The Covid-19 epidemic has seriously affected the development of the economy and society. The situation of businesses being spacing as well as suspension of production and service provision happens regularly in epidemic-affected localities, and that also seriously affects the life stability of employees. Because most enterprises’ financial situations get worse, so the businesses seem like they cannot guarantee income for employees. This is a force majeure and legal event, and the labor law has specific provisions to balance and ensure the interests of employees but also make the best support to enterprises.
Specifically, according to the provisions of Clause 3, Article 99 of the Labor Code 2019, specific instructions are provided in Official Dispatch No. 264/QHLĐTL-TL of Ministry of Labor – Invalids and Social affairs about paying salary (known as “ stoppage salary”) for employees during the shutdown period related to the Covid-19 epidemic on July 15, 2021; direct instructions for businesses and employees during the epidemic period, in case of having to suspend work due to an incident that is not the fault of the employer such as a dangerous disease, the employee and the employer agree on the salary according to the following regulations.
In case of having to suspend work for less than 14 working days, the agreed stoppage salary shall not be lower than the minimum wage.
In case of having to suspend work for more than 14 working days, the stoppage salary shall be agreed upon by both parties but must ensure that that salary in the first 14 days is not lower than the minimum wage.
Accordingly, the labor relationship is a civil relationship as well as ensuring the agreement between the parties, however, it is also necessary to pay attention to ensuring the life quality of the employee, thus stipulating the case of having to suspend work from under 14 days that the parties have the right to agree on a salary which is ensured not lower than the minimum wage; besides, in case of suspension for more than 14 days, this is undesirable in the labor relationship as the damage for the employee is not allowed to work as well as does not guarantee income, and this also for the employer that they are not able to guarantee the output of goods and services provided to the partner, as well as the normal operation of the business, etc. Therefore, the law allows the parties to agree on the stoppage salary in this case.
The epidemic is a force majeure. In the case of having to suspend work for too long as it is unable to judge the progress of the epidemic, to ensure the financial ability of the employer as well as the health and safety of employees, the parties may agree to suspend performing labor contract. The content specified at point h, Clause 1, Article 30 of the Labor Code 2019, allows the parties to agree to suspend the labor contract, therefore we can realize this is also an appropriate regulation in the current epidemic period. Currently, when suspended in performing a labor contract, the employee is not entitled to salary and other rights and benefits as agreed in the labor contract. However, the employee and the employer may have another agreement on employee benefits.
According to Article 31 of the Labor Code 2019, within 15 days after ending the suspension period of the labor contract, the employee must be present at the workplace as well as the employer must accept the employee’s return to resume work under the signed labor contract in case of the valid labor contract, unless otherwise agreed by the parties. Accordingly, the employee and the employer must fully agree on the contents related to the suspension of the labor contract, to avoid issues and disputes arising after ending the suspension period of the performing labor contract.
In addition, Point c, Clause 1, Article 36 of the Labor Law 2019 stipulates that the employer has the right to unilaterally terminate a labor contract in case of natural disaster, fire, dangerous epidemic, enemy sabotage or migration, relocation, or downsizing of production and business under the request of the competent state agency, and the employer has sought all remedies but can’t help reducing personnel. Therefore, in the situation of dangerous epidemics, termination of the labor contract with termination grounds is considered a non – illegal act of unilaterally terminating the labor contract.
However, the grounds for termination because of the dangerous epidemic that the employer has tried all measures to overcome but can’t help reducing the personnel are only necessary conditions that the employer needs to comply with, besides, Employers need to comply with the procedure for unilateral termination of labor contracts in terms of the notice period, as well as done allowances to employees when unilaterally terminating labor contracts according to regulations in law.