Last week Friday, which interestingly enough was Worker’s Day, saw South Africa exit its extended lockdown period for COVID-19 and enter level 4. As such it will see a number of people return to the workplace. For those that need to return, the Department of Labour, yesterday outlined the required workplace guidelines for both employers and employees during this time.

The workplace guidelines dictate what employers must make available to their employees under level 4, as well as measures that should be in place for the work environment too.

“They must take measures to minimise the contact between workers and between workers and the public to prevent transmission. They must minimise the number of workers in the workplace at any time through shift or working arrangements to achieve social distancing,” explained minister Thulas Nxesi.

To that end employers must provide each employee with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting, free of charge.

Added to this, the Department says employees with COVID-19 symptoms must not be at work and employers must grant paid sick leave or apply for COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme (TERS) benefits.

On top of this, a manager within organisation must be appointed to act as intermediary between employees and employers when it comes to communication concerns.

Also crucially, employers are mandated to share accurate information regarding the status of COVID-19 in the country, as well as hygiene tips to limit its spread, with failure to do so potentially leading to ramifications for the organisation.

“It is a contravention not to do so as an employer. They must support any contact tracing measures initiated by the Department of Health,” added the minister.

The Department also outlined some specific elements that employers and employees must be aware of as part of the new workplace guidelines:

Social distancing – Workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of 1.5 metres between workers. If this is not practicable, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied free of charge with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Screening – Employers must screen workers for symptoms of COVID-19 at the time that they report for work. Workers with symptoms must be placed in isolation and arrangements made for their safe transport for a medical examination or 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 DoH.

Sanitisers and disinfectants – Employers are also required to provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70 percent alcohol content. Communal and shared equipment must be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

The Department of Labour is also looking into getting more inspectors in coming weeks, with an additional 500 people being required. These inspectors will be assisting with ensuring compliance levels are met during lockdown.

There has also been a call for employees within the organisation to ensure that workplace guidelines are being adhered to.

“It would be impossible to inspect every one of the 1.8 million businesses. Therefore, inspectors rely upon the support of individual workers, unions and socially responsible employers in providing vital information – which in turn allows the Inspectors to focus on hotspots and to make an example of particular offenders. In turn, this leads to greater self-regulation and compliance,” concluded the minister Nxesi.

For those people returning to work this week, or perhaps later in the month, it is critical to ensure your employer is following these new guidelines.

[Image – Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash]