By: Precious M. Lesupi
Minister Thulas Nxesi of the Department of Employment and Labour said that businesses that are reopening must have in place protective measures in the workplace before beginning with work. “The process of reopening should start with a clear risk assessment in the workplace”, he added. Employers must make sure there is minimal contact within the workplace and with the public, as well as provide employees with detailed information on the novel corona virus.
“Workers must be provided with appropriate Personnel Protective Gear (PPE) free of charge”, said Nxesi. It is also the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers with symptoms are placed in isolation and afforded secure transport to testing venues. Every workplace must be well ventilated to reduce the viral load and employers must provide sufficient quantities of 70% alcohol based hand sanitiser, and ensure that common areas are adequately cleaned.
Thus far, labour inspectors have carried out 2226 inspections during the period of the lockdown. According to Nxesi, a budget provision to employ an additional 500 inspectors was made in 2019 and the process is currently being expedited to meet the demands of the pandemic.
“The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted a number of gaps in our social provision”, he continued. There are important groups in the sector that are not covered by the UIF, for instance, nonstandard and the informal freelance workers. The UIF has shifted from individual walk-in claims to mass distribution hubs through online applications supported by call center enquiries.
In response to the declaration of the pandemic, the Compensation Fund (CF) has established a Crisis Management Committee and developed a COVID-19 Response Plan. The department said that COVID-19 contracted in the workplace will be compensated as an occupational disease.