COVID-19 Workplace Readiness and Operating Under Risk Adjusted Regulations

South Africa is on adjusted alert Level 4 from 28 June 2021

The country is on adjusted Alert Level 4 from 28  June 2021 to address, prevent and combat the spread of Covid-19. Below is an extraction from the Gazette on lockdown regulations and permit to travel form for Lockdown Level 4.

Mandatory workplace vaccination guidelines published 

The amended Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Certain Workplaces requires that employers update their Risk Assessment Plans with respect to mandatory vaccinations by the 2nd of July. On 11 June 2021 the Minister of Employment & Labour published an amended Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety Measures in certain workplaces (“the Direction”). A copy of the Direction can be found here

The Direction applies to all employers and workers in workplaces which are permitted to operate under the Covid-19 Regulations issued in terms of the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. The Direction has, however, introduced the possibility of mandatory vaccination policies in the workplace including undertaking a risk assessment to determine, inter alia, whether it intends to make vaccination mandatory or not. If so, it must identify those employees who should be vaccinated, taking into account sections 8 and 9 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the employer’s operational requirements. Employers would identify these employees based on (1) the risk of transmission through their work or (2) the risk of severe disease or death due to their age or comorbidities.

It is important to note that the employer must, when preparing the plan, take into account the rights of its employees to bodily integrity and the right to freedom of religion, belief and opinion, as contained in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa.

Employers are furthermore required to notify all employees of the contents of the Direction and the plan it prepares, as well as the manner in which it intends to implement it and must consult with the representative Union/s and its health and safety committee.  Any applicable collective agreement must of course also be considered.

Employers should also give administrative support to employees who wish to register on the Electronic Vaccine Data System Registration Portal for Covid-19 and allow employees to have paid time off to be vaccinated. If reasonably practicable, transport should be arranged to and from the vaccination site.

Annexure C to the Directions provides for guidelines on a mandatory workplace vaccination policy. The guidelines are intended to assist employers, Unions, arbitrators and the Courts in determining the fairness of a mandatory workplace vaccination policy and are generally worded. An important aspect, however, is that part of Annexure C dealing with employees who refuse to be vaccinated on any constitutional or medical ground. The guidelines suggest that an employer should in those circumstances:

  • Counsel the employees and allow them to seek guidance from a health and safety representative, worker representative or union official;
  • refer the employees for further medical evaluation, should there be a medical contra-indication for vaccination; and
  • if necessary, take steps to reasonably accommodate the employee in a position which does not require the employee to be vaccinated.

South Africa moving to alert level 1 

President Cyril Ramaphosa says the country will move to alert level 1 from midnight Sunday, 20 September 2020. The country will gradually and cautiously ease restrictions on international travel. “We will be allowing travel into and out of South Africa for business, leisure and other travel with effect from 1 October 2020,” Ramaphosa said.

Returning to work essential and practical tools for businesses operations.

On 23 April 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the gradual and phased approach to other business operations which will differ having regard to the applicable level of lock down as declared by Government from time to time (Levels 1 to 5). The Disaster Management Regulations indicate operation of businesses per level and scaling of employment per phase. Risk Adjusted Strategy Regulations for permitted business under supply chain including manufacturing can be downloaded below. Permitted businesses are to operate under strict health protocols, social distancing rules and returning to work to be done in a manner that avoids and reduces risks of COVID-19 infection and spreading. All employers must re-examine their activities, work environment and policies in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic and may need to change, adapt or enhance these in order.

Government hotline number for reporting positive cases: 0800 029 999

Recent official guidelines on managing Health risks & positive cases in the workplace

Gazetted Disaster Management Regulations and COVID-19 OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY MEASURES IN WORKPLACES  can be obtained here:
The ‘Return to Work’ initiative (in which Government and Business South Africa are partners) has developed useful advice on steps to take for a legal and healthy return to work process, outlined here on their website:www.return2work.co.za/business-resources/ Helpful documents can be downloaded from the same page:  including

1) Practice note – combines key ideas from the COGTA & Dept of Labour gazetted documents into one, together with reference to the OHS Act.

2) CEO declaration – Also see p.t 4 in Practice Note, employers ”should” complete such a document. It is not legally required by either of the Gazettes. Rather it is a useful document to have on hand, and ready to share with authorities if required.

3) Detailed risk assessment template

Documents relating to;

– Medical aid, Pension contribution and Skills Development Levy payments during COVID-19 and

– the application of the Compensation Act to work place-acquired corona virus disease, can be downloaded here: www.return2work.co.za/additional-resources/