Tuesday, 21 July 2020 07:55

Legal update: Protocol on workplace response to coronavirus COVID-19 (Ethiopia)

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Legal update: Protocol on workplace response to coronavirus COVID-19 (Ethiopia)
01 April 2020
On 27 March 2020, Ethiopia adopted a tripartite protocol that outlines workplace response to coronavirus COVID-19. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (MoLSA), the Ethiopian Employers’ Confederation and Confederation of Ethiopian Trade Unions jointly issued the protocol which aims at prevention of coronavirus COVID-19 in the workplace and mitigating the socio economic impacts of the pandemic on workers, employers and the overall economy of the country.

The following is a brief summary of the protocol.
Preventive and protective measures
The protocol emphasises the importance of prevention as the most important tool in the fight against coronavirus COVID-19 and lists precautionary measures specific to the pandemic that have to be taken by employers, employees, and safety officers. The preventive measures to be taken by employers are, for the most part, incorporated in our Legal Guidance for Employers, which can be accessed our website and the DLA Piper Coronavirus Resource Centre. The protocol requires employers to take the following additional preventive and protective measures:
Providing employees with protective materials such as face masks and gloves and training them on how to use them;
Setting up a committee dedicated to the prevention of coronavirus COVID-19 in the workplace led by the manager of the business and made up of trade union and/or employee representatives;
Creating a work space that allows employees to practice social distancing while working;
Avoiding a congested environment inside employee transportation services and ensuring windows are open during travel;
Creating awareness around coronavirus COVID-19 and its prevention among employees using different channels in different languages;
Allocating longer meal breaks to avoid crowds in cafeterias and canteens;
Avoiding gatherings, meetings as well as work situations exposing employees to contracting the disease;
Avoiding meetings and encouraging communication via internet or telephone;
Preparing a space where employees displaying coronavirus COVID-19 symptoms can stay until they are transferred to health centers; and
Preparing regular reports on coronavirus COVID-19 in collaboration with labor unions and/or employee representatives.
Under the labor proclamation, employers have the overall responsibility of taking the necessary measures to adequately safeguard the health and safety of employees. It follows from this general obligation that employers must comply with the above listed specific precautionary measures.
Recommended measures to sustain employment and business continuity
So as to ease the impact of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic on employment, the protocol outlines recommended measures that may be adopted for the purpose of protecting workers as well as safeguarding business continuity. While emphasizing the key role of consultation between workers and employers in planning and implementing these measures, the protocol recommends the following measures to be considered step by step with due regard to the severity of the situation:
Employees to take paid annual leave and in the case of employees who do not have unused annual leave, employers to allow them to take at least half of next year’s leave;
Ongoing negotiations towards new collective agreements to be suspended for the next 12 months;
Unimplemented salary raise plans to be suspended for the next 12 months;
Benefits and allowances which used to be provided to employees (such as hardship allowance, transportation allowance, house allowance, commission, bonus and other benefits which are not considered as salary) not to be paid until the crisis finishes;
Based on consultations of employers’ and workers’ unions, revising existing salary scales in a bid to maintain business continuity;
For employees assigned to non-essential positions who temporarily lose their jobs, provision of loans and written assurance that they will be reinstated once the situation stabilizes;
Trade unions and employer associations to mobilize their members to discharge corporate social responsibility during these critical times.
While the above recommended measures might not be legally binding, they certainly provide useful guidance on what should be done in terms of responding to the crisis. It is also important to note that the protocol, a result of a tripartite consultation, calls on all stakeholders but mainly workers and employers to commit to the implementation of these necessary policy measures.

Should you have any questions on the new protocol, please get in touch with us.

Kind regards,
Susheela Rivers Benyam Tafesse Dubero
Head of Employment and Immigration
+251 115 15 97 98
Mehrteab Leul & Associates (DLA Piper Africa, Ethiopia)
 
   
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