Providing employee accommodation for permanent and seasonal agri-employees is a common phenomenon on South African farms. This is likely due to historical systems which have created a framework for the more labour-intensive industries to operate more effectively. Legislation in South Africa regarding housing is based on a combination of various laws and regulations across the South African legal framework and the SIZA housing guide is focused on a best practice approach. At the heart of these requirements is that employee welfare and safety are prioritised, along with the dual responsibility that rests with both the employer and the occupant. This dynamic is evaluated during social audits to ensure that audits meet market requirements.
The SIZA Social Standard requires that housing must be hygienic, structurally safe, and meet the minimum health and safety standards. It is important to remember that auditors must be able to verify these aspects during audits. For this reason, the auditor will sample housing areas for inspection and evaluation during their visual inspection. It is important to remember that auditors will request permission from an employee/occupier to gain entry if they are present at the facilities. However, as site management will have requested the audit, they will need to provide access to these facilities during the inspection to illustrate their commitment to identify potential improvements and allow the auditor to complete a thorough review of the accommodation facilities. The business will not only become aware of potential concerns, but must also utilise the audit as an inspection to identify issues such as mould, hygiene problems, broken implements, or potential structural dangers. There is a dual responsibility on employees and employers to maintain the health and safety of the housing facilities; however, if any severe risk to life or limb is noted, the owner and management will need to ensure that it is rectified and improved as soon as possible.
The management of accommodation is not an easy task, especially if it is done in large numbers. SIZA offers a guideline on accommodation in the agricultural context. Members are free to view and download this guide from the Member Resources section on their MySIZA profiles.