Back to business, step by step

Transforming/reorganising your business due to COVID-19 impact
May 7, 2020
Rightsizing your business?
June 12, 2020

Back to business, step by step

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Health and Safety

The safety of employees is a dual responsibility between employer and employee, but it remains the responsibility of the employer to ensure that the workplace is safe and that the necessary processes and controls are in place to limit the risk of employees being infected with the Coronavirus at the workplace. Another alternative is to allow employees to work from home. If this is not possible, a comprehensive risk assessment should be conducted by the employer, keeping the following in mind:

1. Employee safety

  • Identification of high-risk staff
  • Compulsory/regular screening before entering the work area
  • Compulsory wearing of facemasks
  • Employee training and preventative guidance on limiting exposure

2. Limit physical interaction between people

  • Avoid close contact with coworkers and customers
  • Limit face to face engagement and meetings (staff & clients)
  • Reorganise the workspace to support the 2-meter distancing rule
  • Discontinue all non-essential travel

3. Develop infection control procedures:

  • Identification of high-frequency touchpoints and mitigating the associated risk
  • Training on COVID-19 facts and prevention measures
  • Regular cleaning and disinfecting of the office and all surfaces
  • Setting up soap & hand washing/hand sanitiser stations
  • Maintain good ventilation

4. Review/Introduce relevant policies and procedures that:

  • Ensure prompt identification and isolation of sick/infected people
  • Clearly define the process of how sick/infected employees will be dealt with
  • Educate and engage employees on roles and responsibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic

Ways of Working

Should employees still be allowed to work from home?

  • In short, yes, BUT the decision is that of the employer. The employer needs to evaluate which positions could effectively still work from home. Important is that the employer must be careful not to set a precedent by allowing an employee to work from home, to “please” the employee with such a request.
  • In many such cases when considering it objectively, the employee is not 100% productive as the inter-business coordination of departments is important to ensure high productivity.
  • Where you as the employer envisage some employees to work from home, clear requirements must be documented and put in place. I.e. available to take calls and stipulate actual hours working each day.
  • Appoint a senior person to liaise with employees daily so that projects and work delivery can be monitored, and employees do not lose the company “connection”.
  • This would be an ideal time to negotiate with employees in terms of salary as the employee will not travel to work and work efficiency at home may only be e.g. 80%.

Can I instruct employees to return to work?

  • Yes, when the lockdown is lifted the employer may do so but must consider any “limitations/restrictions” directive by the Government and/or Department of Labour.
  • Should an employee fail/refuse to report for duty there are certain steps the employer is required to take in terms of such an employee to avoid Unfair Labour Practice charges. (Employers are urged to seek guidance on process/steps).

Can I change the terms and conditions of employment contracts?

  • The employer may NOT change the terms and conditions of employment UNILATERALLY. Doing so will constitute an Unfair Labour Practice.
  • However, the employer may enter into consultations with the employees and through a correct process, certain amendments in the terms and conditions may be agreed to by both parties i.e. by working from home possibly reduce salary by 20% etc.
    (Employers are urged to seek guidance on process/steps).

Can I amend/review my HR policies?

  • Yes, the employer may review the policies as the “platform” and operation of the business may have changed as a result of COVID 19.
  • The employer will again be required to consult with the employees for their input in terms of amendments proposed and once such a process is correctly followed the amendments may then be implemented.
  • Alternatively, an employer may want to introduce changes in some policies only temporarily and for a fixed period of, for example, six months. Here again, some consultations need to be done but as it is temporary it may be accepted by employees more easily. The employer must then commit to the period and if at the end of the period, the circumstances are the same, must consult with staff again.
  • The Disciplinary Policy may, for example, need amendments to include certain measures.
  • The Health and Safety Policy may require amendments to include COVID-19 requirements.

What new policies do I need?

  • Working from Home Policy
  • COVID-19 In the Workplace Policy

Remuneration and Benefits

Can I change my employee’s salaries and benefits?

  • A company can change/reduce salaries and benefits but on mutual agreement. If an employer changes an employee’s remuneration without consultation, it is considered a breach of contract. 
  • To be legal, a person’s earnings after the pay cut must also be at least minimum wage.
  • If an employee does not want to accept a reduction in working hours or remuneration, the formal Section 189 consultation can be started to make him/her redundant.

How can I assist employees financially if I am not able to pay full salaries?

  • Financial workshops
  • UIF TERS claims
  • Food parcels
  • Advances
  • Loans

Crowe DNA has the expertise to advise, consult and facilitate the management of any process mentioned above. Call us on 087 057 2613 or email us at infodna@crowe.za.com or go to our website www.crowedna.co.za and we’ll gladly assist.

Crowe DNA is an approved essential services provider and certified to support clients at their premises. 

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as 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 adviser for specific and detailed advice.  Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)