Printing SA has outlined more guidelines for labour relations – to observe for both members and non-members during these times of economic crisis in the face of COVID-19.
In an effort to assist its members in navigating the numerous regulatory and legislative amendments that have been implemented since the National lockdown, Printing SA has been fielding a number of questions from members asking for guidance on how to deal with some of these issues as it is indeed unchartered territory.
Its staff have been working tirelessly to seek clarity on these questions and to ensure that the advice Printing SA are giving its members is in accordance with the true interpretation of the law. Printing SA will continue to update its members as and when it obtains clarity for some of the outstanding questions that are not addressed in this communique.
1. How do we handle staff with flu-like symptoms either during or after the lockdown period?
In a situation where an employee has flu-like symptoms upon returning to work, or makes contact with his employer to report that he has flu-like symptoms:
1.1. The employer must, in terms of Regulation 4(1) of the Disaster Management Act, refer an employee to undergo a COVID-19 medical examination/screening, and an employee cannot refuse to consent in this respect.
1.2. The Employee must be advised not to go to their doctor, but to telephonically contact the Corona Helpline 080 002 9999, or the Whatsapp line on 0600123456. He/she will be screened and referred to the closest test centre or otherwise advised what to do.
1.3. Where an employee tests positive for COVID-19, he/she must be quarantined for the prescribed period. UIF benefits in this respect can be applied for as an illness benefit in terms of a special fund created for this purpose. The procedure for this is not 100% finalised at this point in time and some confusion exists. We hope to receive further clarity on this soon.
1.4. Should an employee not test positive, he/she can be treated for flu/similar illnesses and such can be dealt with under normal sick leave conditions as set out in the BCEA.
2. I cannot afford to pay staff during a shutdown period, what can I do?
In a situation where it is economically impossible to pay employees, a special fund under UIF has been created as per the COVID-19 Temporary Relief Scheme. Employers can apply for this by reporting their closure to mailbox Covid19ters@labour.gov.za. Although not ideal, the principle of no-work no-pay can apply.
3. Can I request my staff to take forced leave?
The current status quo of the National Lockdown is on a no-work no-pay basis. Where an employer chooses to offer the alternative of taking annual leave in lieu of no-work no-pay and the employee agrees, whilst not ideal, the employee will at least be able to derive part of their income during this period. A consultation between the employer and employee is required.
4. Can I pay staff during the shutdown period and enter into an agreement to set it off against overtime still to be worked to ensure they are not out of pocket?
Yes, an agreement can be made, however, in accordance with section 34 (2)(d) of the BCEA, the deduction may not exceed 25% of the employee’s normal take home remuneration. The employer and the employee should enter into an agreement by which they set out the particular extraordinary terms from which this advance payment on remuneration is stipulated. It should further stipulate that since the lockdown period is treated as a no-work no-pay situation, the employer has agreed with the employee to enter into a remuneration advance agreement. The agreement should stipulate the terms and the recovery terms from future remuneration.
There are a few critical points to bear in mind:
a. Do not rush into this for the moment, as you may not be able to recover the money from future earnings, due to the employee leaving your business for whatever reason.
b. It would be advisable to first establish the full content of the Government’s Temporary Relief Fund and the procedures for claims and payments. If not done, the employee could earn more than what is due to him.
c. Remember that your monthly employees by now would have been paid for March and will have money to live from. The weekly paid employees would have had their payment in arrears for last week at the end of the week ending 28 March. Next week, the weekly paid employees will receive money as payment in arrears for the work performed during the week ending 28 March 2020. There is no rush to head into paying anything other than for work done right now. It gives you time to reflect as the Temporary Relief Fund procedures become clearer and then decide on a course of action.
d. Should you wish to pay your employees any money out of goodwill, it does not have to constitute full pay either.
5. How do I pay staff and what are the forms to use?
6. Days lockdown – is it annual leave or is it given days over and above normal leave?
7. Will the submission date for WSP & ATR to the FP&M Seta be extended or remain the same?
An application has been made to the FP&M Seta to consider a later date. Once a reply is received it will be made public.
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