Labour minister Thulas Nxesi demands paid sick leave for workers with Covid-19 symptoms

Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi .
Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi .
Image: Esa Alexander

Employers must take measures to protect the health and safety of everyone in their workplace as some companies resume operations under stage four of the lockdown, employment and labour minministerulas Nxesi said on Sunday.

This includes contractors, self-employed people and volunteers.

“Any employer who does not comply with the direction may be ordered to close business,” Nxesi said.

Nxesi, who was briefing the media on the partial return to workplaces on Monday, said he had issued a directive setting out measures that employers are required to take to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace.

“Businesses that are reopening must put the measures in place before restarting the work.”

Nxesi said the directive was in no way reducing existing obligations on employers in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Nxesi said every employer must inform employees that if they have Covid-19 symptoms, they must not be at work and be granted paid sick leave or apply to the Covid-19 Temporary Employer-Employee Relief Scheme.

“The employer must provide employees with information concerning Covid-19 and how to prevent its transmission.

“They must report any diagnosis of Covid-19 at work to the department of health and the department of employment and labour.”

Any employer who does not comply with the directive may be ordered to close business.

Nxesi said employers must minimise the number of workers in the workplace at any time through shift work or working arrangements to achieve social distancing.

“The employer must provide employees with information concerning Covid-19 and how to prevent its transmission. They must report any diagnosis of Covid-19 at work to the department of health and the department of employment and labour,” Nxesi said.

He said they must also investigate the cause and take appropriate measures.

“It is a contravention not to do so as an employer. They must support any contact tracing measures initiated by the department of health.”

He said with regard to social distancing, workplaces must be arranged to ensure a minimum of one and half metres between workers. He said if this was not practical, physical barriers must be erected and workers must be supplied free of charge with the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Nxesi said social distancing must be implemented in all common areas in and around the workplace, including working spaces, canteens and meeting rooms.

Employers must screen employees for Covid-19 at the time that they report for work. He said they must screen for fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes or shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing, body aches, loss of smell, loss of taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness.

Workers should also immediately inform their employers if they experience any symptoms while at work.

“Not doing so is a contravention of the Occupational Health and Safety Act by the worker. More importantly the workers put themselves and their co-workers at risk,” Nxesi said.

He said employers must provide sufficient quantities of hand sanitiser with at least 70% alcohol content and ensure that work surfaces and equipment were regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Employers must also provide employees, free of charge, with at least two cloth masks to wear while at work or commuting.

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