COVID-19:

Unprecedented Times, Desperate Measures

The coronavirus pandemic has caused governments across the world to take measures that impact the movement of people rarely, if ever, seen in peacetime before. Understandably, this has adversely affected businesses and created a host of employment law issues in every country.

When the first case of coronavirus – or Covid-19 – was reported in Wuhan, China in December 2019, nobody could have guessed that within three months it would spread across the globe at lightning speed. Indeed, from the start of March hundreds of thousands of cases of the disease have been reported in more than 160 countries and territories, resulting in thousands of deaths.

The speed of the spread of the virus – declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on March 11 – caught governments across the world off guard. And many have since reacted with draconian action. This includes travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews and event cancellations, and advising people to avoid all but essential contact with each other for the foreseeable future.

Of course, this has had a tremendous impact on employment and with employment law in ways that have never been seen before. For instance, with employees being told to stay at home, flexible working has become more common than ever, although in some professions it just isn’t feasible.

What this means for employers and employees – especially in terms of payment for those employees who have to take time off because they are sick, to quarantine or self-isolate, or to take care of dependents – has never been tested and different jurisdictions are reacting in different ways.

With the Covid-19 crisis and the response to it among different countries evolving daily, employment lawyers are advising employers on what they can or cannot do to safeguard their businesses and their employees under existing legislation. And the disease is spreading faster than laws can be adopted – although some countries are starting respond quickly to take care of workers and ensure that businesses stave off bankruptcy.

The following discussion took place between IR Global members from x9 jurisdictions who are experts in employment law. Their wide-ranging discussion addresses several questions, through the lens of employment law, concerning the impact of the pandemic and how governments are/or aren’t coping with the unprecedented demands being put on it. They also discuss how companies are, and can, respond to protect their businesses and their employees going forward into an uncertain future, certainly in the short term.