Guidelines and Protocols for Deconfinement and Return to Work


Latest update: December 17th, 2020


During April, some countries, especially in Asia and Europe, began to relax lockdown and confinement measures and, in that effort, are publishing guidelines and protocols to ‘return to work’, in order to transition into a period where economic activity coexists with COVID-19. Most of the resources identified to this day and shared below are Occupational Safety and Health Guidelines to reduce the risk of contagion, and Government protocols for the gradual reopening of businesses and workplaces.


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Guidelines from governments - Non OAS Member States 


European Union: 

On April 24th, before reopening measures began to take place in various countries of the region, the Occupational Safety and Health Agency of the European Union published general guidelines to adapt the workplace and protect workers from a possible second wave of COVID-19 contagion. The guidelines are available in 22 languages.


The Government outlined a three-phase plan to re-open Australia, although specific dates have not been announced. A series of resources were offered for employers to guarantee safety and health in of workers. It is specially noteworrthy the series of checklists to determine next steps to prepare work centers. 


The Government of Denmark has outlined a three-phase plan for the gradual reopening of the country, which began on mid-april. To support  employers in this process, a series of guidelines were put in place with reccommendations by sector. 

Note: The website is in danish. It is reccommended to use the explorer's tranlsator. 


France established May 11th as the date to begin the reopening of some businesses. To support companies in this process, the Ministry of Labor elaborated a deconfinement protocol and an advise worksheet to help employers implement health measures against COVID-19. Both resources are available in French only.


    Before the gradual reopening of workplaces, which began on April 20th, the Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs of Germany published the Occupational Safety and Health Standards, which establish guidelines to support employers to adapt the workplace to avoid new waves of contagion. The implementation of a tripartite advisory group which will be updating and modifying the standards as the crisis evolves is worth noting. The Standards are available in English.


    Towards the re-opening of some companies and businesses from May 4th, the Government of Italy updated its protocol to fight and contain the spread of the virus in the workplace. All resources are available in Italian only.

    New Zealand: 

    New Zealand has put in place a system of Alert Levels (2, 3 and 4) that determines the kind of businesses that can operate and under which conditions, as well as general guidelines for each Alert Level. As of May 6th, the country is on Alert Level 3. The elaboration of a COVID-19 Safety Plan model that employers have to fill out to describe the measures they will be taking to reduce contagion  is noteworthy (it is not mandatory to send this plan to review by government, is for companies’ own use).


    Starting on May 2nd, Singapore established phases for businesses to begin operations gradually. The information on which business sectors are allowed to open on every phase is available online, along with the recommendations and occupational safety and health guidelines for each sector. It includes measures from the Ministries of Health, Manpower and Industry and Trade. The elaboration  of the “Guide on Business continuity Planning during COVID-19 to support employers” is noteworthy. All resources are available in English.


    Towards the gradual re-opening of work centers which started on April 13th,  Spain  updated its  “Good Practices in the Workplace before Covid-19 “ Guide, as a tool to support employers for a safe return to work. The document was elaborated by the Ministry of Health.

    United Kingdom 

    On May 11th, as it prepared to reopen businesses, the United Kingdom Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a set of sector-specific guidelines to “work safely” during the pandemic. The documents are directed to employees, employers and the self-employed, and include  reccommendations for construction, factories, offices, labs, restaurants, shops, among others 


    Guidelines from governments - OAS Member States 



    On May 18th, the Government from Argentina, through the Occupational Safety and Health office of the Ministry of Labor, published a Protocol to prevent COVID-19 in the workplace. 

    Also, following tripartite discussions, a series of sectorial guidelines and protocols were released by the government of Argentina. 


      On June 2nd, 2020, the Government of the Bahamas published a re-opening protocol for the tourism sector, the most important of the country 


      As early as March 17th, the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations published its Guide for the reopening of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

      Similarly, as a result of intersectorial collaboration, the government of Barbados published a series of sectorial protocols, emphazising on schools, entretainment centers, and tourism businesses. 


      On May, the Ministry of Labor of Bolivia published a set of sectorial guidelines and protocols for businesses towards the re-opening of the economy. Those guidelines include measures such as instructions for setting up a bio-safety team and the reccommended products to guarantee safety at the workplace. 


      Through the Special Secretariat for Labor of the Ministry of Economy, the Government of Brazil published sectorial occupational safety and health guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as an online self-assesment platform for companies to determine if they are prepared to prevent contagion. 


        On June 2020, the Government of Canada published a Risk Mitigation Tool for Workplaces and Businesses operating during the COVID-19 pandemic, which includes general reccommendations, useful links for regional and sectorial measures. 

        Similarly, the Canadian Center for Occupational Safety and Health,  published a series of registries by sector and industry. 


        On August, 2020, the Ministry of Labor of Chile launched the site "Paso a paso Laboral" (Labor Step by Step), which gathers relevant information for workers and employers on the deconfinement procedure, including OSH measures, general reccommendations, the role of inspection, among others. It also includes the protocol "Modo Covid de Vida" (COVID Way of Life), which is a guide "for the general public and the functioning of activities". 


