Covid-19 has added a new element to the workspace, as employers and employees now have more responsibilities. With the vaccine set to be rolled out as early as this month, questions remain about whether employers can force employees to take the vaccine.
Imraan Mohamed, Director of Employment Law at Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr said a mandatory vaccine is something that individual employers will examine on a case by case basis.
He said employers have the responsibility to ensure that the transmission of Covid-19 is avoided in the workplace. This could be used as a justification to impose a vaccine, however, employees also have their individual rights to have control over their bodies.
The current regulations mainly focus on employers making the workspace free of Covid-19.
Now that many employees have returned to work, employers are able to order their employees to disclose whether they have been to a hotspot during the festive season.
Several areas in the Eastern Cape, Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and North West were declared hotspots in December 2020.
This was done during the festive season, as the government hoped to curb the spread of the virus.
Now that the festive season is over, employers are able to suggest a period of self quarantine before employees can return to work.
"An employee would be obliged to provide that information. An employee that fails to provide that information, or provides false information can be disciplined by an employer for that.
"The second aspect is failure to provide correct information to issues related to the virus could very well be a contravention of the regulations and it could be a criminal offence as well." said Mohamed.
Employees who are concerned about being exposed to the virus are allowed to refuse returning to the workspace.
The regulations do fall short, as Mohamed highlights that the quarantine days are not specified to be paid leave.
"What the regulations do not do is that it does not say that when employees return from the hotspot and are required to quarantine by the employer for 10 days, that the period of 10 days is to be paid leave. It's not paid leave.
"An employee who works from home is obviously in a more advantageous position that an employee who would be required to work physically in the workplace because that employee would be able to quarantine and self-isolate from a remote area and in that instance continue to render services and be paid for that period."
This also affects employees who have already used up all of their leave days, as the policy of 'no work no pay' will apply.
In the event that an employee contracts the virus while at work, due to the negligence of the employer, they can file for a lawsuit.
The lawsuit will be processed through the Compensation Fund.