COVID-19: Health data reporting by employers in South Africa – what you should know

Direction 4(2) of the revised COVID-19 Direction on Occupational Health and Safety in the Workplace issued by the Minister of Employment and Labour and published on 1 October 2020 (Revised OHS Direction) introduces health data reporting obligations on certain employers.

We set out below answers to some important questions that employers may ask about this reporting obligation.

Who does it apply to?

All employers who employ more than 50 employees must submit a record of the employer’s risk assessment and written health and safety policy to the Department of Employment and Labour. Employers who employ more than 50 employees in a workplace have additional health data reporting obligations in terms of Direction 4(2).

This means that if, for example, an employer:

  • employs 100 employees in total, but these employees are spread evenly across five different offices/workplaces (with 20 employees in each office/workplace); or
  • ordinarily employs 100 employees in a workplace, but 60 of those employees are currently working exclusively from home; or
  • employs 100 employees in one workplace, but these employees are coming into work on a rotational basis, such that there are only 20 employees who come into the workplace each day;

then that employer will not be required to report in terms of Direction 4(2).

On the other hand, if for example, an employer employs:

  • 100 employees in one workplace, who are attending the office on an ad hoc basis and on any given day there could be more than 50 employees at the workplace; or
  • 30 employees in one workplace (workplace A) and 70 employees in another workplace (workplace B) who are all working at the workplace, as opposed to from home;

then in respect of the first scenario, the employer will be required to report in respect of all of its employees who are physically coming into the workplace from time to time; and in respect of the second scenario, the employer will be required to report in respect of the 70 employees in workplace B only (and not the 30 employees in workplace A).

This is because, as we understand it, the Direction is only intended to apply in condensed workplaces, where more than 50 employees are physically present in the workplace at the same time.

What information must be provided?

Where the threshold described above (of 50 or more employees physically present in the workplace) is met, the below health information must be provided only in relation to those employees who are physically coming into the office (be that on a full-time, part-time or ad hoc basis). Information is not required to be submitted in respect of employees who are working exclusively from home.

Another point to bear in mind is that it is only information regarding an employer’s own employees that needs to be submitted. An employer is not required to submit information in relation to other workers who may be working on its premises and these other workers are not taken into account for purposes of determining whether the threshold number is met.

The following categories of data are required to be submitted to the National Institute for Occupational Health (NIOH):

The vulnerability status of the employees physically present at the work premises

This information is only required to be submitted on a once-off basis, and updated as necessary (e.g. as new employees are engaged or comorbidity information changes).

Importantly, when it comes to identifying the employee, an ‘EmployeeID’ is required. We understand that it is not necessary to refer to an employee’s South African ID number here. The employer can use the employee number that it assigns to employees in the ordinary course of business.

What is important is that the same Employee ID number is used each time the employer reports in respect of that individual (so that the NIOH can link the relevant data).

While the templates referred to in the Department of Health guidelines make provision for the disclosure of each employee’s particular comorbidity, this information is not mandatary. An employer will be required to confirm whether or not an employee falls into the ‘vulnerable employees’ category.

If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then the particular comorbidity or risk factor only needs to be provided if (i) it is known to the employer and (ii) the employee has consented to the disclosure of that information to the NIOH. This consent should preferably be obtained in writing.

Details of the symptom screening of employees who are symptomatic

The remaining data must be reported on a weekly basis, every Tuesday. However, this does not necessarily mean that an employer will need to make a submission each week.

An employer is required to screen employees who enter the workplace daily, but the employer is only required to report in respect of employees who are symptomatic.

This means that the employer would only submit data in those weeks in which it has employees who have been identified at the workplace (through the screening process) as having COVID-19 symptoms.

The exact symptoms that have been displayed by the employee are not required to be identified, however, if this is known to the employer, then this information should be provided in the report.

Details of employees who test positive for COVID-19

If there are any employees who test positive for COVID-19 during a particular week, then the employer will be required to submit information regarding those employee/s in its weekly report.

When reporting a positive case, the employee’s South African ID number must be provided (in addition to any Employee ID previously provided).

The number of employees identified as high-risk contacts within the workplace as a result of exposure to a worker who has tested positive for COVID-19

In the event that there is a positive case identified at the workplace and the worker who has tested positive has come into contact with other workers at the workplace, an employer is required to assess those workers’ exposure to ascertain whether the exposure carries a high or low risk of transmission.

In the event that any of the employer’s employees are identified as being high-risk contacts, the employer will be required to submit information regarding the number of those employees when the positive case is reported.

It is possible that the positive ‘index case’ may not be the employer’s own employee (but rather another worker at the premises). In that case, the positive case will not need to be reported (because this will be reported by the worker’s employer), but the number of high-risk contacts must be reported.

Details on the post-infection outcomes of those testing positive, including the return to work assessment outcome

Where an employer has reported on any employees who have tested positive for COVID-19, the employer will be required to provide information regarding those employees’ post-infection outcomes, including their fitness to return to work, if applicable (i.e. either ‘fit for job description’, ‘fit with accommodation’, ‘temporarily unfit for job’, etc.).

