Guide to an employer’s options during the national lockdown

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Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the South African government has implemented a 21-day lockdown. It is vital for employers to be properly informed on what their options are during the lockdown and what the implications are of the lockdown on their business and employees.

When it comes to the financial situation of businesses and what can be done in terms of the employees, employers have options including:

Forced lay-off

Short-time working

Short-time working is when the employees working hours are reduced; however, they are still employed. This was an option before the 21-day lockdown was announced; however, unless the business operates in one of the essential industries or if the employee can work remotely, it is no longer an option.

Annual leave

An option that many employers seem to be opting for is to grant employees paid leave for the number of leave days they have available. This means that employees will still be paid until their annual leave days run out. Once the employees leave days, have run out, it is up to the business to decide what will happen. They can decide that the rest of the outstanding days will be considered unpaid leave or the company can decide to start deducting days from the employee’s sick leave, family responsibility leave and other types of paid leave until they become depleted or the lockdown is lifted.

Lay-off

This option is considered to be the second most reasonable option for employers, after the annual leave option. This option means that employers would temporarily lay-off staff. This is permitted due to the fact that employees will not be able to do their job. Therefore the employer should be relieved of their contractual obligation to pay the employees salary during the lockdown period.

It is important to note that the government has encouraged employers to assist their employees financial; however, this is not an obligation. And for those employees who are not assisted by their employees have certain UIF options made available to them.

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