Source: Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Law firm Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr has outlined some of the key considerations for employees returning to work this January.
Returning from holiday and working from home
Where an employee is able to work from home while quarantining, the employee may do so and will therefore be entitled to their full salary. In cases where an employee is unable to work from home, the employee may make use of their annual leave for the quarantine period.
Where an employee has exhausted their annual leave, the principle of no work no pay will apply and the employee will be placed on unpaid leave.
Employers should alert employees to the fact they will be required to self-quarantine upon return from a hotspot area and that they will need to make use of annual leave or unpaid leave for this period where they are unable to work from home.
Under the exceptional circumstances of Covid-19, requiring an employee who has returned from a hotspot area to self-quarantine, it can be argued that this does not amount to unfair discrimination
“Unless the employer can show that the conduct of the employee has damaged the employment relationship in some way, the employer is not entitled to discipline the employee for their conduct outside of the workplace,” Cliffe Dekker Homeyr said.
“A balance must be struck between an employer maintaining a safe working environment post the holiday season and an invasion of an employee’s privacy. Employers can only encourage employees to adhere to government protocols outside of the workplace.”
Obligations at the workplace
In terms of the adjust level 3 regulations, an employer has the following obligations and responsibilities:
- To adhere to all sector-specific or other health and safety protocols issued to date;
- To appoint a compliance officer to enforce compliance with the adjusted level 3 regulations and all other health and safety protocols issued to date;
- Prohibit employees from entering the workplace or performing their duties unless an employee is wearing a face mask;
- Determine the floor plan area of the workplace and the number of persons who may enter the workplace based on the floor plan area, while still maintaining a physical distance of 1.5 metres;
- Ensure all persons queuing either inside or outside their premises maintain a physical distance of 1.5 metres;
- Take measures to enforce physical distancing of 1.5 metres in its workplace, including implementing measures such as remote work, restrictions on face-to-face meetings and taking special measures in relation to employees who are considered vulnerable due to their age or co-morbidities;
- Provide hand sanitisers outside its premises.
With the pandemic putting a halt on travel and making travellers uneasy to explore the world once more, experts believe that a new health passport app may be the solution to win them over.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, global tourism shrank by 97 percent in April. This could be due to closed borders or travellers being uneasy to travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new CovidPass app, dubbed as a health passport, hopes to restore travellers confidence to want to travel in a Covid-19 world and hopefully eliminate the need for quarantine at destinations for healthy travellers.
According to the World Economic Forum, CovidPass is the brainchild of one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, Mustapha Mokass. It also involves other YGLs across 5 continents, including Muna AbuSulayman and Peggy Liu.
So, how does that app work?
Well, CovidPass uses blockchain technology to store encrypted data from travellers’ blood tests, which they can use to show whether they are Covid-19 positive or negative.
The app is set to launch in September.
Mokass wants the app to become a standardised solution for airlines, airports and border agencies. Should CovidPass be successful, it could eliminate the need to quarantine healthy travellers. Many destinations have imposed mandatory quarantine for travellers in a bid to curb the spread of the virus.
CovidPass also commits to mandatory carbon offsetting for each flight passenger in hopes of preserving the environmental benefits of reduced air travel during the crisis. CovidPass could also assist hotels, cinemas, theatres, conference and exhibition industry and sporting and concert venues to reopen safely.
On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced a number of strict measures to help reduce the spread of coronavirus in South Africa.
The highlights of his address are as follows:
- A National State of Disaster has been declared
- A travel ban from foreign nationals from high-risk countries will be implemented from Wednesday 18 March
- SA citizens are advised to refrain from travel to or through high-risk countries. These are currently listed as Iran, China, South Korea, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, France, the UK and the USA. This is updated regularly
- SA citizens returning from high-risk countries will undergo additional testing at ports of entry, and must self-isolate for 14 days
- All foreign nationals who entered South Africa from high-risk areas must be tested. This applies to those who travelled from mid-February onwards
- 35 land ports and two seaports will be closed
- Non-essential travel is prohibited for all spheres of government
- Gatherings of more than 100 people are prohibited. This includes concerts, sport events and celebrations
- Schools will be closed from 18 March until after the Easter weekend. Creches and universities are expected to follow suit
- Visits to all correctional facilities have been suspended for the next 30 days
- All businesses must take measures to intensify hygiene control, and where possible workers are to be asked to work remotely
- All shopping centres must take measures to intensify hygiene control
- The capacity of health centres is being increased nationally
- A national command council has been established, meeting three times a week, chaired by the President
- Cabinet is working with the private sector to finalise a package of varying fiscal measures to prevent economic collapse
All citizens of South Africa are called upon to do the following:
- Wash hands with soap or similar for 20 seconds. Do this regularly, especially after going out in public and touching typically dirty surfaces (e.g. hand rails, money, door handles, elevator buttons)
- Sneeze or cough into the crook of the elbow, or into a tissue which is immediately discarded. Wash hands thereafter
- Avoid close contact with those who have flu-like symptoms
- Avoid shaking hands and hugging, and try to keep a one-metre distance from other people in public
- Avoid spreading fake news. Check all your facts before sharing information
- Avoid panic-buying, especially of items (e.g. gloves and sanitizers) needed by medically vulnerable populations in society
- Practice social distancing. This involves staying within the confines of the home and avoiding going into public unless absolutely necessary
- Quarantining / self-isolating for 14 days is necessary for all those experiencing flu-like symptoms. Seek testing should the following symptoms persist:
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Breathing difficulties
- Limit all forms of travel and social gatherings where possible
- Where possible, avoid public transport
- Where possible, work remotely and conduct meetings via digital platforms
- If you believe you have Covid-19, you can:
- E-mail the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) on email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call DIRCO on 012 351 1754
- WhatsApp 0600 123 456 and say “Hi”, and then follow the prompts
- Call the National Coronavirus Hotline on 0800 029 999
- Phone your GP and ask for advice
- It is NOT recommended that you go to a medical facility without phoning ahead. This will prevent the spread of the virus, or your exposure to the virus