The implications of Covid-19 for Employers – Part 2

How should an employer manage employees who travel outside of South Africa?

The employer should issue clear travel guidelines to these employees on international travel, particularly to affected countries – The employer should distinguish between employees travelling for business or for personal reasons

Given the scale of the illness and if it is practical, the employer may elect to place a moratorium on business travel until such time as Covid-19 is contained

If this is not possible, a moratorium should be placed on business travel to affected countries. It may be more challenging to regulate personal or holiday travel by employees. Employees should be encouraged not to travel to affected countries

Importantly, employees who nevertheless choose to do so should not be allowed to immediately return to work after such travel. Such employees should be required to self-isolate for at least 14 days

Employees should be informed that they should take all reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the illness, which may mean cancelling or postponing international travel until Covid-19 is contained

The employer should also bear in mind that travel by employees to countries that are currently unaffected by Covid-19 could still pose a risk of infection because such countries may become affected at any time

At this stage, the risk of infection is high given the nature of travel, exposure to different of different nationalities, particularly on flights with multiple legs

It is advisable requesting all employees to disclose international travel undertaken by them or any person they live with since February 1, 2020

This may help the employer with its risk assessment to determine the likelihood of contamination in the workplace

If an employee is placed under quarantine, should they take sick leave?

If a medical doctor places an employee in quarantine, the employee should receive a medical certificate and in such circumstances, the employee will be on sick leave

In the case of compulsory quarantine, that is quarantine required and enforced by the employer, the employee will not be on sick leave unless a medical certificate has been issued

An employer may require an employee to be quarantined if the employee displays symptoms of the illness at work

The employer could consider such an employee to be on special paid leave away from the office, depending on the nature of the work performed by said employee

As an alternative to placing the employee on any type of leave, the employer could make it possible for the employee to work from home

The employer may need to put certain measures in place or assist such an employer to work from home if it is the arrangement

If it is not possible for the employee to work from home, the employer will not be able to deduct the period of quarantine as sick leave or annual leave as it was made compulsory by the employer

This will be form of special paid leave that is in addition to any other type of leave

What if an employee requests self-quarantine?

In this case, the employee is not sick and, therefore sick leave should not be imposed

If employees are forced to take unpaid leave or annual leave in these circumstances, they may not opt to self-quarantine – We, therefore recommend that this should also be treated as special paid leave

However, to the extent that the employee who requests self-quarantine can work from home, no leave will need to be granted

The employer must carefully consider the circumstances under which special paid leave will be awarded to employees – the circumstance must be made clear to employees. It should be an option of last resort because it may be open to abuse by employees

If the illness spreads across South Africa, the reality for employees may request to be placed in quarantine to minimize their risk of infection

In this instance, the employer will need to consider implementing remote – the guidelines above need to be applied to determine which form of leave will apply

What happens after the quarantine period?

After the quarantine period and even if an employee does not display any symptoms, the employer may nevertheless require the employee to be tested by a medical practitioner and to provide the employer with a medical certificate confirming that the employee can return to work

What is a reasonable period for quarantine?

The WHO has indicated that a person should be in quarantine for at least 14 days

This article was taken out of Talent 360, Public Sector

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