off at least 30 percent of its workers even with new orders to manufacture face masks and surgical gowns. The late delivery of raw materials from China may lead factories to take measures like requiring workers to take unpaid leave or reduce weekly working hours. Workers are entitled paid sick leave, but mass layoffs are subject to approval of local authorities.

The Ceylon Federation of Labour spoke against the government’s decision to re-open the country for normal activity. 

 

Southeast Asia

Cambodia

The Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training said the government is processing financial assistance, allocating more than $60 million to compensate and train suspended workers. The Ministry of Labor and Vocational Training issued Instruction No. 045/20, dated April 17, on suspension of employment contracts and contribution payments for the National Social Security Fund for enterprises in the garment and tourism sectors. The Ministry rolled out a soft-skills training for suspended workers; the workshops are required to receive full government allowances. The government will waive elecricity payments from June to October for some businesses because of the pandemic. The government announced a strategic plan for economic recovery from COVID-19. 

A joint letter to Prime Minister Hun Sen from unions asked the government to ensure that furloughed employees receive 60 percent of wages and suggested a minimum wage increase for garment workers. Factory owners are being urged to suspend operations rather than close so workers receive part of their wages. Laid off garment workers are receiving government-supported pay-outs of USD 70 a month instead of the USD 114, originally promised.

Better Factories Cambodia launched a hotline to provide information abot preventing the spread of COVID-19 to workers in the garment, footwear, travel goods, and bag sectors. 

The government has approved a request that factories be allowed to produce face masks, medical equipment, and protective clothing for domestic consumption and export. Garment Manufacturers Association of Cambodia commented on garment, footwear, and travel good exports and asked for consideration from landlords for garment and travel goods factories. Earlier, the association said 60 percent of its factories have been affected by cancelled orders affecting about half a million workers and their families and that an increasing number of factories have suspended operations. The Ministry of Commerce appealed to buyers to honor all pending purchase agreements. Cambodia's garment factories remain open despite growing fears among workers. A garment industry group said that factory owners would not be able to pay 40 percent of suspended workers’ wages as recommended by the government. An April 6 letter from the Cambodia Manufacturers Association reiterated an appeal to buyers to work with them during the pandemic. As many as 130 factories have requested suspension impacting up to 100,000 workers. 

Under Cambodian law, employers must seek government authorization before suspending workers and pay 40 percent of the $190 monthly minimum wage for up to six months. Cambodian workers can receive paid sick leave if a doctor’s note is provided and be compensated 100 percent of wages during the first month of sick leave; 60 percent of wages during the second and third months of sick leave; and unpaid leave from month four to six from the original notice.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said on April 7 that declaring a state of emergency will be unlikely as COVID-19 is under control. The government said that more than 90 percent of garment factory workers reported for work on the first day of Khmer New Year. Approximately 30,000 garment workers are in 14-day isolation following travel home for the holiday. The Ministry of Interior said that migrant workers who have returned to Cambodia should not go back to the countries where they used to work. Approximately 14,000 migrant workers under quarantine in Battambang province were cleared of coronavirus; another 1,000 are self-quarantined.

On February 25, Cambodia issued regulations to support businesses impacted by the outbreak and from the partial withdrawal of the ‘Everything but Arms’ status by the EU. The regulations provide tax breaks and holidays for key industries and reduces corporate income tax by 30 percent over a six-month period for businesses in 19 manufacturing industries, including the garment and footwear sectors.

Indonesia

The government announced a state of emergency on March 31. The National Agency of Drug and Food Control issued health and safety guidelines covering social distancing, ventilation, cleaning, mask wearing, and other personal hygenie practices. 

government is set to evaluate the implementation of large-scale social restrictions as many non-essential workplaces are ignoring current restrictions on activities, and the health minister issued protocols for the management of workplaces. The Industry Ministry has issued operational and mobility permits for companies that wish to operate during the government’s large-scale social restrictions. The pandemic has caused an economic decline that led to layoffs without severance. In Jakarta, more than 320,000 workers from 39,600 companies registered for unemployment.

The government will reduce the corporate income tax by 30 percent for businesses in 19 selected manufacturing industries for the next six months. Workers in the manufacturing industry will not have to pay income taxes for six months; these selected industries include textile, leather goods and leather industry for footwear. Workers are entitled to paid sick leave, 100 percent of their salary, for the first four months; after the first four months, the worker’s pay is reduced by 25 percent. Employers may terminate an employee who has been sick for 12 months.

