The Spanish government has passed legislation aimed at preventing COVID-19’s resurgence. What do these new rules mean for the ‘new normal’ rapidly being established in the workplace?
The new law – Royal Decree-Law 21/2020, dated 9 June, on urgent prevention, containment and co-ordination measures to deal with the health crisis caused by the COVID-19 (RDL 21/2020) – sets out the main rules in force as the last extension of the state of emergency comes to an end.
RDL 21/2020 relaxes some of the existing rules and establishes new rules for the long-term. For example, RDL 21/2020 reduces the minimum social distancing from 2 metres to 1.5 metres, and makes mandatory the use of facemasks on public roads, and in outdoor spaces and closed spaces open to the public, provided that it is not possible to guarantee the maintenance of the 1.5-metre safety distance.
Additionally, RDL 21/2020 sets out the main employment and occupational risk prevention measures to be adopted by employers upon termination of the state of emergency. Such measures will enter into force across all Spanish territory as of 21 June 2020.
Without prejudice to compliance with occupational risk prevention regulations and other applicable employment regulations, employers must do the following:
- Adopt ventilation, cleaning and disinfection measures as deemed appropriate considering the characteristics and intensity of use of workplaces.
- Make available to employees water and soap, or hydro alcoholic gels or disinfectants, authorised and registered by the health ministry for hand-cleaning.
- Adapt working conditions, including the organisation of work stations and shifts, and the use of common areas to ensure that a minimum interpersonal safety distance of 1.5 metres is maintained between employees. Where this is not possible, employees must be provided with protective equipment appropriate to the level of risk.
- Take measures to prevent mass gatherings of people, whether employees, customers or users, at workplaces during hours of predictable higher influx.
- Adopt measures for the gradual return to the workplace and the promotion of the use of remote working where feasible considering the nature of the relevant employment activity.
Lastly, RDL 21/2020 makes it clear that employees who develop symptoms compatible with COVID-19 or are subject to home lockdown or quarantine should not attend their workplace.
If workers develop symptoms in the workplace, they should immediately cover their faces with masks, call regional medical services or the company’s own occupational risk prevention service, and follow their instructions.