The world has seen, in recent days, a global escalation of the coronavirus beyond the borders of China and Italy. A few days ago, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Covid-19, a disease caused by the virus, to be pandemic, and stated that the number of patients infected, deaths, and countries affected is expected to increase throughout the month of March.
As of the preparation of this article, cases of coronavirus were registered in 114 countries, with a lethality of 3.4%. The pandemic impacts production, raises fears of a global recession, damages the economy, and interrupts the production of goods and the supply of services across the globe. Among all the impacts of the coronavirus, those caused in labor relations are silent and can affect the daily lives of thousands of companies and employees.
In Brazil, the federal government passed Law No. 13,979/20, regulated by Ordinance No. 356/20, which establishes control measures to combat the new virus. The law defines the concepts of isolation, removal of persons whose illness has been confirmed, and quarantine, removal of persons with suspicion of contamination, and governs, in its article 3, paragraph 3, the labor consequences of quarantines and/or isolation.
The program in question considers absences from public service or private work activities to be "justified absences" during the period in which the affected employee is on leave, under quarantine, or in isolation. However, as the law does not specify the impact of such justified absences on employment contracts, it is necessary to analyze the related laws in order to understand it.
From what is known so far, when infection with the coronavirus is confirmed, the estimate is that the patient needs more than 15 days for a full recovery and return to work, considering the incubation period of the virus of up to 12 days, approximately, and the time for manifestation of the disease.
Thus, if an employee is away from work activities for more than 15 days, such employee must be referred to the INSS, to start receiving sick pay, as provided for in article 59 of Law No. 8,213/91. It is important to point out that during the first 15 days of leave, the employment contract is interrupted; starting on the 16th day, the contract is suspended.
This means that during the first 15 days, employees stop providing services to the employer, but continue to receive their remuneration. This period counts as effective provision of services for all legal purposes. It is only a partial suspension of services.
As of the 16th day, the employee must be put on leave with the INSS, and the employer is no longer required to pay wages. In addition, this period of leave will not count as time of service for labor and social security purposes.
In this arrangement, there is the understanding of suspension of contract, since, temporarily, there will be stoppage in the provision of services and, therefore, termination of the employer's obligations and of any effect of the contract while the suspension of the contract lasts.
However, it should be noted that even during the period of suspension of the employment contract, the employer must maintain the health plan regularly granted to the employee.
Based on the law, therefore, isolation and/or quarantine periods due to contamination of the employee by the coronavirus have the same impact as justified absences presented today, that is, they interrupt the employment contract until the 15th day and, from the 16th day onwards, they suspend the contractual relationship maintained between the employer and the employee, regardless of the isolation or quarantine period.
 According to article 2, I, of Law No. 13,979/2020, isolation means separation of sick or contaminated persons, or of baggage, means of transport, goods, or postal parcels affected, from others, in order to avoid infection or spreading of the coronavirus.
 According to article 2, I, of Law No. 13,979/2020, quarantine means restriction of activities or separation of persons suspected of contamination from persons who are not ill, or from luggage, containers, animals, means of transport or goods suspected of contamination, in order to avoid potential infection or spreading of the coronavirus.