COVID-19 and your business

South African Engineers’ and Founders’ Association

16 March 2020

The Ministerial Task Team dealing with the Corona Virus outbreak briefed the media this morning on Government’s plans to deal with the State of Disaster as announced by the President yesterday.  From an employment law perspective, what was announced was that Government, Community, Business and Labour are meeting this afternoon at 14h00 to discuss plans to deal with the effects of the Corona Virus outbreak on business.  The plan at this stage is that each industry will be tasked with formulating a plan which will be intended to enable companies and employees to cope going forward. 

Minister of Employment and Labour, Mr Thulas Nxesi, stated the following:

  • Employers and employees are “reminded” to take cognisance of the guidelines issues by the President
  • Employers will be required to safeguard their employees, but that the details of this “cannot be discussed” until such time as further meetings between Government, Business and Labour have taken place
  • Guidelines will be developed to deal with employees who travel across borders in the course of their employment
  • Discussions are ongoing with the Workman’s Compensation Fund around the possibility of employees claiming from the fund in the event of becoming infected in the course of employment

Very little else was mentioned by the Minister.  It seems clear, therefore, that any plans that the Department of Employment and Labour have are still in development.  However, SAEFA will keep members abreast of developments.

At this stage, we advise that management teams start to scenario-plan.  This should involve investigating everything from:

  • continuing to operate as normal whilst impressing upon staff the importance of exercising good hygiene to slow or halt the spread of the disease, to
  • the viability of having staff in non-core functions being given authority to work from home (a “partial shut-down” of sorts), to
  • observing a shutdown in the coming weeks - this will further necessitate:
    • analysing how much leave staff have due
    • studying commercial insurance contracts to see whether claims for losses incurred may be submitted

Any plan that is implementable at this stage will need to be done so based on an agreement implemented at company level.  In the spirit of co-operation, any member willing to share workable plans devised at company level is welcome to forward same to us, so that we may be able to assist others.