Employer’s Obligations when Employees Present COVID-19 Symptoms

The Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (Regulations) and the COVID-19 Direction on Health and Safety in the Workplace issued by the Department of Employment and Labour (Directive) set out specific measures that employers are required to take to protect their employees in the workplace from COVID-19.

As far as screening and monitoring of employees for symptoms, the Directive provides that every employer must take measures to screen employees when they report for duty to determine whether they have any observable COVID-19 symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, cough, sore throat and redness of eyes. Furthermore, the employer must require every employee to report if they suffer such symptoms or any additional symptoms such as body aches, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness. The employer must also comply with the guidelines issued by the Department of Health regarding symptom screening. (Certain sectors have issued sector-specific guidelines in terms of which temperature testing is mandatory, for example, the financial sector, mining sector and call centres). The mining sector guidelines specifically oblige an employer to collect the data from the screening and testing of employees and submit that data to the relevant authority. The call centre guidelines also state that it is mandatory for designated and adequately trained health and safety officers to take each employee’s temperature at the start of a shift and every four hours after the shift commences and records of the temperatures must be retained.

The Directive provides that if the employee presents with symptoms or advises the employer of such symptoms the employer must not permit entry into the workplace and must ensure that the employee is tested or referred to a testing site. If the employee is already at work then the employer must isolate the employee and provide the employee with a FFP1 surgical mask. The employer must then arrange transport for the employee to a location where the employee is able to self-isolate or transport to seek medical examination or testing. The employer must then disinfect the work area and refer those employees who may have been exposed for screening.

The Directive provides that in circumstances where an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19, the employer may not allow the employee to return to work until the employee has undergone a medical evaluation confirming that they have tested negative for COVID-19.

Reporting obligations

The Directive provides that if an employee has been diagnosed with COVID-19 the employer must inform the Department of Health and the Department of Employment and Labour and investigate the cause and review its risk assessment to ensure that the necessary controls and PPE are in place. The employer must also give administrative support to any contact-tracing measures implemented by the Department of Health.

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