How do employers submit the data?

The first step is for employers to register on the NIOH web portal ( Once registered, the employer will receive a unique BusinessID and login credentials.

From there, employers will be able to select their preferred method for submitting their data. The following three options are currently available:

  • Manual submissions via Next Cloud: the employer can use the excel templates for reporting and manually submit the data by uploading the file onto Next Cloud; or
  • Submission via the Cmore web or mobile app: there is an application hosted by the CSIR which employers can either download or access via the web, which they can then use to submit their data onto the Cmore server; or
  • API Integration (submission using the employer’s own tools): where an employer is already using its own technology to obtain the information from its employees (such as a screening app), then the technical team at the NIOH can work with the employer to seek to integrate that technology so that the information can be shared with the NIOH.

Do employees need to consent to the submission of their health data?

No, not necessarily. Health data would be regarded as special personal information for purposes of the Protection of Personal Information Act, 2013 (POPIA). However, this information may be processed lawfully by the employer and provided to the NIOH in order to comply with its obligations under the Revised OHS Direction.

Where consent will be required, is in the event that information regarding an employee’s particular comorbidity or risk factor (which makes her/him a ‘vulnerable employee’) is shared as part of the employer’s submission (as discussed above).

Notwithstanding that an employee’s consent is not required for the submission of her/his health data, an employer is required to inform its employees that their information will be submitted to the NIOH and advise them that their data will be treated confidentially and that the NIOH will comply with its obligations under the POPIA.


On 23 July 2020, the Minister of Employment and Labour published a revised Directive for Compensation of Workplace-Acquired COVID-19 attached.

This Directive must be read with the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act 130 of 1993 (COIDA). COIDA provides for compensation for injuries or diseases sustained or contracted by employees in the course of their employment, or for death resulting from such injuries or diseases.

The purpose of the Directive is to clarify the Compensation Fund’s position with regards to claims for compensation by employees who have acquired COVID-19 at the workplace as result of work-related exposure/s.

Importantly, the Directive provides that a workplace-acquired COVID-19 diagnosis would depend on there being either:

  • the presence of an inherent risk posed by the particular category of work or occupation (see further below); or
  • exposure to a known source of COVID-19 at the workplace; or
  • an approved official trip and travel history to countries and/ or areas of high risk for COVID-19 on work assignment;

AND if any of the above circumstances is present, it then also requires a reliable diagnosis of COVID-19 as per the WHO guidelines as well as a chronological sequence between exposure at the workplace and the development of symptoms.

The Directive recognizes that the Compensation Fund should consider all claims and determine whether the Fund is liable to pay compensation based on all the information that is submitted to it.

However, the Directive also provides that the inherent risk posed by various categories of work and occupations will be considered in addition to an employee’s exposure and clinical history.

In this regard, the Directive makes provision for four levels of risk posed by various categories of work and occupations – the higher the risk, the more likely that the virus was contracted in the course and scope of employment.

These occupational risk levels are as follows:

  1. Very high exposure risk occupations, being those with high potential for exposure to known or suspected sources of COVID-19 during specific medical, post mortem or laboratory procedures, including healthcare employees, morgue employees and laboratory employees who come into contact with confirmed positive COVID-19 cases or specimens;
  2. High exposure risk occupations, being those with high potential of exposure to known or suspected patients with COVID-19, including healthcare delivery and support employees, medical transport employees moving patients, and mortuary employees involved in preparing bodies for burial or cremation;
  3. Medium exposure risk occupations, being those that require frequent and/or close contract (within 1.5 metres) with people who may be infected with COVID-19, but who are not known or suspected COVID-19 patients, such as employees employed in schools, and high-population-density work environments such as labour centres, consulting rooms, point of entry personnel and some high-volume retail settings; and
  4. Low risk occupations, being those that do not require contact with people known to be or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, nor frequent close contract (within 1.5 metres) with the general public. Employees in this category have minimal occupational contact with the public and other fellow employees.

The Directive further sets out the benefits available to persons who are temporarily or permanently disabled due to infection with COVID-19.

Importantly, the Compensation Fund will not provide compensation for unconfirmed cases which are still being investigated. Accordingly, where an employee self-isolates or self-quarantines, the employer should deal with the employee’s absence in line with the Consolidated COVID-19 Directive on Health and Safety in the Workplace.

In the event that an employer becomes aware than an employee has contracted COVID-19 or is suspected of having contracted COVID-19 as a result of a work-related exposure, it would do well to have regard to this Directive (read with the COIDA) without delay. The Directive explains how reporting must be done and what information and documents will be required to be submitted.

