The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 places an express obligation on the employer to maintain a working environment that is safe and healthy. On the issue of a healthy working environment, the employer must ensure that the workplace is free from any risk to the health of its
employees as far as it is reasonably practicable. Within the context of Covid-19, there is a clear obligation on the employer to manage the risk of contamination in the workplace.

Practically, the employer can ensure a healthy working environment by ensuring that the workplace is clean and hygienic, promoting regular hand-washing by employees, promoting good respiratory hygiene by employees and keeping employees informed on developments related to Covid-19.
It is recommend that Employers adopt contingency plans or alternative working arrangements for Employees by consulting with its Employees about the Virus and communicating with its Employees regarding the measures the Employer will put in place to secure the working environment against the infiltration of the Virus and its Employees becoming infected.

It is recommend that these measures should include as little as possible physical contact with colleagues, clients, suppliers, contractors, customers, etcetera. Indeed, communication for various reasons between the aforementioned persons and the like for business needs and operations are of course required for most businesses to remain economically viable.  However, instead of physical consultation and communication; consultations and communication by way of conference call, internet or mobile telephone facilities should be implemented instead as a preventative measure until further notice.

Further prevent If an Employee complains of symptoms of the Virus, he or she must be instructed to vacate the working environment immediately and attend a doctor to be examined. If an Employee contracts the Virus, then
during the period the Employee is off sick and if he or she has not exhausted his or her sick leave benefits as per the BCEA, he or she is still entitled to receive his or her normal and full remuneration and benefits.

As an alternative to placing the employee on any type of leave, the employer could make it possible for the employee to work from home. The employer may need to put certain measures in place or assist such an employee to work from home if that is the arrangement. If it is not possible for the employee to work from home, the employer will not be able to deduct the period of quarantine as sick leave or annual leave as it was made compulsory by the employer. This will be a form of special paid leave that is over and above any other type of leave.

Contact Labour Advice & Dispute Resolution Centre Cell 0837740972 034 3121067 should you require any guidance in implementing the suggested measures in the workplace. Labour Advice has a facility to conduct Skype Disciplinary hearings( being tested in the courts) and Consultations.