As of 1 May 2020, South Africa has moved from level 5 of the hard lockdown to level 4 of the phased approach in easing the country out of lockdown. As such, new regulations were gazetted on 29 April 2020 which in effect allows for approximately 1.5 million of the South African workforce to return to work.
Employers in terms of said regulations need to ensure the following:
1. Remote working
Employees should still be encouraged to work from home as far as reasonably possible.
2. Third of the workforce
Employers who are reopening their businesses are only permitted to have one third of their workforce back at work at a time, thus employers are advised to implement rotating shifts between employees.
3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Before reopening the workplace, employers are obligated to ensure that employees have access to hand sanitisers (with at least 70% alcohol content), and employer’s must provide employees with a minimum of two cloth face masks. All PPE provided should come at no cost to employees. Ablution facilities with soap and water must also be available for the use of employees.
4. Social distancing in the workplace
Measures must be implemented to minimise contact between employees. Employees are to be kept 1.5 meters apart at the workplace; alternatively, physical barriers should be erected between employees to ensure distancing. Social distancing principles must similarly be implemented and adhered to in all common areas of the workplace such as canteens and meeting rooms etc.
5. Mandatory COVID-19 screening
Importantly, employers are required to screen each employee before entering the workplace for symptoms of COVID-19, including but not limited to: fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes, fatigue, weakness or shortness of breath (or difficulty in breathing). Any diagnosis of COVID-19 at the workplace must be reported to the Department of Health and Department of Labour immediately.
6. Sick employees
Employees who are ill must be sent home to self-isolate and employers are to ensure that arrangements are made for the employees’ safe transport.
7. Risk assessments
If an employer has a workforce of more than 500 employees, he/she is required to perform a risk assessment and submit the assessment to government. Importantly, in a higher risk environment, employers are required to provide PPE to employees that offer a greater level of protection in accordance with each workforce’s level of risk and exposure.
Employees who will be returning to work should note the following:
1. Sick leave
Employees are entitled to paid sick leave in the event of them falling ill as a result of COVID-19, alternatively employers are encouraged to apply for the COVID-19 TERS benefit.
2. COVID-19 related symptoms
Employees are encouraged to stay at home in the event of them feeling ill and/or if they are experiencing COVID-19 related symptoms. Employees must immediately inform their employers that they are feeling sick.
When provided with facemasks and other PPE, employees are required to wear the face masks whilst they are working and utilise any other form of PPE provided to them