Employees: Your Rights in the Workplace During COVID-19


COVID-19 has created a crazed global paranoia, that is affecting all walks of life. Every person under the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa has the right to health and safety. If you do not have the Coronavirus but are in a panic about being infected, you do not automatically have a right to remote working, unless the employer affords you this opportunity. If not, the employer and employee can agree on taking sick leave, absence without leave, or annual leave. Other than this, employers must provide all sanitation measures possible in the workplace.

If you do have the Coronavirus, the period of leave, the severity of the illness, the nature of the employees’ job, and the employment type of the employee are all considered when deciding on whether or not the employer should grant you leave.

The requirements for a medical certificate are that it must be issued and signed by a qualified medical practitioner.

With regards to claiming sick leave, section 22 of the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997, sick leave is based on a ‘sick leave cycle,’ meaning that for every 36 months with the same employer, the employee is entitled to the number of days the employee would work during a 6 week period, which if the employee works five days a week, is 30 days sick leave.

Below is the Basic Conditions of Employment Act 75 of 1997 section 14

14. General duties of employees at work

a) take reasonable care for the health and safety of himself and of other persons who may be affected by his acts or omissions;

b) as regards any duty or requirement imposed on his employer or any other person by this Act, co-operate with such employer or person to enable that duty or requirement to be performed or complied with;

c) carry out any lawful order given to him, and obey the health and safety rules and procedures laid down by his employer or by anyone authorised thereto by his employer in the interest of health or safety;

d) if any situation which is unsafe or unhealthy comes to his attention, as soon as practicable report such a situation to his employer or to the health and safety representative for his workplace or sections thereof, as the case may be, who shall report it to the employer; and

e) if he is involved in any incident which may affect his health or which has caused an injury to himself, report such incident to his employer or to anyone authorised thereto by the employer, or to his health and safety representative, as soon as practicable but not later than the end of the particular shift during which the incident occurred, unless the circumstances were such that the reporting of the incident was not possible, in which case he shall report the incident as soon as practicable thereafter.

Basically, in the workplace, this virus is not treated any differently to other diseases, unless the employer decides to implement their measures or grant indulgences.

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