Indonesia Wage Support Policy during Covid-19

Covid-19 pandemic continues to slow down Indonesia economic output. It has also fundamentally affecting the Indonesia workforce – especially for low wage workers. Pandemic-induced job losses, underemployment, lost of productivity, and education interruption, put a strain on the common households.

The current Minister of Manpower Regulation No. 14 of 2020 issued on 14 August 2020 intents to give a much needed break for the Indonesia formal workforce while keeping skilled workers rate of participation in the labour market. Article 2 of the Minister of Manpower Regulation Government in question stipulates that the assistance in the form of subsidized salary/wage for workers/laborers aims to protect, maintain, and increase economic capacity on workers/laborers in handling the impact of the Corona Virus pandemic.

The Government wage subsidy assistance is given in the form of money amounting to IDR 600,000 per month (equivalent to US$ 40.69) for four months from the issuance of the Regulation or as per availability of the Ministry of Manpower budget ceiling concerning the implementation of the wage subsidy policy (Article 4).

The wage subsidy only applied for formal workers who receive wage less than IDR 5,000,000 per month (equivalent to US$ 340) from their employer and registered in the Employment Social Security (BPJS Ketenagakerjaan) up to June 2020 (Article 3).

The Employment Social Security agency will verify and validate the wage subsidy recipient data and transfer it to the Budget User Proxy (Kuasa Penerima Anggaran/KPA) that is the official at the Directorate General Development of Industrial Relations and Labour Social Security. Payment of the wage subsidy to the verified recipients would be done by designated Government Banks (Article 5 and 7).

Although, the Ministry of Manpower Regulation No. 14 of 2020 likely lessen the gravity of financial burden of the common household, as the Regulation only applies for formal worker in a formal employment relations, it does nothing to help the informal and gig economy workers – those who are at the very bottom of the labour market food chain. This group of workers, which before the pandemic reached around 70 million workers, typically did not have secure employment contracts, benefits or social protection.

Also, the processes of the disbursement of funds could be improved. It further initiates question about a much streamlined administration processes during national emergency. Also, discourse on eradication of unnecessary bureaucracy in the era of governmental administrative reform.

The Article on Ministry of Manpower budget ceiling concerning the implementation of the wage subsidy policy creates a notion of transparency on budget management. Whether or not a statement of budget ceiling should be specified and informed to all stakeholders for the purpose of external monitoring on the agency accountability and program impact (Chapter V of the Regulation stipulates internal monitoring by the Director General).

Lastly, the Regulation does not provide complaint or appeal avenue for recipient candidates who are rejected during the verification and validation, or wage subsidy recipients who later on are deemed as false recipients. In other words, the Regulation does not guarantee procedural justice for the already strained workforce.

Indonesia Covid-19 affected- Economy and its Ramification on the Determination of the 2021 minimum wage

At the beginning of 2020, not one person in Indonesia, including policy makers, thought that Covid-19 would become a global pandemic that negatively affected the economy. As is well known, the macroeconomic assumptions noted in the 2020 State Budget show economic growth of 5.3%. This figure is obtained from Indonesia’s economic growth in 2019 to the second quarter of 2020. Until recently, the Minister of Finance of the Republic of Indonesia stated that in the worst case scenario, Indonesia’s economic growth rate could reach – 0.4%. Meanwhile, the Coordinating Minister for Maritime Affairs and Investment stated that the bad impact of Covid-19 on the Indonesian economy will be felt for the next 5 years.

Further, several economists predict that the unemployment rate in 2020 and 2021 will increase sharply compared to 2019. At the end of 2019, the Government of the Government is targeting the 2020 unemployment rate to fall to 4.8%. As a result of the pandemic, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) estimates the Open Unemployment Rate (TPT) in 2020 will reach 8.1% to 9.2% and the unemployment rate is estimated to increase by 4 to 5.5 million people. Furthermore, in 2021, the TPT is estimated to reach a range of 7.7% to 9.1%.

