By: Bertha X. Ortega
The Labor Code defines labor discipline as the set of rules regulating the conduct and activities performed by the employee in his job or work center for the efficient provision of the service.
This set of regulatory rules is included in the internal regulations that must be prepared by the employer and approved by the Ministry of Labor. For such approval, the departmental inspectorate will send the draft regulations to the workers so that they can say what they wish. That is why it is important that employers involve workers and union organizations in the drafting process to avoid delays. But it is more important that they involve them, not only to comply with a requirement, but also so that labor discipline is consciously assumed by the workers.
The employment contract and the internal regulations are, therefore, two important and key instruments in the implementation of the employment relationship; in the employment contract are agreed the specific obligations that the worker will perform for the employer in the job, as well as the rest of the conditions relating to working hours, salary, duration of the contract etc. and in the internal regulations, the rules of conduct applicable to all workers, regardless of the work they perform for the company.
These rules regulating employee conduct contained in the internal regulations refer in most cases to the following aspects:
- To the fulfillment in due time and form of the obligations derived from the position held.
- To the obligations of the parties, not only of the workers.
- To maintain a harmonious work environment or climate where respect and consideration prevail among the workers themselves, between them and the employer’s representatives and/or third parties with whom they are linked by reason of the work performed, free of inappropriate treatment, physical or verbal aggression, labor or sexual harassment and discriminatory acts that threaten the psychological and moral dignity of such persons.
- To the general care and protection of the employer’s assets (facilities, machinery, raw materials, etc.) and in particular to the assets that are directly under their responsibility (equipment, money, valuables, information, etc.).
- Those aspects that being regulated in a general way by the Labor Code require to be expanded for a better understanding and application (vacations, promotions, evaluations, breaks, leaves, etc.).
- The procedure for complaints or claims and the sanctioning procedure itself.
- The sanctions to be applied by the employer in case of non-compliance, either of the specific obligations of the job or the general ones, regulated in the internal regulations.
Although the essence of internal regulations is punitive, i.e., the employer must have the internal regulations approved by MITRAB in order to apply sanctions to workers, otherwise the sanction against the worker would be a violation, its greatest virtue should be to consider it the instrument through which balance and harmony are maintained, It should be considered the instrument through which balance and harmony are maintained, because it contains the rules of coexistence in the workplace that must be respected by the whole universe of individuals with different interests, behaviors, reactions, values, attitudes and that converge for reasons of work in a common space and it is assumed that in a common interest, such as preserving the source of employment.
The workers, as part of a society that has developed under rules of behavior of different nature, in general terms respect those rules contained in the internal regulations and for that reason it is important that the workers are made aware of them at the beginning of the labor relationship but that they are also refreshed, especially in cases of personnel rotation.
As important as the refreshments, is the updating of such regulations, not only because an internal regulation of the Ministry of Labor is not complied with in relation to its updating every five years but precisely because, being an instrument for the coexistence of many individualities in a common space, it is necessary to update it in order to eliminate those regulations that have been totally outdated, to modify others that with the passage of time have become obsolete and/or to incorporate new topics. This updating is imperatively motivated by the changes that are taking place in the organization of work, in the new ways of providing the labor relationship and in the new communication technologies.
This updating must go through an internal consultation process, especially with the managers or people who are responsible for the workers, since the experience gained in the day-to-day experience is invaluable as an input for the human resources area or the legal area, as the case may be. In other words, the preparation and updating of internal regulations should not be the exclusive task of human resources departments because it is a more global task.
Likewise, the updating allows the incorporation in such regulations of topics that have become relevant over time and are vital for this coexistence. These are issues that become relevant with new laws, with new international agreements, with new events, such as harassment at work, which may result in legal proceedings that may culminate in compensation in favor of the worker who has suffered it, compensation different from those already contemplated in the Labor Code; discrimination, which may also lead to the aforementioned compensation and/or sexual harassment that may result in crimes punishable under the Penal Code, or such as occupational health and safety, which was recently elevated to the category of fundamental rights by the International Labor Organization.
The updating of internal regulations must go hand in hand with training of workers on the same, as this is a way of ensuring that they are aware of the rules of behavior that they are obliged to respect.