On April 8, the Ministry of Industry announced an additional Rp 113.15 billion (US$7.01 million) stimulus for struggling industries. The Industry Ministry is discussing the possibility of providing businesses with soft loans to enable them to pay Idul Fitri holiday bonuses.

Many garment factories in Sukabumi Regency, Java have stopped production due to the shortage of raw materials, inability to ship finished goods, and cancellation of orders. The districts of Sukabumi, Subang, Sumedang in West Java and Pati and Jepara in Central Java have issued local orders closing factories or halting production due to health concerns. DKI Jakarta authorities are imposing stricter and compulsory large-scale restrictions. The Jakarta Manpower Office and the Ministry of Manpower issued circulars (Circular No. 14/SE/2020; Circular No. M/3/HK.04/III/2020) setting guidelines for employers on responding COVID-19.

The finance minister said that as many as 5.2 million workers could lose their jobs, and more than 3.7 million people could fall into poverty. The government will provide funding (of USD 324 million) to help 15 million low-income households buy staple foods.The government has introduced a new social benefits program that will cover 5.6 million participants, particularly those who have yet to receive any social assistance.

Malaysia 

The nation's conditional stay-at-home order is extended to June 9, and the government is urging workers who traveled to their hometowns during the recent holiday to return to work as normal. About 6.6 million people have returned to work since many economic sectors and businesses were allowed to reopen, subject to strict conditions.The government announced loan rescheduling, restructuring, or moratoriums and 100 percent stamp duty exemption from March until December 31. To support labor, 20 million ringgit (USD 4.5 million) will be allocated for short-term funding for employees in the manufacturing sector.

Through a restriction of movement order issued in February workers are entitled to their salaries and related allowances; employers cannot force workers to use annual leave or go on unpaid leave from April to December. Employee contributions for the Employee Provide Fund have been reduced to four percent, from seven to 11 percent, of the monthly salary from April to December

Workers are entitled to fully compensated paid sick leave; the number of days provided depends on seniority. If an employee has worked less than two years, they receive 14 days per year; more than five years, they receive 22 days per year. The Social Security Organization designated COVID-19 as an occupational disease under the country’s Employment Social Security Act 196. There has not been a response from the government to support migrant workers living in dormitories. Nearly 400 Myanmar nationals were deported after being detained.

The Ministry of Human Resources issued a Frequently Asked Questions document related to the government’s Movement Control Order, which regulates the movement and gathering of people; designates essential services; prescribes payment during the pandemic; and details conditions of retrenchment and employment termination.

Myanmar

The government announced its COVID-19 Economic Relief Plan on April 28. The government will provide funds -- K 75,000 per month for April, May, and June -- to laid off workers. The government distributed rice, cooking oil, salt, beans, and onions to nearly four million households in April, and is considering cash assistance. The Export-Import Bank of Korea will provide the nation with a USD 30 million emergency equipment loan. The government ordered factories to remain closed until April 30 after halting operations from April 12-19 for the Thingyan New Year holiday. Only factories with appropriate health and safety measures in place will be allowed to re-open; facilities will undergo health inspections starting April 20. Government instructions for factories and workplaces have disrupted production.

Nearly 4,000 factories will be opened in the Yangon region, and another 2,000 factories will be inspected by May 15, according to the government. Forty-seven factories in Yangon have either closed or reduced their workforce.

Global ACT garment and footwear brands, suppliers, and trade unions have established a joint dialogue on worker protection and effective implementation of freedom of association. The pandemic has stalled a decision on a new daily minimum wage. 

On April 27, the Ministry of Planning, Finance, and Industry issued a comprehensive economic stimulus plan. The government is moving forward with an economic stimulus package which includes the creation of a fund worth 100 billion kyat (USD 69 million) for low-interest loans. The European Union has created a €5 million (USD 5.5 million) emergency cash fund to assist garment workers as orders from Europe have decreased. government announced tax reduction and interest rate cuts, and soft loans and tax exemptions for garment manufacturers, hotels and tourism companies, and SMEs to lesson the economic impact on the country. According to the Ministry of Labor, the Social Security Board will allow small and medium manufacturing enterprises to delay SSB payments no later than three months.

