Law does not allow firing of worker who flouts Covid-19 regulations: department

24 March 2021 - 13:44
By ernest mabuza AND Ernest Mabuza
The department of employment and labour says the law does not allow employers to discipline employees who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work. Stock photo.
Image: 123RF/Aleksandr Davydov The department of employment and labour says the law does not allow employers to discipline employees who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work. Stock photo.

The department of employment and labour says the Occupational Health and Safety Act does not give employers a right to discipline employees who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work.

The department was responding to comments by a legal advisor who said employers can discipline workers who flout rules outside of work if they have relevant policies in place.

On Tuesday labour expert Justin Hattingh, a senior legal advisor at Strata-g Labour Solutions, said employers can exercise this liberty if they have policies in place, or even health and safety-related misconduct offences, in their employment documentation.

The department did not agree with the assertions by Hattingh, however, and said this was not in the terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993, as amended.

However, the department agreed with Hattingh when he said “while employers are obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a safe and healthy working environment, staff members must also comply with those regulations and ensure they assist the employer in keeping everyone at the workplace safe and healthy”.

The department also did not agree that when employers can prove an employee has been reckless after hours and exposed other employees at work, there could be a basis to act against them.

“Furthermore, this will be limited even during the Covid-`19 pandemic. A decision in SA from a regulatory point has not yet been finalised in terms of what will be deemed to be a compensable if a person is infected at home,” the department said.

“At this moment, an infection at home will not yet be considered to be compensable or even reportable. Of course nothing stops such a matter from being tested in court.”

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