The New Year hasn’t quite started off the way we had all hoped. Covid-19 is still very much a reality and seemingly here to stay for a little longer than any of us would like. This month South Africa recorded 844 deaths and 21 832 new cases in a single day – a grim milestone to kick off the year.
The country has once again, been called on to unite in the fight against this second wave and as employers there is a lot we can – and must do to help.
As a country we are scared which means that your employees are probably scared too and any plans for simply returning to the office need to be carefully considered. President Cyril Ramaphosa made it crystal clear in his address to the nation on January 11th that hygiene and social distancing will remain the order of the day and that holidaymakers returning from hot spots over the festive season pose a risk.
So what does that mean for you as an employer? Is it compulsory for your employees who return from a hot spot to quarantine prior to reporting for duty at the workplace? And what are the remuneration do’s and don’ts for those employees in self-quarantine?
Social distancing, the correct PPE and meticulous hygiene regulations are critical to ensure the safety of employees but there are now new procedural issues to consider pertaining to this new wave such as correct procedures for employees returning from a hot spot and ensuring records of infected employees are kept updated as part of accurate tracking and tracing purposes.
How should employees use their sick leave and/or annual leave in the event of being unable to work? Where an employee is able to work from home while quarantining are they entitled to their full salary? What about those cases where an employee is unable to work from home – can they make use of their sick/annual leave for the quarantine period as they would do in the event of being ill historically? Should an employee exhaust their annual leave, does the principle of no work no pay apply and will the employee be placed on unpaid leave?
All of these questions and more will need to be handled with compassion and according to specific regulations.
Employers will need to comply with obligations in terms of the Alert Level 3 Regulations and be armed with the necessary advice and support in relation to the recommencement of work in 2021.
Media reports about virus mutations and the increasing number of infections and deaths continue to leave employees feeling anxious and scared. Now more than ever, employers need to practice empathy towards employees and look at flexible work arrangements and mental health support.
Creating a one size fits all solution isn’t always possible or feasible – so make sure that you are looking at your business and employees needs holistically when planning how best to facilitate your back to work process.
Q&A to assist with back to work safety protocols
Is it compulsory for employees who have returned from a hot spot to quarantine before returning to the office?
- Yes it is compulsory to ensure that your employees returning from a hot spot self-quarantine for 10 days
How should employees use their sick leave and/or annual leave in the event of being unable to work?
- Employees are entitled to use their annual leave for the quarantine period. In the event that the employee’s annual leave is exhausted the principle of “no work no pay” shall apply which means that the employee will not be paid during the quarantine period, should remote work not be operationally possible.
Where an employee is able to work from home while quarantining are they entitled to their full salary?
- Yes, the employee shall be entitled to their full salary should it be possible for them to perform their work functions remotely.
In cases where an employee is unable to work from home, can they make use of their sick/annual leave for the quarantine period as they would do in the event of being ill historically?
- In the event of being sick from Covid-19, the employee is certainly entitled to make use of their sick leave. However in a scenario where the employee is unable to work remotely but must quarantine following their return from a hot-spot area – but is not sick, employees are then only allowed to make use of their annual leave and not sick leave to quarantine. Should the employee’s annual leave be exhausted they will not be entitled to payment of their salary for the duration of the quarantine period.
Should an employee exhaust their annual leave, does the principle of no work no pay apply, and will the employee be placed on unpaid leave?
- Yes, unfortunately for the employee this will be the case
Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.