The decline in Indonesia’s economic growth rate and the increase in unemployment during the Covid-19 period likely caused by a decrease in consumption power that parallel to the decline of national consumption activities, decline in production and other economic transactions (trade and investment), economic stagnation, and social turmoil.

In this gloomy of economic future, how will the country approach the issue of annual minimum wage increase?

The general informal protocol of determining next year minimum wage prescribe a central government directive, in this case from the Minister of Manpower, to the regional governments and its local officers to start the discussion on minimum wage. Usually this directive is issued every end of July to early August of the current year. The discussion will include related stakeholders such as the employer/industry association, trade unions, and the relevant government agency. Manpower Minister Regulations stipulates the issuance of the provincial minimum wage on 1 November, and the regent/city minimum wage by the latest on 21 November. Of the calculation formula, the same Regulation as delegated by the contentious Government Regulation No. 78 of 2015 prescribed the formula of the minimum wage calculation based on economic indicator of national inflation rate and gross domestic growth.The National Regulations on Minimum wage also stipulate the determination of minimum wage to be held annually.

Considering the Indonesia Labour Regulations does not adopt the contract law of force majeure principles; at the face value, the determination of the 2021 minimum wage should go through the normal process. Then again, if the economic indicator shows a strong indication of negative growth, will the number of the 2021 minimum wage decrease compare with the current 2020 minimum wage? Even if the relevant stakeholders agreed to increase the 2021 minimum wage, could the industry implement it? Also, the tight labour market in the era of pandemic likely exacerbate non-conformance of minimum wage anywise.

Looking at the challenges, there are several points the national stakeholders and policy makers could consider to address the 2021 minimum wage:

-Delay increment of the minimum wage for at least one year and have the 2020 minimum wage applied until 31 December 2021.

-The Government to create a periodic price interventions for basic commodities including providing subsidy, together with economic stimulus package for strategic industry in Indonesia to keep consumption, production and unemployment rate in an acceptable level.

-Labour policy makers and relevant stakeholders to review the annual minimum wage determination to a longer period of 3-5 years, and start conversing about one national minimum wage, one provincial minimum wage and industry specific minimum wage which could cut the complexity of labour remuneration regime in Indonesia, increase social dialogue between all actors and increase market flexibility.

-Increase labour force skills and adaptability to fit with the new industry normal.

-Adopt force majeure principle in the Indonesia labour regulations that include a fair and just contingency mechanism.

What is going to happen in the next few months concerning the 2021 minimum wage is as unpredictable as the discourse of when the pandemic would end. Hopefully, these last 4 months of the 2020 will as well serve as a learning curve for the labour policy makers to find the fittest solution for an ever difficult problem.

Indonesia Labour Regulations Profile Volume I – English

We are republishing the Indonesia Labour Regulations Profile (ILRP) Volume I – English. The Profile was first published in 2017 when we are still under the name of Indonesia Labour Databank.

ILRP Volume I is the first series of Indonesia Labour Regulations summary. The other two series are Occupational Health and Safety (ILRP OHS Volume II) and Environmental (ILRP ENV Volume III). As we are revamping the ILRP series including revising the Volume I, we think it is a good idea to share the 1st publication of ILRP Volume I.

Taking into consideration that many of the law and regulation references are still applicable today, please be mindful of updated regulations such as religious festivity allowance, and national social security and healthcare contributions.

You can download the ILRP Volume I below:

Guidance for the New Normal in the Workplace

Not long after the President of Republic of Indonesia announce that Indonesian shall live alongside the Covid 19 and adapt to a new normal, the Minister of Health issues Decree No. HK.01.07/ MENKES/328/2020 concerning Guidelines for Prevention and Control of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) in the Office and Industrial Workplace to Support Business Continuity during (the) Pandemic.

