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Coronavirus 2020: Important aspects for employers and employees

[Monday, April 06, 2020 14:28:50]

Introduction:

On 23 March 2020, the President announced a general countrywide lockdown from midnight 26 March to midnight 16 April 2020, to curb the spreading of the Covid 19 virus (‘the virus’). This decision has major implications for employers, employees and the public at large. Both Employers and Employees should take note of a few important aspects of the lockdown and its impacts on the employment relationship.

National Disaster:

The lockdown was instituted in terms of regulations published in terms of the National Disaster Act and certain rights of individuals and businesses have been drastically curtailed.

Employers delivering an essential service:

Exempt from this lockdown are essential services, inclusive but not limited to the following services:

  1. Medical health, laboratory and medical services
  2. Fire prevention and fire fighting
  3. Grocery stores
  4. Fuel production, supply and maintenance
  5. Funeral services
  6. Newspaper, broadcasting and telecommunication services
  7. Waste and refuge removal services

All Employers may make temporary changes to workplace rules and working hours:

Movement of employees will be severely restricted in that persons will have to remain at home and will not be allowed to leave their homes unless they work in an exempted industry.

Employers must provide sanitary facilities in accordance with the National Building Regulations and, importantly:

Provide soap, running hot and cold water or a similar cleansing agent free of charge to its employees. While this must be provided in the sanitary facilities, it is advisable to make tissues and hand sanitizers available in boardrooms and other public spaces at the workplace. 

Maintain all rooms and facilities in a clean, hygienic, safe, whole and leak-free condition.

Considering introducing short-time for critical positions and/or special unpaid leave for other job positions until the situation improves and/or we receive new regulations from the South African Government.

Rights of Employees during lockdown:

An employee may be entitled to illness benefits in terms of the Unemployment Insurance Act, if the employee is sick for longer than 7 days. An employee who loses income due to reduced working time may also qualify for UIF.

Obligations of employees during lockdown:

Employees must remain at home for the duration of the lockdown. They must adhere to all rules, regulations and directives issued by the Government and must not do anything to increase the risk of becoming infected with the virus. It is recommended that employers communicate with employees regularly to inform them of rules, regulations and protocols.

Financial relief for employees:

A Temporary Relief Scheme, administered by the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) has been made available in certain circumstances, where employers shut down their operations. Employees wishing to claim must have been contributing to UIF while employed. The employer applies on behalf of the employee. The normal rule that for every 4 (four) days worked, the employee accumulates a one-day credit, will not apply. The benefit will only pay for the cost of salary during the temporary close of business operations. The salary benefits will be capped at an amount of R17 712.00 per month, per employee.

Rudolf Kuhn and Abrie Bronkhorst-  labour law attorneys, Pretoria, 6 April 2020

Employers who have enquiries on how to deal with lockdown may call Johann van Zyl for advice on 082 805 7272


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