        An inter-ministerial effort resulted in te publication of bio-safety protocols and guidelines for several sectors. Among the Ministries involved are Health, Labor, Transportation, Commerce, Industry and Tourism, Information and Communication technologies, among others. 

        Costa Rica: 

        On March 20th, 2020, the Ministry of Health of Costa Rica published the General Guidelines for owners and managers of workplaces for coronavirus, which include a set of instructions to install social distancing measures and other aspects such as antiviral gel, among others 

        Dominican Republic 

        On May, 2020, the Government of the Dominican Republic published the document "General and Sectorial Protocol for Labor Reinsertion", which details the guidelines to follow for a safe return to the workplace. 


        In late April, the Government of Ecuador, through the National Service of Risk and Emergency Management published the General Guide and Plan for the Progressive Retrun to Work, which made a part of a broader ser of protocols and guidelines by activity (religious gatherings, tourism, agriculture) and sector. 

        El Salvador: 

        In May, the Ministry of Labour of El Salvador published its Integral Protocol for the Prevention of Biological Risks in the Workplace, which includes a series of guidelines and reccommendations for the return to work and explains how to implement measures such as the Occupational Safety and Health Committees. The Ministry also published sectoral protocols. 


        On June 14th, through a Government Agreement, the "Complementary OSH regulations for the prevention and control of SARS-COV-2 in the workplace" was published and came into force. It includes several mandatory measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 


        On June 6, 2020, the Ministry of Labor published the path to reopening, and made available on its website a series of biosafety protocols for formal and informal businesses, available for download. This was followed by a general bio-safety manual for the workplace and a digital training platform on the biosafety protocols. 


        The Government of Mexico published a document with general Technical Guidelines for Health in the Workplace, and launched a site towards a "New Normality", which includes sectorial occupational safety and health guidelines and where companies must register their re-opening protocols. 


        The Ministry of Labor published General Guidelines to create and operate Occupational Safety and Health Commitees that must operate in all companies towards reopening. During December the Ministry of Labor published a series of regulations for the return to work of workers with suspended contracts starting January, 2021.. 


          The Ministry of Labor has available on its website a General Control Guide to prevent contagion of COVID-19 in the workplace. 


          In coordination with other institutions and as a result of dialogue with workers and employers, the Ministry of Labor of Peru published a series of sectorial protocols for the return of economic activity. 

          Similarly, it published a set of Occupational Safety and Health Guidelines for Household Workers to avoid the spread of COVID-19. 

          Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 

          During the first months of the pandemic, the Department of Labour of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines published two Guides to support workers and employers to safely face the pandemic. The first guide responds to a series of key questions regularly asked during the confinement, and the second answers to legal issues. 


          As a result of a social dialogue exercise between workers, employers and government, Uruguay published a protocol for the prevention of COVID-19 in retail and service sectors. 

          United States 

          The Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor published a Guidance on Preparing Workplaces to COVID-19, which delivers general measures that the workplace can take to avoid contagion. They also published a Guidance for Returning to Work and Sectorial Guides for COVID-19 preparation. 



          Guidelines from international institutions and workers and employers' organizations


          Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) 

          Since March 12th, PAHO published a protocol to adapt the workplace to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

          International Organization of Employers (IOE) - 

          On May 6th, the Society of Human Resource Management and the International Organization of Employers published the “Return to Work during COVID-19” Guide, which includes key questions that employers must ask themselves, as well as resources on which they can rely when taking decisions. 

          The IOE also published along with VBO-FEB a Generic Guide for combatting the spread of  COVID-19 at work. 

          ILO Bureau for Employers Activities 

          The publication aims to provide general guidance and information to employers on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the workplace, to enable workers to return to work safely while keeping the risk of contamination as low as possible. 

          International Labour Organization (ILO) 

          On May 22, the ILO issued a practical guide for governments to guarantee a safe and healthy return to work, highlighting the importance of taking reopening actions focused on human rights, and through social dialogue. The guide included a 10 point practial checklist for employers towards returning to work. 

          As a part of the ILO efforts to support employers in the return to work, they published a list of sectorial guides and reccomendations gathered in a microsite. 

          Inter-American Development Bank 

          On May 26, the Inter-American Development Bank published a series of strategic considerations towards reopening, including lessons learned from other countries, guidelines for managing risks and preventing contagion, and a series of measures to ensure the continuation of essential activities. 

          International Trade Union Confederation 

          The ITUC published a Guide with the key issues to address during the return to work. 

          Spains' UGT

          To support this process, the General Workers' Union of Spain published a practical Guide for returining to work during COVID-19 

          Barbados Employers' Confederation 

          By the end of April 2020th, the biggest organization of employers of Barbados published a Guide for the reopening of businesses after the most strict confinement.