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COVID-19: Legal Provisions in El Salvador

In El Salvador, a State of National Emergency, State of Public Calamity and Natural Disaster was decreed throughout the territory of the Republic as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic for a period of 30 days, by means of Legislative Decree No. 593 published in the Official Gazette on March 14, 2020. In the current labor legislation, it is not expressly established that the State of Emergency is a cause for the suspension of the work contract. Notwithstanding the above, in view of the fact that such situation is not regulated in our Labor Code, the Legislative Assembly and the Presidency of El Salvador have issued regulations of strict compliance, establishing in the aforementioned decree in its Article 05 the following:

  • Any worker who is subject to quarantine by COVID-19, ordered by the competent health authority, or those persons who, due to migratory or sanitary restrictions implemented in the country or abroad, were unable to return to their place of work, may not be dismissed.
  • Persons who fall under the previous assumption, may not be subject to wage discount either.
  • The guarantee of labor stability will begin as soon as the quarantine has been issued or ordered and will be extended for three more months, unless there is legal cause.
  • For legal and economic purposes, the quarantine ordered by the COVID-19 pandemic will be treated as temporary disabilities due to common illnesses, as provided for in the Labour Code, the law on leave of absence and holidays for public employees.
  • The ISSS is obliged to cover the full disability allowance for the quarantined worker from the fourth day.

Similarly, by means of an official communication from the Presidency of the Republic, the following measures were taken to be implemented as of March 17 of the present, and for a period of 30 days:

  • The public sector and private enterprise should send home, without exception, workers over 60 years of age, pregnant women and chronically ill persons, carrying out this measure on a paid basis, and allowing teleworking where possible.
  • The public sector should send home workers who are not needed to provide vital services.
  • All businesses other than those providing food, medicine or supplies necessary for the operation of the country must send their staff home for pay.

On Saturday, March 21, Decree 12 was issued in the field of Health, which also has its legal basis in Decree 593 mentioned above. In this decree is a quarantine domicile for the entire national territory, from the following measures:

  • A nationwide quarantine is declared so that no person may circulate in the national territory, as from the entry into force of the decree and for 30 days, counted from March 21, 2020.
  • Circulation in the streets is limited to a list of persons working for companies producing, distributing food, basic necessities, cleaning, security, financial institutions, private doctors, private hospitals, private clinics, companies in the food or medical products industry, persons caring for children or the elderly, magistrates and judges, deputies, among others.
  • For those who do not have a fixed income or an employment relationship, a collaboration bonus of USD 300.00 will be granted as long as they comply with the measures.
  • Bonus of USD 150.00 for public employees who carry out direct activities to combat the pandemic, in institutions qualified by the Ministry of Health or are closely related to that end.

Penalties: Companies that do not comply with the above-mentioned closure provisions will be fined and closed with a cordon sanitaire indefinitely.

It is worth mentioning that all the decrees are constantly being reformed, so they will be made known as they come into force.

Oscar Torres Cañas
García & Bodán
El Salvador