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2 junio 2021

A New Labor Framework for Health Care Prevention. Published on El Cronista.

The current scenario shows that we could be facing several years of pandemic, that vaccination is just a tool that does not replace prevention, that there is no curative medicine yet, and that the role remote workers and in-person employees play is definitely changing, in addition to the changes already introduced in employment.

Article by Julián A. de Diego published in El Cronista on Jun 1, 2021

For one thing, the responsibility for health care prevention measures while working remotely has completely fallen on teleworkers. As a matter of fact, when work is done at the employer’s establishment (technical unit of production and services), health care protection is common good, with particular emphasis on employers’ duties.

During the pandemic, employees has been required to take safety measures against Covid-19, such as practicing good personal hygiene, wearing face masks, washing hands regularly, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers (gel, spray or other disinfection products), and keeping social distancing.

These measures are strongly recommended even for fully vaccinated people. 

In turn, employers should provide personal protective equipment, train workers on site through courses, demos and practical guidance on the steps to take to protect their health and identify any symptoms.

Health care should be provided to infected workers as well as to their close contacts. Health care, hygiene and safety professionals should educate, train and control compliance with rules and regulations, at least from the moment employees set foot in the company building. It is very difficult to control what they do outside work, not only on their way back home but also inside their home with their family and friends, also settings for transmission of Covid-19.

Employers’ power of direction, management and control significantly changes when employees work from home. And it also changes when they telework or do mobile work or are engaged in hybrid systems (combining in-person and remote work) because employers cannot be present through different resources at the location where employees are actually working.

Employers do not have immediate contact with their staff, and therefore cannot entirely monitor their conduct while they work from home or from another nearby location with Internet access and other regular channels of communication (cellphone, Internet, social media, text messaging, voicemail messages). But who is responsible for all these obligations? Teleworkers, no more no less.

Some companies design algorithms to constantly monitor employees’ movements (Internet connection status, mouse movements, keystrokes, social media postings, emails and text messages), and even attach GPS trackers on smartphones or notebooks to track down devices (and not employees) and also on vehicles, police cars, passenger or freight transportation fleets (ambulances, armored trucks, dangerous goods trucks, security cars).

Personal GPS trackers have been experimentally put under the skin or within a muscle (micro surgery) of security officers in an attempt to easily locate them in case of kidnapping in high risk areas, thus starting the conversation about human rights vis-à-vis invasive technologies not only with regard to legitimacy but also due to the intrusion into people’s privacy mainly.

In some cases telematics devices are also equipped with always-on webcams while teleworkers work, giving them the feel of teamwork and surveillance of in-person work.

Today there is nothing that cannot be monitored through technology, and actually with security cameras and satellite monitoring the most important cities on earth are under constant surveillance by video cameras that record and store footage for subsequent replay that allow to track down vehicles, detect crime, find those responsible for car accidents and chase alleged criminals or offenders.

If this whole panorama is extrapolated to the world of labor, different experts suggest that work may be managed remotely but employees should deliver results, and this is where confidence plays a fundamental role.

There are clearly conflicting opinions in the discussion among HR management professionals who deal with the expected conduct from these new smart workers, and labor and employment law regulating people’s conduct under certain rules based on the elementary principle of alterity and the demands for peaceful harmonic coexistence of society as a whole and the world of labor for employees and independent contractors. 

The challenge we are now facing, which should be taken up with responsibility, is the duty of safety, prevention, and all related actions that should be taken by workers inside their home with their family, outside work settings, beyond employers’ control.  

Computer support, counseling through podcasts, informative systematic bulletins, recommendations, online interactive courses, virtual meetings with experts, team discussions about the implementation of prevention measures, and other resources are getting successfully widespread in a new scenario where responsibility and confidence play a key role in the context of this New Reality.

Por Julián A. de Diego
Por Julián A. de Diego

Fundador y Titular del estudio “de Diego & Asociados”.  Abogado, Doctor en Ciencias Jurídicas.

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