[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Over the past week, the panic surrounding the Corona virus has stepped up a notch given the entrance of COVID-19 onto South African soil. Unfortunately, not much is known about the Corona virus – which has been likened to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) with respect to severity – and this has added fuel to the fire.

“There are some best practices,” says John Botha: COO of Global Business Solutions, “that employers can implement in their companies in order to make sure that the effects of the Corona virus are not devastating for the business.”

First of all, the policy that employers should be implementing needs to have three main objectives:

  • To maintain a safe working environment
  • To maintain operations
  • To manage liability and risk

From a labour law perspective, should one of your staff members be diagnosed with the Corona virus, there are a number of responses that you can put in place:

  • You can extend their sick leave by paying 25% less and extending the employee’s sick leave by 25%.
  • You can consider a leave progression for extended periods of absence such as first exhausting sick leave, then annual leave (by agreement) and then unpaid leave with UIF claims
  • Should you require it you can bring in outsourced labour who have been appropriately screened to cover the jobs of absent employees while they are recuperating.

“It is important,” continues Botha, “ to adopt a balanced approach that protects both the employees and the organisation itself. Specific protocols need to be put in place to ensure that events such as absenteeism are in fact associated with the coronavirus and that there is regular interaction between the parties to monitor recuperation as well as when the employees are fit to return to work. Any abuse of the situation needs to be identified and dealt with in terms of usual labour relations practices.”

Other HR policies which you should be implementing in your organisation include:

  • Enhanced appropriate EAP measures
  • Coronavirus education and communication strategies
  • Travel restrictions on non-essential travel
  • Enhanced cleaning protocols.

Encourage sick employees to stay at home and, where possible, to work from home as it takes between one and 14 days to develop symptoms. “Be flexible if employees need to care for family members in this context and extend family responsibility leave and other forms of leave should the situation call for it,” concludes Botha.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]