For the sixth consecutive two-week COVID-19 reporting period, none of Mexico’s 32 states are in red traffic light status, the most stringent of the nation’s four-tiered monitoring system designed to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On April 23, 2021, an amendment to the Mexican Labor Law was published in the Official Gazette of the Federation. Below are the key points about the amendment and how they will affect employers that outsource or subcontract work.
After weeks of improving pandemic conditions in Mexico—since March 2021, none of Mexico’s 32 states has been classified in red status, the strictest tier of the federal government’s four-tiered COVID-19 traffic light monitoring system—there has been a slight regression in the epidemiological trend.
On April 29, 2021, the Government of Ontario stated that it plans to introduce the COVID-19 Putting Workers First Act. When passed, this legislation “would require employers to provide employees with up to three days of paid leave because of certain reasons related to COVID-19.” According to a government press release, the act would apply retroactively to April 19, 2021, and would expire on September 25, 2021.
As more Canadians become eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, provinces across Canada are implementing paid COVID-19 vaccination leave policies to incentivize workers to become vaccinated as soon as possible. These leave policies are being put into place as COVID-19 cases across Canada soar and the country races to vaccinate faster than infections can spread.
Millions of Canadian employees have been forced to work from home as a result of measures designed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Many of these employees continue to perform the same jobs they had before the pandemic started, just from different locations. However, the location where an employee preforms work often factors into which provincial employment standards legislation applies to the employment relationship.
On April 16, 2021, the government of Ontario announced its strictest COVID-19 response measures to date, responding to a continued increase in daily case counts despite a province-wide lockdown. The stay-at-home order, effective April 8, 2021, will be extended for an additional two weeks, for a total of six weeks. The Ontario government has also added new restrictions and increased workplace inspections to ensure employers are complying with all COVID-19–related health and safety measures.
The degree of pandemic risk in Mexico has been steadily improving nationwide, and since March 1, 2021, none of the 32 states has been required to halt all nonessential activities under the strictest tier—called the “red traffic light”—of the federal government’s four-tiered COVID-19 traffic light monitoring system.
On April 1, 2021, the government of Ontario activated its pandemic “emergency brake,” sending the entire province out of the five-tiered colour-coded framework and into the “shutdown” zone. The province implemented these shutdown zone measures on April 3, 2021, and they will remain effective “for at least four weeks.”
The Supreme Court of the United Kingdom has held in Asda Stores Ltd v. Brierley and others that Asda supermarket retail employees can appoint Asda depot workers as their comparators in an equal pay claim despite their working in different ‘establishments’ of the business.
Mexico’s federal government continues to relax restrictions on business and social activities in accordance with the four-tiered national traffic light monitoring system as COVID-19 pandemic conditions continue to improve in Mexico’s states.
Following the Home Office’s 2020 response to the 2019 ‘Transparency in Supply Chains Consultation’, the UK government has launched an online central registry of statements published in compliance with requirements under section 54 of the Modern Slavery Act 2015. The aim of the registry is to make it easier for businesses and the public to find and review commercial organizations’ modern slavery statements. Reporting organizations are not yet legally obliged to upload their statements to the official registry. However, the Home Office is encouraging reporting organizations to do so voluntarily before the final amendments to the Modern Slavery Act take effect and make utilizing the government’s registry obligatory.
Pandemic conditions in Mexico are continuing to improve, prompting the federal government and local governments to ease restrictions on business and social activities in accordance with the four-tiered traffic light monitoring system, which is updated every other week.
In light of the increased COVID-19 vaccine distribution in Canada, the Ontario government has made significant amendments to its vaccine distribution plan. The province is currently in the midst of Phase I of its vaccination distribution implementation plan, which prioritizes highest-risk populations, such as frontline healthcare workers, adults 80 years of age and older, indigenous communities, and individuals in congregate care settings for seniors. In preparation for its move to Phase II, Ontario has revised the eligibility criteria for vaccinations in Phase II.
The COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico appears to be abating after spiking in January and February 2021. The notable improvement in epidemiological conditions has prompted the federal government and local governments to gradually ease restrictive orders in accordance with the four-tiered traffic light monitoring system, which is updated every other week.
