All employers must comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act. This law requires that employers, as far as is reasonably practicable, provide and maintain a work environment that is safe and without risk to the health of employees, customers, members, visitors, contractors, etc. who may be directly affected by their activities, or who enters the workplace.
In addition to this general obligation, additional regulations have been published in terms of COVID-19 that must be complied with. Each workplace is unique with regards to, among other things, the space and setup, activities, working methods, types of interaction, etc. Although COVID-19 regulations are legally enforced, it is a good idea to implement a COVID-19 policy and procedure in the workplace to clarify the required behaviour as well as the consequences in cases of non-compliance. In order to be able to apply discipline in the workplace, the employer must implement clear rules and also be able to prove that employees are aware of the rules as well as the consequences if these rules were broken.
What should be included in the COVID-19 policy and procedure?
- Availability and use of safety equipment
- Daily screening
- Handling of shared facilities, such as a kitchen, bathroom, cafeteria, etc.
- Procedure when other persons enter the premises
- Rules with corresponding sanctions
Beware of these pitfalls
It is an established principle in labour law that a violation of the employer’s health and safety policies and procedures will result in disciplinary action and may justify the termination of the employee’s employment. Apply discipline in line with the disciplinary code, but beware of these pitfalls:
- Be fair and just
- Act consistently
- Always follow the correct procedure continuously
Employers should note that failure to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act may result in serious consequences such as fines, imprisonment and an order to cease business activities, depending on the nature and seriousness of the offence.
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