Employers in El Salvador’s obligation to pay medical leave

Some employers in El Salvador do not consistently pay for the first three days of a worker’s sick leave, primarily because of a gap in El Salvador’s legal framework. Article 307 of the Salvadoran Labor Code states that when the employment contract is suspended due to an employee’s common illness or accident, the employer is obligated to pay the employee until the employee has recovered an amount equal to 75% of the basic contracted wage.

A provision in the Salvadoran Constitution establishes employers’ exemption from obligations to workers that are provided by secondary laws if those obligations are covered by the Salvadoran Social Security Institute (ISSS). However, the ISSS daily subsidy for a worker on temporary medical leave does not begin until the fourth day of leave. In consequence, who pays for an employee’s one-, two-, or three-day sick leave is an unresolved question in El Salvador. 

For almost a decade, FLA has deemed the first three days of medical leave a required subsidy by the employer and documented non-payment of this subsidy as a non-compliance with FLA’s Workplace Code of Conduct and Compliance Benchmarks either through factory assessment reports or Third Party Complaint investigations. Unions in El Salvador continue to demand compliance with this legal benefit from employers, brands, labor authorities and local and international stakeholders. 

A written general legal opinion (English and Spanish) from El Salvador’s Ministry of Labor dated June 26, 2018 states that, “the employer is required to pay the first three days of medical leave for all workers in their employment.”  FLA members sourcing from El Salvador and suppliers producing in El Salvador must enforce the implementation of the general legal opinion. This issue brief — originally issued in 2018 and updated in 2023 — outlines FLA’s recommendations toward the proper implementation of this practice at workplaces in El Salvador.