South Africa moved to level 3 lockdown on Monday, 1 June, with more than eight million employees expected to return to work this week.
Except for those businesses and institutions that are expressly excluded, businesses may now operate and employees may travel to and from work, says Talita Laubscher, a partner at law firm Bowmans.
These are the biggest changes and what is required of both employers and employees.
Employers must issue permits to their employees where the employees will be required, in the course of carrying on work responsibilities or performing a permitted service, to travel between provinces, metropolitan areas, districts and ‘hotspots’.
It seems that apart from these categories of employees, people will, strictly speaking, not be required to be in possession of a permit in order to travel to and from work, but the cautious approach is to ensure that employees are provided with permits.
More than 100 employees
Businesses and institutions with more than 100 employees must, where possible, make provision for minimising the number of employees at the workplace at any given time in order to achieve social distancing and to limit congestion in public transport.
This can be done through:
- Rotation of workers;
- Staggered working hours;
- Shift systems; and
- Remote working arrangements and similar measures.
Irrespective of their size, all businesses, industries and entities (private and public) that are permitted to operate must designate a Covid-19 Compliance Officer.
The compliance officer must oversee the implementation of the employer’s workplace plan as well as adherence to the standards of hygiene and health protocols relating to Covid-19 in the workplace.
All employers must prepare a workplace plan, dealing with the following issues:
- Which employees are permitted to work;
- What the plans for the phased-in return of their employees to the workplace are;
- What health protocols are in place to protect employees from Covid-19; and
- The details of the Covid-19 compliance officer.
The term ‘small employer’ is not defined, but we assume that this refers to employers with fewer than 10 employees.
Small employers may have ‘basic plans’ dealing with, at the minimum, the items above.
Medium and large employers must have workplace plans setting out the following, as set out in Annexure E to the Regulations:
- The date the business will open and the hours of operating;
- The timetable for the phased return to work of employees;
- The steps taken to make the workplace Covid-19 ready;
- A list of staff who can work from home, those who are 60 years and older, and those who have underlying illnesses (i.e. comorbidities);
- Arrangements for staff relating to social distancing, screening, attendance record system, etc; and
- Arrangements for customers or members of the public.
Workplace plans must be retained for inspection.
Phased-in return to work
Businesses, industries and entities must phase in the return of employees to work, to manage the return of employees from other provinces, metropolitan areas and districts.
Businesses, industries and entities must develop measures to ensure that the workplace meets the standards of health protocols, adequate space for employees, and social distancing measures for members of the public and service providers.
All the relevant health protocols and social distancing measures set out in the applicable Directives, and applicable sector-specific health protocols, must be adhered to.
This includes the Occupational Health and Safety Directive issued by the Minister of Employment and Labour.
Stores and institutions
A person in control of a retail store or institution must take steps to ensure that customers keep a distance of at least 1.5 meters from each other, and that all directions in respect of health protocols and social distancing measures are adhered to.
Retail stores and institutions must designate a compliance officer to ensure that safety controls are strictly adhered to.
The name of the compliance officer must be displayed prominently in the store or institution.
Over 60s and those with co-morbidities
Employers must implement special measures for employees who are 60 years and older, or those with co-morbidities, to facilitate their safe return to work.
Where possible, these employees should work from home.
500 and more employees
Construction, manufacturing, business and financial services firm with more than 500 employees must finalise appropriate sector workplace arrangements or compacts. These arrangements must address:
- The provision of transport, or arrangements to transport the employees coming to site, but where this is not possible, the staggering of working time arrangements to reduce congestion in public transport;
- Staggering the return to work of employees to ensure workplace readiness and to avoid traffic congestion during peak travel times;
- The daily screening of employees for Covid-19 symptoms;
- Referring employees who display symptoms for medical examinations and testing, where necessary; and
- Submitting data collected during the screening and testing process to the DG of the Department of Health.