Under Myanmar law, workers are entitled to 30 days of paid sick leave per contractual year after the completion of six months of continuous service; sick leave during the first six months of employment can be unpaid. If workers are in quarantine for 14 days, that will be considered sick leave.  The Ministry of Health and Sport issued Notification No. 19/2020 and the “MOHS Instructions” regarding COVID-19 prevention and control which is applicable to every employer.

Companies that cannot reach an agreement with workers on working conditions must shut down. The Garment Entrepreneurs Association reported 20 factories have closed, leaving more than 10,000 workers jobless. Nearly 20,000 migrants returned from Thailand in March after losing their jobs due to factory closures there. 

The UK has allocated about USD 36 million to support pandemic efforts, with half of the aid earmarked for remote communities. The World Bank fast-tracked loan financing for emergency support, including hospital upgrades.

Philippines

More than 20,000 textile, garment, and leather goods workers have been laid off due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

All commercial flights were suspended beginning May 3 because the country’s quarantine facilities are congested as thousands of Filipino workers return from overseas. On March 17, the department of Labor and Employment issued Department Order No. 209 to implement CAMP, a program to assist workers with financial support and employment facilitation. The CAMP program will provide financial assistance, equivalent to Php 5,000 (USD97.6), to affected workers in a lump sum, unconditional and regardless of employment status. A leave of absence during the quarantine period is to be charged against workers’ leave credits and the CAMP financial assistance may be used to cover remaining unpaid leave for workers. The program will provide affected workers access to available job opportunities suitable through job matching, referral, and placement services either for local or overseas employment, employment coaching, and labor market information. Workers are entitled to five days of paid service incentive leave, which can be used for vacation or sick leave. Labor groups are calling on employers to pay wage subsidies of P10,000 per month (approx. USD199) to some 200,000 workers affected by the closure of special economic zones.

Thailand

Thailand is gradually lifting restrictions. The country's job losses may reach 10 million and the economy may be heading into a recession, and the nation's migrant workers are at risk. The government extended a stay of Cambodian, Lao, and Myanmar workers to July 31 

The prime minister said the government may be able to pay only one month of the promised three-month cash relief package for temporary, contract, and self-employed workers who are not covered by the social security system. The government estimates it will spend 350 billion baht for cash relief payments to 25 million informal workers and farmers.

The government has issued guidance that identifies common scenarios, such as what to do if an employee is quarantined or needs sick leave due to COVID-19 and what happens when a business shuts down, and explains what employers can do under existing labor law. The prime minister rolled out a 400 billion Baht economic boost and cut bank interest rates to almost zero; the efforts are not specific to manufacturing. According to the Labor Protection Act, a virus infected employee who must undergo the aforementioned procedures will be entitled to at least 30 days of paid sick leave and then can use paid personal leave. A worker who has been employed for one full year shall have at least six paid leave days. Only after sick and paid leave has been used, can an employer enforce leave without pay.

The Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation said it might not be possible for thousands of workers to return to their jobs in Thailand.

Vietnam

Vietnam suspended social isolation guidelines as of April 22. Restrictions will continue in some high-risk areas and authorities are considering measures such as reductions of customs duty and customs audits.

The General Statistics Office said that nearly 5 million workers were furloughed or fired as of April 5. TheVietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry reported that 35,000 companies and small businesses stopped operations during the first quarter and more than 75 percent of companies say they will reduce their workforce. Reports say that manufacturing and processing industry and the catering service industry had the highest proportion of permanently unemployed and laid-off workers.

The government will delay the tax payment deadline for companies in agriculture, footwear, automotive, aviation, textiles, electronics, food processing, and tourism, among other sectors, for five months and delay land-use fees.

Companies can suspend two of the four types of social insurance employers contribute to, pension and survivor insurance. Employees who have paid into the Social Insurance Fund for less than 15 years are entitled to take a maximum of 30 days paid sick leave per year. This benefit increases to 60 days of paid sick leave after 30 years of insurance contributions.

The National Insurance Fund is responsible for the payment to workers that are quarantined due to the virus. A letter from the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (No.1064/LDTBXH-QHLDTL) provides guidance to companies to mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. The guidance is in line with Labor Code 2012, which minimizes retrenchment and protects workers’ legal rights and spells out the obligations of employers. On April 9, the government issued Resolution No. 42/NQ-CP to provide assistance for people affected by the pandemic, including cash support to workers whose employment contract was terminated without unemployment social security.

Originally posted March 25.