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Asia employment law bulletin 2021


Developments in the light of COVID-19

In an effort to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in Indonesia from April 2020, Indonesia’s regional governments implemented, from time to time, “large scale social restrictions” (PSBB).

Working from home

The main purpose for implementing PSBB, amongst others, is to limit the number of employees working in the office. The PSBB policy requires 50 up to 75 per cent of a total number of employees in each company to work from home. This introduces new work habits such as remote-working and virtual meetings through video conferencing and therefore significantly changes the dynamics of work environments. Indonesian regulations are silent on the working from home arrangement. The criteria to determine which employees should work from home or in the office are not specified in any regulation, but rather in a Circular Letter of Ministry of Manpower of 2020, which gives employers the discretion to determine the kind of arrangement needed. In determining such criteria, employers are prohibited from discriminating against its employees based on, for example, gender, ethnicity, religion or political orientation, as provided in the Employment Law and its amendment (Law No. 13 of 2003 on Employment as amended by Law No. 11 of 2020 on Job Creation).

Under the Circular Letter, employers have several options in implementing work from home arrangements, such as to:

  • Classify the employees as:
    1. main employees that must work in the office for production operational activities;
    2. employees with administrative work who may work from home;
    3. vulnerable employees who have underlying health conditions and who need to take public transportation to and from their offices;
    4. Arrange for half of the employees to work from home and to adopt a schedule of shift working; and
    5. Arrange for employees to work from home on a full-time basis.

Additionally, employers are advised to refrain from having employees regularly work shifts from evening to early morning. 

Exceptions to the above apply for certain sectors. For instance, a recent regulation issued by the Minister of Health sets out certain limited exceptions to work activities that are not subject to the social restriction policy (or can be carried out  in office premises), which cover services related to defense and security, public order, food commodities, oil and gas fuel, health, the economy, finance, communications, industry, export and import, distribution, logistics and other basic needs.

In addition to the above, amendments to the Employment Law also allow employers in certain sectors to implement more flexible working hours and regulate them internally. 

Employers’ new obligations

The Circular Letter also obliges employers to carry out certain preventive actions to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. For example, such as through temperature checking of employees and to provide employees with necessary protective equipment such as masks.

Employers must also introduce measures to maintain the general hygiene of work premises such as through frequent cleaning with disinfectants, ensuring air circulation and sunlight, providing access to handwashing facilities or hand sanitisers. Employers are also required to circulate health notices and information in the workplace (this may be published through banners, pamphlets, or other media or through audio and video media broadcasted regularly to the employees) to raise awareness amongst employees about the COVID-19 virus and to encourage good hygiene practices and the reporting of suspected COVID-19 cases in the workplace.

The Ministry of Manpower has also issued a Circular Letter which permits, amongst other measures to protect jobs, adjustments on wages and the method of payment subject to mutual consent between employers and employees.

Sanctions for breaching COVID-19 regulations

Except for the Law of 2018 on Health Quarantine where it is provided that a person who does not comply with the implementation of a health quarantine and/or who obstructs with the implementation of a health quarantine which causes a public health emergency may be punished with imprisonment of a maximum of a year and/or a maximum fine of Rp100,000,000 (approximately US$7,100), the other relevant COVID-19 regulations do not detail the sanctions for breach.

Dimas Koencoro Noegroho, Soemadipradja & Taher

Retno Muljosantoso, Soemadipradja & Taher

Aveninta Maria, Soemadipradja & Taher

Cok Wulan, Soemadipradja & Taher