In terms of the Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert Level 4, during the COVID-19 lockdown, if a person is employed by a company or a division of a company that provides essential goods or essential services, it becomes an obligatory expectation to continue working during the lockdown if the employer requires it. Only non-essential services cannot force employees to work, according to Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi. Employers should however be cautious of possible unfair labour practices.

With a number of workers set to return to work from 1 May onwards under Level 4 regulations, the Department of Employment and Labour has drafted the minimum guidelines for employers to ensure the workplace is safe for returning employees. These guidelines come as government gradually reopens the economy under Level 4 of lockdown while ensuring that the spread of COVID-19 is contained. Under these guidelines, the following regulations must be in place:

  • Masks/PPE
    Employers must provide each employee, free of charge, with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting. Returning employees must wear masks at work. Employers must also require members of the public entering a workplace to always wear masks. People should not be allowed to enter or exit a building without adequate cloth masks.
  • Social distancing
    With regard to social distancing, workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of 1.5 meters between employees. If this is not practicable, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) free of charge.
    Social distancing must be implemented in all common areas in and around the workplace to prevent crowding, including working spaces, canteens, and meeting rooms.
  • Screening
    In relation to screening, employers must screen workers for symptoms of COVID-19 at the time that they report for work. Any of the observable symptoms associated with COVID-19, namely fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing must be screened.
    Workers should immediately inform the employer if they experience any symptoms while at work, including these additional symptoms: body aches, loss of smell or loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness. Workers with symptoms must leave the workplace immediately and be placed in isolation and arrangements made for their safe transport for a medical examination or for self-isolation.
    Employees who recover from COVID-19 may return to work after a medical evaluation and subject to ongoing monitoring, in line with instructions of the Department of Health.
  • Sanitisers and disinfectants
    Employers are also required to provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70% alcohol content. Communal and shared equipment must be regularly cleaned and disinfected before every workday/shift starts.