As South Africa has recently entered what is called advanced alert level 3 of the phased approach of opening up of the economy, many businesses are still grappling with the initial financial and operational consequences of the lockdown. As businesses and trade resumes in a heightened State of Disaster with gargantuan increases in COVID-19 infections and related deaths, most businesses, in order to remain sustainable in the long term have had no alternative but to resume trading despite the risk of its Employees contracting the COVID-19 virus in the workplace. With most businesses have resumed trading, it is important to ensure by way of a COVID-19 workplace policy, that operations run as smooth as possible in this new normal we find ourselves in.
What is a COVID-19 workplace policy?
Much like any other workplace policy, a COVID-19 workplace policy would cover the Employer's obligations and Employee's Obligations, similar to the reasons businesses implement a Human Resources policy. Essentially the COVID-19 workplace policy will act as the guideline on all things COVID-19 related, inclusive but not limited to, health and safety directives, automated screening, appointment of health and safety offices and managers, hazard and risk assessments, action plans for the possibility of transmission of the COVID-19 virus in the workplace, UIF claims, sick leave and claims for illness benefits.
Why Implement a COVID-19 policy?
Since passing the 100-day mark of lockdown, it's apparent that businesses and Employers still do not have or have not really processed the information on how to return to work safely and in accordance with government issued directives in all respective trading sectors under what we would call 'the new normal'. The new normal simply solidifies the fact that the COVID-19 virus will be around for the foreseeable future and the effects of it thus far are quite clear in that the manner businesses now operate in order to sustain themselves has to had change dramatically. By way of example, your business meetings whether with your Employees, Clients or Suppliers primarily take place in some or other online forum. This in itself shows the drastic change and consequence the COVID-19 virus has had on businesses. Face time has essentially become screen time, and this certainly needs to be managed accordingly.
The COVID-19 workplace policy will also hold both the Employer and Employee accountable in respect of the do's and don'ts of returning safely to work or continuing to work remotely and will include how remote working is managed and measured and how Employees need to account for their working day at home. If Employees are not performing from home and are equipped fully to do so or Employees are requested to return to work but are refusing to do so, the COVID-19 workplace policy will address these issues along with a lawful guideline on how to manage performance remotely as well as insubordination or desertion from the workplace.
There is no rule, regulation or legislation that requires a workplace to implement a COVID-19 policy. However, much like every other policy in the workplace its aim is to hold Employees and Employers accountable for their actions and ensure there are processes and mechanisms in place which would ensure lawful and reasonably practicable rules to abide by, as well as the consequences of not abiding by those rules. It is highly recommended that your business implements a COVID-19 workplace policy immediately. In this regard we can be of professional assistance. First and foremost, we will be hosting a free webinar on 7th July 2020 canvassing the new workplace normal as well as the importance of implementing a COVID-19 policy in much more depth and allowing for questions to be answered in respect of any uncertainties regarding how businesses resume trading in this new normal circumstance. Register in advance for our free webinar on this topic here https://zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_9zKs-4bBT5iPQCo-2trTnA
Our Contracts4Biz platform also hosts a comprehensive policy with templates for you to download at a reduced rate of R395
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.