The summary of the guidelines for a workplace is as follow: –

a. Companies required forming a Covid-19 Handling Team in the workplace consisting of the leadership, staffing section, K3 section and Health workers who are strengthened by a decree from the Management.

b. Management shall establish policies and procedures for workers to report every case of suspected Covid-19 (symptoms such as fever or cough, runny nose, sore throat pain, or shortness of breath) to be monitored by health workers.

c. Do not treat positive cases as a stigma.

d. Work from home arrangements by determining essential workers who need to keep working  or come to work and workers who can do work from home.

e. At the entrance of the workplace take a temperature measurement using thermo-gun, and before entering work apply Covid-19 Risk Self-Assessment to ensure workers who will come to work are not infected by Covid-19.

f. Limit overtime so workers can properly rest. If possible, avoid shift 3 (work time which starts at night until morning). Shift 3 is arranged in particular for workers aged less than 50 years.

g. Require workers to wear masks since traveling to / from home, and while at work.

h. Regulate the nutritional intake of food provided by the workplace, select fruits that contain lots of vitamin C such as oranges, guava, and so on to help maintain endurance. If possible workers can be given vitamin C supplements.

i. Ensure that all work areas are clean and hygienic:

-conduct periodic cleaning using appropriate cleansers and disinfectants (once every 4 hours). Especially door handles and stairs, elevator buttons, shared office equipment, areas and other public facilities;

-maintain workplace air quality by optimizing air circulation and sunlight entering the workspace, cleaning air conditioner filters.

-provide facilities for washing hands (soap and running water), instructions at the location of hand washing facilities and post educational posters on how to wash hands properly. As well as providing a hand sanitizer with a minimum alcohol concentration of 70% in places that are needed (such as entrances, meeting rooms, elevator doors, etc.);

-physical distancing in all work activities-arrangement of inter-worker distance of at least 1 meter in each work activity (work desk /workstation arrangement, seat arrangement in the canteen, etc.).

-campaigning the Healthy Living Community Movement (Germas) through Healthy Lifestyle and Clean and Healthy Lifestyle (PHBS) in the workplace such as balanced food and regular exercise. Wash Hands With Soap (CTPS). Encourage workers to wash their hands when they arrive at work, before meals, after contact with customers / meetings with others, after the bathroom, after handling objects that might be contaminated. Avoid using personal tools together such as prayer tools, cutlery, and others.

j. Educate workers about COVID-19

The Minister of Health Decree in question also guide employers to immediately report and coordinate with the community health center (PUSKESMAS) or Local Health Office when their workers are suspected or infected by Covid-19.

Worker’s Wage During the Global Pandemic: Can Employers Pay Workers Less if they Agree?

The Minister of Manpower has asked the provincial Governors to implement wage protection during the Covid-19 pandemic (Covid-19). In addition, local governments are also asked to work on prevention of Covid -19 in the workplace. These are stated in the Circular Letter of the Minister of Manpower No. M/3/HK.04/III/2020 concerning Protection of Workers and Business Continuity in the Context of Prevention and Control of Covid-19 that was issued on 17 March 2020.

In contrast with the recommendation of preventing and controlling Covid-19 infection in the workplace that have yet created backlash from the labour groups and trade unions, wage protection recommendations brings about not only strong consenting arguments in the wage discourse but also another perspective on the future labour law reform. A plethora of Circular Letters from numerous Ministries also exacerbate dissenting opinions about incapability of positive laws in civil laws, underdeveloped and high-politicized countries to keep up with the current situation.

To return to the topic of wage stipulated in the Circular Letter mentioned, the following are the recommendations of the Minister of Manpower: –

  • Workers who are categorized as Covid-19 ODP (people who are monitored but have yet shown any symptoms) based on the doctor’s statement so that they cannot work for a maximum of 14 days or according to Ministry of Health standards, then the wages are paid in full.
  • Workers who are categorized as Covid-19 suspect or suspected and are isolated/quarantined according to the doctor’s statement, then the wages are paid in full during the period of isolation/ quarantine.
  • Workers who do not come to work due to COVID-19 disease as evidenced by a doctor’s statement, the wage is paid according to statutory regulations
  • Companies that restrict (suspend) business activities due to the policies of their respective local governments in preventing and overcoming COVID-19, causing some or all of their workers unable to work, taking into account business continuity, changes in the amount and manner of payment of wages are made in accordance with an agreement between employers and workers.