On 15 February 2021, the UK government imposed stricter requirements on individuals travelling or transiting from any of the 33 countries (‘red list countries’) that have had a travel ban to England applied. Separate advice applies to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
Under section 109(1) of the Equality Act 2010 (EA 2010), an employer is liable for acts of discrimination, harassment, and victimisation carried out by its employees in the course of employment: “[a]nything done by a person (A) in the course of A’s employment must be treated as also done by the employer.” Section 109 further states that “[i]t does not matter whether that thing is done with the employer’s … knowledge or approval.” However, under section 109(4) EA 2010, an employer has a defence if it can demonstrate that it “took all reasonable steps” to prevent the employee from carrying out the act of discrimination. When considering an employer’s defence that it took all reasonable steps to prevent an employee from discriminating against another employee, a tribunal will examine how effective the steps were likely to be when they were taken and how effective they proved to be in practice. The decision of Allay (UK) Ltd v Mr S Gehlen looks at the scope of this defence.
On 11 January 2021, the UK Home Office published guidance on the “Covid Visa Concession Scheme (CVCS).” The scheme applies to individuals who left the United Kingdom before 17 March 2020, with permission to live in the UK, whose visas have since expired whilst they were abroad, and are now unable to return to the UK due to coronavirus travel restrictions. The CVCS allows those individuals to enter the UK to make leave to remain (LTR) or indefinite leave to remain (ILR) applications.
Certain Canadian provinces have been especially hard hit by COVID-19 outbreaks. Most notably, Ontario and Quebec—two of Canada’s most populated provinces—have experienced the highest number of infection counts among the country’s provinces. While Ontario and Quebec have struggled to contain the spread of COVID-19, other provinces have had a different experience.
At the beginning of 2021, extensive changes in German employment law came into effect, including some of particular significance to employers. In addition, on January 19, 2021, the German Federal Government implemented restrictions on public life in order to contain the coronavirus pandemic that affect employers.
On Friday February 19, 2021, the Ontario Government announced that Toronto and two other regions will remain in shutdown for at least two more weeks. Among other things, this means that workers who are nonessential to in-person operations must continue to work from home. This represents the province pausing its recent efforts to reopen most of Ontario’s regions.
On February 8, 2021, the Government of Ontario announced the upcoming end to its state of emergency, as regions will begin reopening according to Ontario’s colour-coded COVID-19 restriction framework. The Government of Ontario also announced amendments to this framework.
Due to increased population mobility and the seasonal winter climate, the COVID-19 pandemic in Mexico has worsened, prompting many states to issue hygiene measures to reduce the rate of infection and hospital occupancy rates. According to the federal government’s four-tiered traffic light monitoring system, 13 states are in red traffic light status (the status with the most stringent work and mobility restrictions), which is the highest number of states in this status since early August 2020. In addition, for the first time since late September 2020, no state is in green traffic light status, which is the only status without restrictions.
On January 20, 2021, the Puerto Rico Department of the Treasury (Departamento de Hacienda, commonly known as “Hacienda”) issued Administrative Determination No. 21-01 (AD 21-01), which provides that lump-sum distributions from the retirement plan for Puerto Rico government employees are eligible for direct and indirect rollovers into Puerto Rico–qualified retirement plans maintained by private-sector employers. In practice, however, this determination is unlikely to have much of an impact on the operation of private-sector employer plans.
On January 25, 2021, President Joseph R. Biden Jr. issued a proclamation reinstating COVID-19 entry restrictions for travelers from Brazil, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the 26 countries that comprise the Schengen Area of Europe. The proclamation also adds South Africa to the list of countries subject to travel restrictions.
Last year, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the United States Congress and the Puerto Rico Department of Treasury (Hacienda) granted favorable tax treatment to coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) and participant loans from U.S.-qualified plans and Puerto Rico-qualified plans, respectively. Recently, both jurisdictions extended similar tax treatment to certain distributions, hardship withdrawals, and plan loans related to non-COVID-19 disasters.
On November 12, 2020, the Federal Executive filed before the Chamber of Deputies of the Congress of the Union the “Initiative of the Federal Executive that reforms, adds and derogates various provisions of the Federal Labor Law, Social Security Law, Law of Employees Housing Fund Institute, Federal Tax Code, Income Tax Law and Value Added Tax Law.” To date, this proposed amendment is still under discussion and review. Notwithstanding the proposed federal legislation, at the local level additional schemes to regulate outsourcing have been developed.
COVID-19 continues to cause significant restrictions in many areas around the world, including workplaces: Employees are working in remote settings, they no longer share tools and supplies, partitions separate workspaces, employees may not gather in common areas, and in-person meetings are reduced to a minimum. With distribution of the first vaccines impending, employers may expect a return to pre-pandemic practices. There is wide variation internationally on the approach to vaccinations. Below are answers to employers’ frequently asked questions about vaccinating global and multinational workforces.
A “frontier worker” is a resident of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein, who is employed or self-employed in the United Kingdom.