Mexico’s Secretary of Health Issues Work Guidance for the COVID-19 Outbreak
On March 24, 2020, Mexico’s Health Secretary published in Mexico’s Official Gazette of the Federation an announcement intended to establish and implement preventive measures to control and mitigate health risks brought on by COVID-19 outbreak (the “Order”).
The order was widely considered by Mexican industry associations as broad, ambiguous and leading to confusion.
To be clear, and absent a more specific local or municipal regulations, the Order should not be interpreted to forbid the continuance of business operations in Mexico, provided that, they are not massive events and crowd gatherings. The main purpose of the Order was to protect certain groups of individuals. The Order describes certain classes of people who should avoid work when it’s performed in crowded places. Those classes of people include:
- Adults 65-year and older,
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women,
- Immune compromised persons,
- Persons with chronic diseases (arterial & pulmonary hypertension, kidney failure, lupus, cancer, diabetes, obesity, liver or metabolic failure, heart disease).
Under the Order, individuals under those classes that are not able to continue work shall continue to be paid and receive benefits until the term of the Order (April 17, 2020). Their employment relationships shall continue to be governed by their individual work contracts, collective barging agreements, and/or appropriate General Work Conditions that regularly apply to them.
The Order also mentions that business that may be deemed “necessary to face the contingency” will continue to work. Those expressly include hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, laboratories, medical, financial, telecommunications services, information outlets, hotels, restaurant services, gas stations, markets, supermarkets, miscellaneous stores, transport services, and gas distribution services, as long as they do not meet in crowed closed spaces. While there’s no express mention that an auto supplier is necessary to face the contingency, that does not mean they could not be construed as such. The analysis for making a determination of whether the business is deemed necessary to face the contingency should be fact-specific.
In addition, certain local governments and municipalities have already issued various restrictions and limitations on economic activities in specific business sectors. Subject to a case-by-case review, such restrictions could already be considered as a work-stop order for certain local/municipal business. Local and municipal restrictions do not apply generally in all cases in Mexico. It would be prudent to review if any local or municipal restrictions apply to individual plants in Mexico.
It’s worthwhile mentioning that Mexico has not yet declared a national state of emergency imposing additional restrictions and measures. If such a declaration is given, it may trigger Article 42 of Mexico’s Federal Labor Law stating that employers will suspend employees’ salaries (At the moment, this is not applicable).
Until then, it’s recommended to allow “vulnerable” individuals to avoid participating in crowded workplaces. In the meantime, business in Mexico should adopt the recommended measures to prevent the spread of the virus published by Secretary of Health on March 20, 2020. Some of them include:
- Promote distancing and arrange workstations with spacing of 5 to 6.5 feet.
- Screen employees before entering the workplace and send home those who show symptoms to get tested or receive medical attention.
- Identify employees who are more vulnerable (preexisting conditions, overweight, over 60years old and pregnant women).
- Identify positions that could work from home.
- Use technology to reduce the number of attendees to meetings.
- Stagger work shifts.
- Temporarily suspend non-essential activities at the company.
For assistance in properly following Mexico’s work guidance, or if you have any specific questions you would like us to address, please contact Raul Rangel, Co-Chair of the Butzel Long Mexico Team and licensed in both the U.S. and Mexico. We are here to assist you.
Raul Rangel Miguel