Image credits: Luis Villasmil
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News Article

Evaluating NOM-35 Compliance in The Post-Pandemic World

By Cinthya Alaniz Salazar | Fri, 10/15/2021 - 11:06

Last year, NOM-035 preventative regulation tasked companies with identifying work conditions that fueled psychological risk factors in the workplace and develop countermeasures to address them. A year later, in the post-pandemic world, it becomes clear that companies have failed to develop consequential preventative mechanisms.

In 2019, the proliferation of emotional and health problems derivative from unhealthy work conditions prompted the draft of NOM-035, which outlined different compliance standards for companies based on their workforce size. Prior to this, about 85 percent of Mexican organizations lacked appropriate conditions to give employees an appropriate work-life balance, found a study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Given that the law only applies to work centers with 15 employees or more, thousands in the informal sector are excluded from this protection.

Before the mandate entered its second phase, however, the COVID-19 pandemic came to compound existing psychosocial risks while simultaneously undermining companies’ ability to separate clear causality. “The link between risk, work, damage and this circle of causality is something that has not been very clear among employers,” said Omar Estefan, Director of Social Welfare of the Ministry of Labor (STPS).

On the other hand, because the pandemic was a globally shared experience, it has generated greater empathy between employers and employees, which in some cases has allowed for honest conversations about workplace stresses. This dialogue has allowed companies to identify risk factors but policies and corrective actions are still a pending issue, says Jorge Merida, Creative Partner of the Advisory Network for Wellbeing. Moreover, since the pandemic affected business sectors in different ways, progress and compliance have been uneven across the board, points out Martha Hernández, Director of Human Capital Consulting at AON Mexico.

Although this learning process may not have happened the way regulators or businesses envisioned, NOM-035 helped minimize the effects of the pandemic on the mental health of workers and stands to serve as a tool to transition to a new work culture, says Hosanna Rodríguez, President of the National Federation of Occupational Health. “We have already completely changed the language and the approach to the well-being of the worker, not only identifying what is affecting them but also proposing intervention,” she added.

NOM-035 compliance should not solely be seen as a necessary operational compliance or an additional expense. Addressing negative work conditions could increase participation and productivity while reducing employee turnover. From a macroeconomic scale, even progress across all domestic industries is important and necessary to bridge an estimated 4 percent loss in GDP from these work conditions, says the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Although STPS has ruled out compliance verifications for the NOM-035 for now, the federal government can fine non-compliant organizations. Overall, these labor protections stand to keep the country’s work force healthy and safe, while directly impact company’s productivity.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
UNAM, STPS, AON Mexico, Advisory Network for Wellbeing, ILO
Photo by:   Luis Villasmil
Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Cinthya Alaniz Salazar Journalist & Industry Analyst