Thursday | 02 April | 2020
At work most of the people have been sent home with pay. Everyone working in the warehouses. I and others were told we HAVE to work from home. We are all whites. Is this fair?
Section 8(1) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act obliges the employer to ensure, as far as reasonably and practically possible, a workplace that is safe and free of any risk to the employees’ health. In the context of the Covid 19 viral disease, the employer has a clear obligation to control and manage the transmission of the virus. In practice, this includes preventing contact between employees as far as possible. That’s why some employees were sent home to carry on working there, if possible.
The employer is therefore allowed to take steps to ensure minimal contact between employees, but maintain operational functioning at the same time.
So if employees can still perform their functions at home during this period, they have to be remunerated as if they were still working in the workplace. However, if employees cannot render their services at home, it’s up to the employer to decide whether to keep paying them or not.
At this stage, employers are not obliged to compensate their personnel if they do not work during this time; if an employer does decide to do it, it is because he’s helpful and his financial position allows him to.
It is therefore possible for some personnel at a workplace to be paid in full without being able to work from home, while others are expected to work from home. It is a reasonable instruction from the employer, and cannot be refused.
* All information was correct at the time of publication.