HRSimplified | Blog | Coronavirus

COVID19 and the South African Workplace

Coronavirus and the outbreak in South Africa

As COVID19 or the Coronavirus officially becomes a global pandemic it is understandable that there is a degree of confusion about how this virus impacts the workplace. At the time of writing, South Africa has a comparably smaller outbreak than parts of Europe such as Italy, France and even the UK. What is happening in Italy, especially, is causing concern and a level of panic in countries such as South Africa. However, the facts around addressing the pandemic in the workplace in South Africa are straightforward.

When Not If

The workplace is not immune to the Coronavirus and health experts around the world are saying “when, not if” about the virus spreading further in South Africa. There is a lot of information available on the internet and social media about the symptoms of and general advice about the bug, not all of it is true, and it is well worthwhile doing a little research before taking drastic steps unless the government decides to intervene as is the case in Italy. However, there are a few advisories well worth taking note of.

Keep Calm

The first step is to keep calm and prevent any form of panic. COVID19 is deadly serious and concern among employees can be expected but keeping a calm and almost low key attitude without ignoring the elephant in the room is vital.


In companies that employ staff that travel some extra cautionary awareness may be required. If your company has staff that have recently travelled to infected countries such as Italy you should follow the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Department of Health and its National Institute of Communicable Diseases (NICD), it could be wholly appropriate to instruct the employee to work from home until all the facts are known. Just because one person has returned from an infected country there is no need to impose any blanket decisions, these could be detrimental to the entire company.

Sick Leave and Special Leave

To a degree, the Coronavirus is seeing employers and companies, in general, enter unchartered waters, especially in the area of leave. There is a prescribed number of sick days allowed in terms of labour law and where possible this should be adhered to. If an employee is confirmed as having the COVID19 Virus and is requested to self-isolate or be quarantined for a period of time a sick note will be required. However, should circumstances arrive and more employees are asked to self-isolate changes to how business is done may be required and either special leave of some kind needs to the negotiated or a work from home deal put in place. With some employees also opting to self-quarantine, there are several labour law considerations that South African businesses will have to consider.

Considerations:

  • If an employee is not sick and is willing and able to attend work, but their employer instructs them not to come to work, they are entitled to receive their normal salary and benefits
  • If an employee has personally travelled to an ‘at-risk’ area – or has been in contact with people who have – flexible or remote working, annual leave, unpaid leave or sick leave (if the employee is sick), can be offered.
  • Employers have a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe, healthy work environment and to use reasonable endeavours to limit risk to employees. Therefore, if an employee presents certain flu-like symptoms, an employer should direct him/her to seek medical assistance immediately and ideally stay away from the office, and isolate then selves at home until they have been tested, received medical attention and recovered.
  • If an employee refuses to attend work because of concerns about contracting the virus this should be dealt with on a case by case basis and employers should listen to employee concerns and seek to resolve issues if possible. Particular health issues need to be taken into consideration.
  • Employers have a legal obligation to provide and maintain a safe, healthy work environment and to use reasonable endeavours to limit risk to employees. Therefore, if an employee presents certain flu-like symptoms, an employer should direct him/her to seek medical assistance immediately and ideally stay away and from home isolating themselves until they have been tested, received medical attention and recovered.
  • As an employer, you should remain vigilant in relation to complaints or grievances which could indicate discriminatory behaviour towards employees of an origin connected to a country deemed to be at risk
  • Managing the HR Processes

    Managing the HR Processes when it comes to the Coronavirus, and sick leave in general can be a monumental task without the proper HR Management Solution. HRSimplified, as the name suggests, makes managing sick leave and all HR Related tasks a breeze, saving time and saving money in areas that are often not noticed. Managing your sick leave and processes in a compliant manner is essential, on paper and in excel this cannot be achieved and for as little as R15 per employee per month HRSimplified is the perfect solution.

    Try HRSimplified for FREE for 30 days and see how your company benefits and saves time, effort and money.

    For more detailed information from the South Africa Govement click HERE

    Protection measures for everyone:

    Stay aware of the latest information on the COVID-19 outbreak, available on the websites and social media of the national Department of Health (www.health.gov.za), National Institute for Communicable Diseases (www.nicd.ac.za) and World Health Organisation (www.who.int).

    Most people who become infected will experience mild illness and recover, but it can be more severe for others. Take care of your health and protect others by doing the following:

  • Regularly and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water or clean your hands with an alcohol- based hand sanitiser. Why? Washing your hands with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitiser kills viruses that may be on your hands.
  • Maintain at least one meter distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Why? When someone coughs or sneezes they spray small liquid droplets from their nose or mouth which may contain a virus. If you are too close, you can breathe in the droplets, including the COVID-19 virus if the person coughing has the disease.
  • Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Why? Hands touch many surfaces and can pick up viruses. Once contaminated, hands can transfer the virus to your eyes, nose or mouth. From there, the virus can enter your body and can make you sick.
  • Make sure you, and the people around you, follow good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. Why? Droplets spread viruses. By following good respiratory hygiene you protect the people around you from viruses such as cold, flu and COVID-19.
  • Stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health facility. Why? The national and provincial Departments of Health will have the most up to date information on the situation in your area. Calling in advance will allow your healthcare provider to quickly direct you to the right health facility. This will also protect you and help prevent spread of viruses and other infections.
  • Stay informed on the latest developments about COVID-19. Follow advice given by your healthcare provider and the national Department of Health on how to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Why? National and local authorities will have the most up to date information on whether COVID-19 is spreading in your area. They are best placed to advise on what people in your area should be doing to protect themselves.
  • COVID-19 HOTLINE: 0800 029 999. This number is open to the public and meant to be operated 24/7.