The following summarises the 2 (two) new Social Security changes to Social Security Fund legislation to provide greater support for the payment of salary compensation for employees (NB: most acutely focused on low paid workers) effected by COVID-19, which has already passed approval from the Thai Cabinet and has been officially announced in the Social Security Fund website (https://www.sso.go.th/wpr/main):
- in case of unpaid quarantine ordered for an employee to stay home by the employer due to COVID-19, SSF will pay at 62% of their wage, maximum THB 9,300 per month for 90 days (NB: based on actual unpaid leave up to THB 15,000 in eligible wages per month).
- in case of temporary close of business for up to 2 months due to government order, such as Fitness First staff upon government order to close all gyms, SSF will pay at 62% of their wages, maximum THB 9,300 per month for 90 days (NB: based on actual unpaid leave up to THB 15,000 in eligible wages per month).
Two further salary compensation rules (#3 and #4 below) previously announced for payment of salary compensation for low paid workers effected by COVID-19 remain unchanged within the Social Security Fund legislation:
- in case termination ordered by the employer during to COVID-19 situation, SSF will provide monthly payments at 70% of their wages (with a maximum up to THB 15,000 in eligible wages per month), which amounts to maximum THB 10,500 per month for a maximum payment period of 200 days (i.e., about 6 and a half month) or until the employee finds a new job. Plus, Employer has to pay normal severance.
On 17th April 2020, a previously announced 4th salary compensation rule (i.e., “#4. in case that a company closes TEMPORARILY due COVID-19 due to without government order, the company must pay 75% of their ACTUAL wages”) was brought into question due to the following government order: “Ministerial Regulations Respecting Receiving of Unemployment Benefits Owing to Force Majeure Arisen from Outbreak of Dangerous Communicable Disease under Law Governing Communicable Diseases B.E. 2563 (2020)”.
According to this Ministerial Regulation announced on 17th April 2020, the Ministry of Labour stated that COVID-19 is considered as force majeure. The employee who is unable to work due to the cessation of business of the employer and has not been paid, irrespective of whether the employer stops his business operation by himself or by order of the authorities, is entitled to receive unemployment benefits from the Social Security Office.
Under this Ministerial Regulation, employees will be entitled to receive compensation at a rate of 62% of their wages (maximum wages cap at 15,000 per month) during the work cessation period, up to a maximum of 90 days, between March 1 and August 31, 2020.
The law did not specifically allow the employer to cease operation without paying wages to employees; however, if the Covid-19 outbreak is deemed to be a “force majeure” by the Ministry of Labour concerning matters outside the scope of Social Security benefits, then the employer will not be liable to pay wages according to Section 75 of the Labour Protection Act, which states that “When it is necessary for an employer, for whatever cause other than force majeure, causes them to become incapable of operating their business as normal, they will be required to pay their employees’ 75% of their wages when making changes to the company’s business operations.”