Ankara mulls ban on layoffs to soften blow from coronavirus

Turkey would ban layoffs for three months under draft legislation aimed at protecting those lacking job security and mitigating the blow to the economy from the coronavirus outbreak, two senior officials told Reuters.

“The proposed law would be guaranteeing employment and aims to protect employees who are not eligible for short-labor pay and are put on unpaid leave,” one of the officials said.

President Tayyip Erdogan would be authorized by parliament to extend this period to six months, the sources said.

They said the law would be passed soon but gave no date. However, it would apply to anyone who had been laid off or put on unpaid leave as of March 15 and is not eligible for unemployment benefits. The government would pay them a daily 39.24 lira ($5.80).

Turkey’s death toll from COVID-19, the respiratory disease triggered by the coronavirus, stood at 812 on Wednesday, the health ministry said, among a total of more than 38,000 confirmed cases.

Ankara has halted all flights, limited intercity traveling, closed schools, bars, and cafes and suspended mass prayers to counter the outbreak. But people are still going to work as Erdogan seeks to sustain economic production and exports.

Some firms in the aviation and tourism sectors have begun part-time work and unpaid leave schemes while some manufacturers have temporarily halted production. Food stores and online delivery services have announced extra hiring as demand spiked.

The government has also offered to pay 60% of the wages of employees working in businesses suffering from the outbreak, while state banks have offered loans to companies that keep their employee headcount stable during this period.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 13.7% at the end of last year, remaining at elevated levels since a 2018 currency crisis, and economists say a further rise is likely as a result of measures taken to stem transmission of the coronavirus.


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