Many people are wondering what options are available to employers, and what rights do employees have, during the lockdown. We answer some of the most pressing questions here.
Question: May an employer permit an employee to continue working during the lock-down?
Under two circumstances, the answer is yes. If the employer conducts an essential service. Or if the employee is able to continue working whilst complying with the lockdown regulation IE if the employee can work from home. Otherwise, the employer may not permit the employee to work during the lockdown periods.
Question: Is the employee entitled to be paid during the lock-down?
If the employee is unable to work during the lock-down (because the employer does not operate an essential service or because the employee cannot work remotely / from home) then the employer is not legally obliged to pay the employee during the lock-down. The principle no-work-no-pay applies. Employers should under those circumstances apply for TERS payments for employees under an extended UIF scheme. Employers have a strong social and even moral obligation to try and ensure that (despite the absence of a legal obligation) they do pay their workers, either their full remuneration or a reduced wage, for the period of the lock-down.
Question: May employers require employees to take available leave during the lock-down?
Yes, if the employee is unable to work, for reasons give above. If the employee refuses to take leave, the employer would be entitled to withhold payment from the employee.
Question: May an employer require employees who are able to work, to work on a short-time basis (less time for less money)?
If as a result of the lockdown the employer has less work, and there is less work for the employee to do, then the employer would be entitled to require employees to work reduced hours for reduced wages.
Question: May an employer dismiss employees as a result of the lock-down?
An employer may dismiss employees under the retrenchment laws if the lock-down has resulted in permanent operational changes that means that the employer either will not in the future be able to afford employing the current number of employees, or if the employer will have reduced demand for employees. The employer would have to comply with the retrenchment procedures prescribed by our labour laws.
Question: Do employers have an obligation to ensure the health and safety of employees during the lock-down?
Employers generally have an obligation to ensure their employees health and safety whilst performing work. There is an even heavier burden on employers during an health crisis like Covid-19.
If you have any more questions, please feel free add them to the Comments.