C&A Friedlander Attorneys

The relief experienced following the president’s announcement that the country would move to Alert level-2 was greeted with great excitement; many immediately ensured the necessary arrangements were made with relatives to regain a semblance of normality- with visiting family, stocking up on cigarettes or a beverage of choice and preparing for a return to the gym, at the forefront in the minds of most.

Whilst it does feel as if things are returning to normal, for most businesses, the operational requirements amidst Covid-19 coupled with the demand for increased efficiency and the necessity for reduced business overheads, have resulted in wide-scale policy amendments.

Employers are however responsible for ensuring their contemplated policy amendments are only implemented in the workplace following compliance with a proper procedure and in accordance with the Covid-19 regulations, read with the applicable labour legislation, including but not limited to,  the Labour Relations Act, the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act. Employers must be aware that policy amendments, which particularly have the effect of altering an employee’s original terms and conditions of employment, may only be implemented following consultation with employees; considering input provided by the affected employees and upon obtaining their consent to the amendments. Should an employee refuse to provide the requisite consent, an employer may nonetheless implement the contemplated policy provided that the employer can establish a lawful and rational nexus between the policy implemented and the operational requirements of the business.

As a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic in South Africa, employers have been forced to implement policies relating to reduced working hours (short-time), salary reductions and often expressly notified their employees of the common law position of “no work no pay” as means for lowering salary overheads. Moreover,  Covid-19 workplace protocols relating to sick leave (including medically prescribed and voluntary quarantine), workplace conduct, office sanitisation, screening, appointment of health and safety offices, workplace risk assessments, staff rotation and action plans following the prospective transmission of Covid-19 in the workplace have all been implemented or are required to have been implemented.

Of all the policy amendments in the workplace necessitated by the pandemic, the most widespread and important has been the advent of permitting employees the opportunity of working remotely- either permanently or for an agreed number of working days during the week. Often reluctantly imposed by employers, working remotely during this unprecedented period has proven favourable to both employer and employee with office expenditure reduced and employee work/family balance restored. By all accounts, the transition to the “new-normal” has been almost flawless.

With working remotely being the modus operandi for most employees for the foreseeable future, it is of immense significance to employers to ensure that the policy pertaining to employees working remotely is considered in detail to ensure productivity and accountability. The policy must set out the rights, duties and obligations of employer’s vis a vis employees; ensuring employees working remotely are fully equipped to perform the functions required of them. The policy may include establishing a requisite online work-day sign-in/out, requiring employees to record daily/weekly attendances in a schedule, monitoring and ensuring employee availability, tackling performance management and dealing with instructions to return to work or an employee’s refusal thereof.

Considering that working remotely has become the “new-normal”, employers must ensure that an adequate and fully compliant Covid-19 workplace policy is established; one which not only comprehensively provides for employees working from home but also adheres to the legislated workplace obligations of an employer in respect of their employees.

Should you be concerned with your businesses Covid-19 policy implementation, compliance or require advice on available policy considerations to ensure business efficacy in these challenging times, please do not hesitate to contact our labour department to discuss your businesses requirements.


By Zaahir Teladia


This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE).