The Spanish Government, by means of Royal Decree 463/2020, is trying to contain and limit the spread of COVID-19. This Decree places a severe restriction on the movement of citizens, and provides that individuals are not permitted to go anywhere except for going to work, buying food or medicine, going to hospitals, or caring for elderly or dependent people. In the draft of the Decree, there was an article that forced companies to establish telework for everyone whenever possible but this requirement disappeared from the final text. Companies requiring their employees to travel for work purposes during the state of alarm are required to provide their employees with an “Individual certificate certifying the need for personal displacement for work reasons”. The adoption of Royal Decree 463/2020 was subsequently followed by the adoption of Royal Law-Decree 8/2020 on 18 March 2020. This Decree approves an economic and social relief package to mitigate the impacts from COVID-19 in Spain, and strongly encourages employers to allow employees to work remotely, if this is technically and reasonably possible.
On March 27, the state of emergency established by Royal Decree 463/2020 was extended to April 11 (inclusive) (See Here). The current lockdown was extended again to May 9, and this date has now been extended to May 24 2020 (See Here). However, Royal Decree 514/2020 also provides for the possibility of gradually lifting restrictions in certain low-risk areas within Spain, provided that certain requirements and criteria are met. The areas that can proceed to Phase 1 of the re-opening of the country, as of May 11 2020, are outlined in the Annex to the Order of the Ministry of Health, as well as the preventive and hygiene measures that are required to be implemented by businesses. Order SND/399/2020 also provides for the continuity of remote work for workers where this is possible.
On March 29, Royal Decree-Law 10/2020 was published which requires all workers in non-essential activities to stay at home for 2 weeks, and these workers will also receive a recoverable paid leave from March 30 to April 9 so that they will not have to travel to their workplaces. During this period of paid leave, workers will continue to receive their wages normally, and once the current public health emergency situation is over, workers will be able to recover the unspent working hours gradually and spaced out over a period of time. The hope is that the new measure of requiring non-essential workers to stay at home will reduce, even more, the mobility of people and decrease the risk of contagion and lower the pressure that hospitals and ICUs are currently facing. Royal Decree-Law 10/2020 entered into force on March 29.
On March 16, the Spanish government announced the closing of its land borders, allowing only citizens, residents, and others with special circumstances to enter the country (See Here). These new measures and restrictions should not create any impacts for facilities.
Additionally, various measures have been implemented in the country to prevent the spread of COVID-19, including the banning of direct flights from Italy to Spain until March 25 (See Here). While such measures may not impact facilities and their operation directly, it is still important to note the measures that are being taken to prevent the spread of the virus. However, measures like suspending activities in closed spaces that gather more than a thousand people in Madrid, La Rioja, Victoria and Labastida have also been taken which could have an impact on facilities.
On March 12, The Inter-territorial Council of the SNS agreed to implement the educational and social distancing measures throughout Spain, including distancing measures in the work environment (See Here). The distancing measures applicable in the work environment include the following: recommendations in the workplace for telecommuting whenever possible, review and update of the plans of continuity of the labor activity before emergencies, time flexibility and planning staggered shifts to reduce worker concentrations, and encouraging meetings by videoconference.
The Ministry of Health has published the guide: “Procedure of action for the occupational risk prevention services against exposure to the new Coronavirus” which addresses the different issues to be managed by the prevention services of companies, including the necessary measures for the protection of workers against the spread of COVID-19, with information being provided on procedures, personal protective equipment, nature of activities and risk assessment (See Here).
Furthermore, The Ministry of Labor and Social Economy has published the document: “Guide for Action in the Workplace in Relation to the New Coronavirus”, the objective of which is to provide the necessary information on the application of labor regulations in relation to the different situations in which companies and workers may find themselves in the context of exposure to COVID-19. This guidance document is based on current labor legislation (See Here). Additionally, the Labor and Social Security Inspection has created a specific Management Unit that will deal with the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace. The inspection activity will focus on risk prevention, protection of individual and collective rights of workers, as well as the active monitoring of incidents in companies (See Here).
Additionally, the Government has adopted a Royal Decree-law containing complementary measures in the workplace in order to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 health crisis. The new Decree completes, specifies and reinforces the application and control mechanisms of measures provided by Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, of March 17 2020. It is a complementary rule, and clarifies some effects and consequences of Royal Decree-Law 8/2020, and establishes some new content that is aimed at ensuring better coverage and more effective application of what is already established by Royal Decree-Law 8/2020.
Following the recommendations of the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, through the General Secretariat of Fisheries and in collaboration with the Social Institute of the Navy (ISM), has compiled a series of instructions on correct action that can be taken on fishing vessels in order to carry out correct management in the fight against COVID-19.
On March 22, the Spanish Government announced it would restrict passenger access across Spain’s external borders, specifically those located in ports and airports. These restrictions affect the movement of cross-border workers.
The Spanish Government has approved a new package of measures for the protection of working people during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Royal Decree-Law on Complementary Urgent Measures to Support the Economy and Employment that strengthen the protection of workers and extend unemployment benefits to more groups has been approved. This legislation extends remote work for two more months, and also extends the right to adapt and reduce working hours.
A new Resolution of the General Directorate of Land Transport of April 14, 2020, has been published in the BOE. This Resolution temporarily exempts compliance with the rules of driving and rest times in the transport of goods. These exceptions apply to drivers who carry out freight operations throughout the national territory, and will be applicable from April 13, 2020 until May 31, 2020, both inclusive.
The Ministry for Transports, Mobility and Urban Agenda issued an Order on May 3, 2020 on the use of face masks in different means of transport. The Order also provides for conditions that ensure safe mobility during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 4, 2020, businesses that employ freight drivers for the transport of goods by road or that use work vehicles of up to 9 seats are required to ensure that social distancing is being practiced between individuals in the vehicles, and must also ensure that all vehicle occupants are wearing face masks.
The European Center for Disease Prevention has published guidance on Social Distancing measures that all individuals are encouraged to implement in their daily lives. Some of those recommendations may apply to businesses in respect of, for example, restriction of mass gatherings, and staying at home measures (See Here).
Employers should continue to check with relevant authorities for the latest information:
-Spanish Government (https://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/Paginas/index.aspx)
-Ministry of Health (https://www.mscbs.gob.es/)
-Ministry of Labor, Migrations and Social Security (http://prensa.mitramiss.gob.es/WebPrensa/inicio)
-European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (https://www.ecdc.europa.eu/en/novel-coronavirus-china)
-European Commission Coronavirus response (https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/health/coronavirus-response_en)