Digitalization has suddenly become an indispensable process for employers. New relationships have emerged in which employees are no longer required to go to a physical site to receive their work equipment, meet their new peers, have meetings with human resources, receive their onboarding training or even sign hard copies of documentation.

From a labor law perspective, this leads us to question the validity of digital documents such as employment contracts, disciplinary contracts, non-disclosure agreements, general communications, company policies and any other official documents used by employers.

Let’s consider the digital signature, which has become a simpler way to confirm the receipt or acknowledgement of documents. This can be complicated, because some laws do not permit the use of digital methods for expressing the will of parties. Nor are there cross-border agreements that regulate and unify a single digital signature in different countries.

Establishing Clear Policies Around Digitalization

Given this scenario, employers have had to adjust to the new reality. It is therefore recommended to develop clear policies to regulate the use of digital signatures, and it is important to consider the following aspects:

1. In order to sign employment documents, the digital signature must be recognized by the government.

2. However, if the employee does not have an official digital signature, companies should use or create a digital program, which is accessed only with the username and password that is given to the employee. This allows employees to sign and receive documents while remaining the only person related to the document and signature.

3. While some companies will not be able to set up a digital signature system, they can still create new policies around email. In that case, the company can determine that the receipt and acknowledgment of an email is considered equal to that of a digital signature. This policy will lower costs, increase employee motivation and create new, more cost-efficient internal processes. Such digitalization will also help the environment by reducing paper waste.

Companies should develop clear policies to regulate the use of digital signatures.

Adjusting to New Realities

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have been forced to consider new processes that were not scheduled to be implemented for the next four of five years. But here we are, in a moment where social distancing and digitalization have become essential for the modern workplace.

This is the time to update our internal policies and try to seek a change in employment law. Such a transformation will benefit jobs, strengthen our economy and attract foreign investment.

While this article is based on Costa Rica‘s experience, it applies to other countries as well. Across the region, employers and governments should look to adapt to our “new normal” and start thinking ahead for the benefit of all parties.

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