Many businesses have stopped operating, following the unrest in some parts of the country. Labour lawyer Osborne Molatudi has weighed in on how the unrest has affected the rights of employees.
Molatudi is afraid that the current unrest in the country will negatively affect businesses and the economy. It has been days since looting started in KwaZulu Natal and Gauteng, leading to many businesses closing as a safety measure.
Employers will have a number of options, should they be unable to reopen during the social unrest. Molatudi said one of the options that employers have is to lay off employees.
This will be subject to a fair process and by engaging with employees.
"While that process is underway, the employer unfortunately may not stop paying salaries to those employees as long as those employees offer and tender their services," he explained.
Employees who are unable to work due to safety concerns, may not be fired for that reason. They are protected by labour laws, which state that employers are responsible for creating a safe work environment for all employees.
However, employers do have the option to temporarily lay off these employees or to offer them special days of absence while the employer assesses the situation.
In the event that any employees are suspected of being involved in looting incidents or caught on camera, the employer will be able to take legal action against them.
"No employer would want to be settled in its workplace with looters and 'thieves'
"All that the employer will be required to do is to comply with the famous rule of ‘audi altarum', give the employee an opportunity to explain his conduct and thereafter the employer can make their decision.
“The safest rule would be to take those representations to an independent person and to make a decision," he said.