1. What options do employers have and/or what are you seeing in terms of re-opening the workplace e.g. phased returns, rotating shifts, staggered working hours, etc.?
There are no specific legal back to work requirements that apply to all businesses. However, certain types of businesses are subject to specific rules and measures. These come from the various Notifications and Orders at both national and provincial level which have been derived from Regulations (No. 1) to (No. 10) issued under Section 9 of the Emergency Decree on Public Administration in Emergency Situations B.E. 2548 (2005) (Emergency Decree). Some key common obligations that most businesses are subject to include:
- social distancing between customers, participants and operators;
- wearing face masks at all times;
- regulating a maximum number of people at a venue at any time; and
- sanitising surfaces in public spaces before use.
These obligations were announced by the COVID-19 Outbreak Centre (COVID-19 Centre) established under the Thai Ministry of Interior and pursuant to the Emergency Decree.
2. Does an employer have to give notice to employees to return to the workplace?
There is no statutory requirement for an employer to give notice to an employee for returning to the workplace. However, employers may wish to inform their staff of any plans in writing. This will avoid confusion about the date an employee must return to the workplace.
3. Is an employer obliged to consult with employees/representatives about the return to work process?
There is no statutory requirement to consult with your employees about the return to work process unless it is required under an employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement.
4. Are there any requirements or recommendations for employees to wear or employers to provide masks or other protective equipment in the workplace?
As of the date of this publication, the government’s COVID-19-related restrictions have been significantly relaxed. The COVID-19 Centre has issued orders regarding measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. One such measure is that business operators and customers must wear masks at all times.
There does not appear to be a direct requirement for an employer to provide masks or other protective equipment in the workplace. Nevertheless, the orders of the COVID-19 Centre require workplaces to screen for symptoms of COVID-19 (e.g. fever or coughing). Further, employers must constantly maintain and monitor the cleanliness of premises. Therefore, while masks are not explicitly required, employers must have in place certain other types of protective equipment (e.g. temperature monitoring equipment, and cleaning and sanitation products in the workplace) to comply with such preventive measures.
All employers should be aware of their obligations under the Communicable Disease Act B.E. 2558 (2015) (CDA). Under the CDA, COVID-19 was listed as a dangerous communicable disease. Therefore, an owner or person controlling a workplace (e.g. an employer) is required to notify a communicable disease control officer if a person in their workplace has been infected or is reasonably suspected of being infected with COVID-19. A failure to notify could result in a fine of up to THB20,000 (USD600).
5. When can business travel resume and what are the key considerations for employers?
Though the Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) has effectively issued a travel ban into Thailand, repatriation flights continue (for Thai nationals abroad and foreigners in Thailand).
As of the date of this publication, the CAAT has issued an order regarding conditions for aircraft to fly in and out of Thailand on receiving an approval from the CAAT effective from 1 July 2020. This will lift the ban on international flights into and beyond Thailand. It will allow some foreign travel into the country for the purposes of business and for those who have work permits or residency in Thailand.
Certain airlines are now providing domestic air travel services.
Non-Thai nationals possessing work permits may now return to Thailand, provided they obtain the necessary permissions in the form of a Certificate of Entry issued by the relevant Thai Embassy or Consulate in the country the non-Thai national is traveling from. Further, most countries are still sealed off and those whose borders remain open or have reopened are likely to have quarantine procedures in place.
As of the date of this publication, a quarantine of 14 days will be imposed on an employee on their return to Thailand. For employees traveling abroad and being quarantined in that country, this could potentially result in up to 28 days of quarantine.
6. If schools remain closed, can working parents continue to work from home?
Yes. For employers considering the implementation of a reduced working hours regime, both the employer and employees must enter into an agreement (in addition to the employment agreement) on the adjusted working hours. The agreement should specify:
- the period of reduced working hours (e.g. one or two months); and
- the adjusted working hours (e.g. from eight to six hours).