know your rights during covid19

Dubbed the ‘Great Lockdown’ recession that shrunk the world’s GDP down to 3 percent, it is undeniable we are currently experiencing one of the worst financial crises in history.  As businesses incur huge amounts of losses and risk permanent shutdown, most employees are left with little choice but to face these two imminent possibilities; be prepared to get a salary cut or lose your job completely.

When this unfortunate situation hits you as the employee, what would you do? Will you turn a blind eye and accept your fate? Or do you know your employee rights enough to exercise them if needed?

Are You The Affected Ones?

Before we dive deep into the possible Covid-19 workplace repercussions, let us do a quick overview of how much you’re affected and why you should start looking into protecting your career at your workplace:

LEAST AFFECTED: Those who can #WorkFromHome

Web developer, travel agent, freelance writer, social media manager, data entry, virtual assistant, digital marketer, marketing managers, translator, public relations, call-center representative, financial operations

MOST AFFECTED: Those who can’t: 

Blue-collar workers in factories, construction, agriculture, hotels, retail and restaurants, waitress, air-stewards, shopkeeper, and other service-orientated occupations

Unfair Treatments Towards Employees During Covid-19

Just a week back, more than 20 employees in Thailand have lodged complaints of unfair treatment including forced resignations with the Government House. And it is according to Asian Development Bank’s prediction that a staggering 68 million might lose their job if the Covid-19 virus is not contained within six months. 

Did you find yourself in these below scenarios? Stay calm, and look at what you can do next to go about them:

No. 1: Did Your Employer Deny Your Paid Sick Leaves?

You are feeling unwell. You are, however, working from home and requested from your employer a paid sick leave. Your employer asked you to take unpaid or annual leave instead.

If this happens: Unless it is to safeguard the business’s best interests and for the protection of employees within the company, your employer can encourage you to utilise your paid or remaining annual leave. It works differently if you are “people under supervision” or if you are down with Covid-19 symptoms. If this is the case, your employer is obligated to provide you your full salary and the necessary employee benefits.

No. 2: Are The Safety Measures and Precautions Practiced Within Your Office?

While returning to your workplace, you notice something is amiss. Your colleagues are still standing very closely (no social distancing), no hand sanitisers are readily available, and seating positions have not been properly realigned according to the latest safety guidelines. Even worst, your colleague seemed to exhibit symptoms and just returned from overseas is in the office! Shouldn’t he be quarantined at least up to 14 days?  

If this happens: This is a significant threat posed to your health and you have the right not to return to the office until your employer has implemented the safety measures. Advice your employer to have a Safety and Health Management System (SMK3) in place concerning risk control of work activities until the pandemic situation improves. 

Otherwise, if your employer is not compliant with the safety regulations set by the government, you can report this issue to your Ministry of Manpower/ Human Resources.

No. 3: Did Your Experience A Salary Cut Without Any Prior Agreement?

You noticed this month’s salary is a different figure and realised your remuneration package had been adjusted without you knowing.

If this happens: The first thing you should do is schedule a meeting with your boss and have an in-depth discussion on the best approach to this matter. During the discussion, negotiate on the amount if possible. Explore available options such as shortening of working hours and workload arrangements. Also, any changes to your wages should be agreed with your consent and recapped in a written notice. 

However, if you do not agree to the proposed changes, you could be potentially be deemed as redundant, which brings us to the next point.

No.4: Did Your Employer Terminate Your Employment With No Valid Reason?

Out of the blue, you are asked to leave the company. No matter how much you want to justify your company’s action – you notice your clients are still paying for your services. Though your company’s financial performance may not be as good as before, you only witness a slight drop in sales.

If this happens: No, such treatment is not acceptable! Unless your company is forced towards the closure of business as it is no longer financially viable, this is already a breach of your employment contract. For this termination to be legal, you have to express your consent through a mutual termination agreement. Once that is finalised, your employer is obligated to pay you your entitlements, redundancy pay and notice period. 

Should your employer disagree to pay you compensation, you can settle this as dispute through the labor court by reporting it as unfair dismissal.

While it is understandable that organisations are struggling to see another day, it is important to exercise your employee rights when things go overboard. Recognise that company’s action for being recklessly ignorant is a wrongful act and you can prevent it before the situation escalates. 

Before going to the authorities, always talk to your superior and focus on finding solutions, together. 

AUTHOR: Michell Lee
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