The writer would like to focus on the last point above. Problematic statement of “…changes in the amount and manners of payment of wages are made in accordance with an agreement between the employers and workers ” likely in violation of the wage regulations. To name a few: Article 90 of the Labour Act No. 13 of 2003 and Article 15 of the Minister of Manpower Regulations No. 7 of 2013 stipulating that employer must not pay workers less than the minimum wage. Article 92 of the Labour Act No. 13 of 2003 also stipulates wage arrangements determined by an agreement between employer and workers or trade unions must not be lower than the wage provisions stipulated in the applicable laws and regulations.

The proponents of the Circular Letter in question claim that wage by agreement is better off compare to worse off no work no pay (Article 93 (1) of Labour Act No. 13 of 2003). Then again, the no work no pay concept in the National Labour Regulations applies when worker did not come to work because of their negligence. With the issuance of the Decree of the Head of the National Disaster Management Agency regarding movement restriction to the suppression and control of Covid-19 infection, negligence element is not met.

What about the negligence element implied in the Labour Act No. 13 of 2003 which annulled the concept of no work yes pay in situation when workers are ready to work but employers could not provide work because of preventable reasons? In the case of the global pandemic status of Covid-19, the employer negligence element is not met either. Thus, at face value it could be argued that the freedom of contract principle is used in determining worker’s wage in this unpreventable situation.

This assertion, however, has one major flaw. Freedom of contract as stipulated in Article 1338 of the Civil Code comes with its legal conditions. One of the conditions stipulate by Article 1320 of the Civil Code is a permissible cause. According to Article 1337 of the Civil Code, a permissible cause is construed as the contents of the agreement are not prohibited by law or do not conflict with decency or public order. If we comeback to Article 92 of the Labour Act No. 13 of 2003 stipulates wage arrangements determined by an agreement between employer and workers or trade unions must not be lower than the wage provisions stipulated in the applicable laws and regulations; any agreement between employers and workers on wage arrangement during the Covid-19 movement restriction which amount likely lower than the wage provisions stipulated in the applicable laws and regulations has no legal value or void.

Also, it does not help the cause that the Minister of Manpower decides to issue a Circular Letter on the subject matters. In the Indonesia Administrative Law, Circular letter is conceptualized as merely clarifying or giving instructions on how to carry out certain things that are considered important and urgent that do not yet exist or the rules as primary source of positive law in Indonesia remains unclear. Circular Letters are only policy rules from Administrative officials, such as Minister or Governors, instead of legal products. It is only played a role of internal instruction and recommendations. Thus, there is no legal consequence for not complying with Circular Letters. Further, Circular Letter substance should not oppose superior laws or regulations. If there is a conflict between a Circular Letters and Law & Regulations, the superior Laws and Regulations take precedence.

Circling back to the labour law reforms discourse. It is worth to consider as fundamentally labour regulations a derivative of contract law and force majeur is a principle of contract law, to have National Labour Regulations adopting force majeure doctrine-a convenient “label” used to refer to clauses which relieve a party from performance of its contractual obligations where that performance is impacted by events outside their control. Thus, in the event of force majeur such as the Covid-19 global pandemic the convenient principle in question can be used as a relieve argument to delay, withhold or reduce statutory rights and allows employers and workers negotiate and agreed on new terms. This adoption of force majeur principle into the National Labour Regulations should also accompanied by reform of the national welfare system as safety net replacement in uncertain times which negatively impacting both businesses and workers.

SE Menaker No. M_3_HK.04_III_2020