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COVID-19 | FAQ

LABOR

The labor authorities have enabled the following measures due to the temporary closure of businesses:

  • Vacation payments (due or advanced).
  • Teleworking.
  • On-call work.
  • Modification of the working day.
  • Suspension of the effects of Employment Contracts.

Teleworking consists on the provision of subordinate services, without the physical presence of the employees in the workplace or public entity.  These services can be provided through a computer, telecommunications, and similar means.

Pursuant to Law 126 of February 18, 2020, the teleworking model must be agreed in writing, whether it’s through the employment contract or an addendum, which must be registered in the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development.

This contract or addendum to the employment contract will establish the conditions of the telework, if it will be total or partial, any additional payments that the employer will subsidize for the provision of the service shall be agreed, among other additional conditions of the telework.

On-call work is a working mode established by Executive Decree 78 of March 16, 2020, through which employees, without remaining in their workplace, will be at the disposal of the employer and will be paid as a full working day.

Pursuant to Executive Decree 71 of March 13, 2020, which temporarily regulates article 159 of the Labor Code, the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development has established the possibility of temporarily modifying the work day and paying to the employees their regular hourly rate agreed upon in the employment contract, corresponding only to the time actually worked.

The Agreement on Temporary Modification of the Work Day must be in writing, based on the format already established by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development, through Executive Decree 71 of March 13, 2020 and must be registered in said entity by sending the agreement to the e-mail addresses established by the labor authorities.

Suspension of the effects of an employment contract means that employees are not required to provide their services and employers are not required to pay their salary; however, in no form, this suspension can be considered as a termination of the employment contract.

This suspension may be requested by companies affected by Executive Decrees 489, 500, 506, and 507, all issued by the Ministry of Health, as well as companies that have been affected by the closure of other businesses.

To suspend employment contracts, a request must be submitted, accompanied by the following evidence:

  • Note or petition justifying the suspension of the effects of the employment contracts (signed by the company’s legal representative or proxy).
  • Copy of the operation permit.
  • Copy of the most recent Social Security Authority form, prior to the closing of the company.
  • Proof of the economic affectation.

The request for the temporary suspension of the effects of the employment contracts must be sent to the authorized e-mail addresses facilitated for this purpose by the labor authorities.

Once the term established for the suspension of the contracts has expired, the employees must return to their jobs.

An automatic extension for an additional period of 30 calendar days will be granted to the companies that requested the abovementioned suspension, and who closed operations by orders of Executive Decrees 489, 500, 506 and 507, all issued by the Ministry of Health, pursuant to Executive Decree 95 of April 21, 2020.

Companies exempted from closing their operations under Executive Decrees 489, 500, 506 and 507 of the Ministry of Health, which submitted a request for the suspension of the effects of employment contracts, will have to formally request its extension through the authorized emails for each Regional Labor Office, complying with the terms and conditions established in Executive Decree 95 of April 21, 2020.

Currently, there is no limitation or prohibition for employers to terminate employment relationships.

In this case, the same formalities and requirements for the termination of employment relationships are maintained as those set out in the Labor Code, mainly in article 213 and others related.

According to the dispositions of the “Sanitary and Labor Measures of promotion, prevention, and control for the preparation against the possible cases of COVID-19″, issued by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development and the Ministry of Health, the companies must create a ” Special Committee of Health and Hygiene for the Prevention and Attention of COVID-19″, composed by a minimum of 2 to 6 employees, depending on the size of the company.

This is a special committee that must be comprised exclusively to attend the prevention of the COVID-19 virus within the companies and ensure the compliance of the protocols and guidelines issued by the health authorities.

The committee will operate for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, as indicated by the World Health Organization, and duly confirmed by the Ministry of Health.

In addition to the obligation to create the “Special Committee on Health and Hygiene for the Prevention and Care of COVID-19”, as provided in the guide dated May 11, 2020, issued by the Ministry of Health, the companies must have, as one of their main obligations to reopen their operations and return to normal work, the following obligations:

  1. Comply with general prevention and control measures for employees, employers, clients, suppliers, and visitors.
  2. Establish special hours and restrict the number of people in their installations to keep the physical distance of 2 meters, as well as other working modalities such as teleworking (for these purposes, using digital and technological means).
  3. Monitoring of symptoms of employees and clients.
  4. Management of labor stress.
IMMIGRATION

Since March 12, 2020 the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development has extended the validity of residence permits that have expired as of this date, on several occasions: first, until April 30; then, until May 30; and, more recently, until June 15, 2020.   This last extension of validity may be extended, modified, or suspended, in accordance with the instructions of the health authorities.

Since March 12, 2020, the following procedures are suspended within the Department of Labor Migration and the Regional Directorates of the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development: filiation (registration), presentation, monitoring, marriage interviews, notification, issuance of work permit card, as well as the judicial terms in the processes and actions.

Currently, this suspension has been extended until June 15, 2020; this measure may be extended, modified, or suspended, in accordance with the instructions of the health authorities.

Work permits that expired before March 12, 2020 have not been included in the extensions of validity made by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development until now; consequently, they are considered expired.

In these cases, it is advisable to keep a copy of the resolution issued by the Ministry of Labor and Labor Development by which the work permit was authorized in your favor, in order to prove that you are authorized to work in the Republic of Panama at the request of the competent authorities.

The National Immigration Service, since March 13, 2020 has extended the validity of residence permits that have expired from this date, on several occasions: first, until April 30; then, until May 31; and, most recently, until June 7, 2020.

The following residence permits are included within this extension: provisional identification cards (for processing), provisional residence permits, non-resident visas, judicial stay cards, those issued for humanitarian reasons and tourist stays, provided that they have expired after March 13, 2020

Since March 16, 2020, there was a broad suspension, which included the terms in the processes, actions that are managed in the National Immigration Service and public attention at the headquarters of this entity, as well as in their regional offices. Therefore, those procedures whose respective cards have expired from March 13, 2020 onwards, have also been included in the extensions of validity made by the authority.  As such, these cards, and the multiple visas (authorizations to enter and leave the country) are valid until June 7, 2020.

This measure may also be extended in response to instructions from the health authorities.

The National Immigration Service has included, in the last extension of validity made to residence permits until June 7, 2020, the stays of those tourists who were in the country when international flights were suspended, provided that such stays have expired as of March 13, 2020.

Once international flights are reactivated, tourists must return to their countries of origin or other destination (if they do not have intentions to start a resident permit process), to avoid imposition of fines which must be paid before leaving the country (these fines will be increased monthly in case the foreigner remains within the national territory).

In these cases, you must carry a copy of the receipt of the application submitted to the National Immigration Service as a document that proves the start of the immigration process.  However, as you do not yet have your “processing card”, you must carry your passport as an identification document.  Once the National Immigration Service re-establishes the terms, actions and public attention, you must make the necessary arrangements to obtain the card, and request authorization for multiple entry and exit (multiple visa) so you can leave and re-enter the country as a resident in process.

In these cases, you must carry a copy of the resolution issued by the National Immigration Service that proves the residence permit granted in your favor.  However, as you do not yet have the corresponding card, you must carry your passport as identification.  Once the National Immigration Service re-establishes the terms, actions, and public attention, you must make the necessary arrangements to obtain the card.

Foreigners, whether resident or not, must leave during the days and periods that correspond to their gender and last number of their valid passport.  And, during their mobilization, they must carry their valid passport as an identification document, regardless of whether they have a foreign identity card.

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