[image_with_animation image_url="57479" animation="Fade In" hover_animation="none" alignment="" img_link_target="_blank" border_radius="none" box_shadow="none" image_loading="default" max_width="100%" max_width_mobile="default" img_link=""]

SEIFSA Tables Proposal To Industry Trade Unions To Extend The Main Agreement To 30 June 2021

At its meeting on Monday, 29 June 2020, the SEIFSA Council mandated SEIFSA to formally submit to the MEIBC a proposal that negotiations for the current cycle be deferred and that the terms and conditions of the collective Main Agreement concluded between the Parties for the period 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2020 be extended until 30 June 2021. Monday’s SEIFSA Council meeting followed a series of recent meetings held by SEIFSA’s Negotiating Team with industry trade unions and other employer bodies.  

This proposal has since been submitted to the General Secretary of the Bargaining Council and shared with all of the industry trade unions. It will be tabled for discussion at a Bargaining Council Management Committee Meeting on Tuesday, 7 July 2020. 

In the interim, there is a high probability that some member companies will receive requests from various trade unions to be granted access in order to brief their respective members. While we urge members to grant such access, subject to reasonable and necessary conditions to safeguard life or property or to prevent undue disruption of work, we would like to stress that any such report-back meetings must comply strictly with the measures introduced under the National Disaster Regulations to prevent and combat the speared of COVID-19. These include the prohibition of gatherings involving more than 50 persons, as well as the need to wear masks and observe the 1,5m social distance.

We will keep you informed on all developments relating to the extension of the current Main Agreement to 30 June 2021. 

Meanwhile, member companies are encouraged to continue to observe the current terms and conditions of the Main Agreement, in good faith and in accordance with sound industrial relations practice.

Kaizer M. Nyatsumba
Chief Executive Officer

Business For SA Guidance Note: Alert Level 3 Regulations

This note serves to outline the present regulatory framework pertaining to Alert level (AL)3 and to highlight the areas of interest and/ or concern for members.

Since adopting a risk-adjusted strategy to COVID-19, the South African government has gradually lifted restrictions on economic activity by promulgating new regulations in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 (the regulations), amending the regulations on 28 May and 25 June 2020 and issuing several sector-specific directions to manage the safe reopening of the economy.

As amended, the Regulations are structured in three broad parts:

(i)                 general measures governing the national response to the state of disaster in overarching terms;

(ii)               a chapter setting out the law applicable under Alert Level (AL) 4; and

(iii)             a further chapter dealing with the situation under AL3.  (AL5 is not dealt with explicitly, but the list of essential services that was applicable during the initial lockdown period is still appended to the Regulations as Annexure D).

The Minister is empowered to determine which of AL’s 1 to 5 apply at national, provincial, metropolitan or district level or in “hotspots” and the Regulations provide for different AL’s to apply to different areas.  Conceivably, therefore, areas with higher levels of infection and less capacity in their health facilities may revert to AL4 or AL5. Thus far, however, there is no indication that this will occur.

Any shift to a different AL in any area is enforceable only after the Minister has published a notice to that effect in the Government Gazette.  If that happens, different regulations will be applicable in different geographical areas.

We encourage members to continue to be aware of this possibility and of the possibility that the Regulations will continue to be amended and supplemented from time to time as the situation unfolds.

To read the full guidance note, please go to

11 Components Employers in the Metals & Engineering Industry Need to Understand about the Corona Virus Lockdown in South Africa

This blog is a guide for employers in the metals and engineering sector when applying the Main Agreement and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act to the ‘lockdown’ announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 23 March 2020.

SEIFSA Corona virus Lock down symbol. Corona virus pandemic puts countries on lock down. Lock down concept for virus outbreak.Guidelines on managing the lock-down

All employers have all been hit with fast and dramatic changes that we now need to deal with and then apply this to the workplace. The government enforced 21 days lockdown due to COVID19, which also falls into the definition of a force majeure, means that we are entering unchartered territory. 

Obviously there are numerous questions regarding pay during this time period, please note key applications in this regard, namely:

  • The lockdown period is an unprecedented scenario, beyond the control of the employer (and employees).
  • Employers should consider allowing employees to take from their accumulated leave to assist in this time period. The decision to allow employees to apply for normal leave is yours to take, however, if possible it would be morally appropriate to allow for that arrangement. You would be guided by your financial position and affordability.
  • Employers must as soon as possible assist employees to apply for special leave of up to 14 days through UIF, please see attachments above that provide further information and advice on this.
  • No work no pay will apply on the shop floor and in the offices. However it can be agreed that certain or all office staff can continue to work from home and be paid, this could take the form of partial pay for partial work, or full pay.
  • During the lockdown period, employees will still be entitled to be paid for the Public Holidays.
  • During the lockdown period no shifts for the leave pay and leave enhancement pay will be lost during this period.
  • One could also give consideration to working in time arrangements after the 21 day lockdown period, which will allow companies to catch up lost production and allow employees to catch lost wages. It could be agreed that these extra hours worked are not paid at overtime rates but at normal rates as one catches up lost normal. Section 4 (alternative / flexible working in time arrangements) and section 38 (working in time arrangements) of the Main Agreement gives guidelines on these.
  • It must be noted that the banks are prepared to give a three month loan/debt/bond repayment holiday.  

Dealing with the pandemic after the lockdown

One would hope that the lockdown has the desired result of reducing the infection rate dramatically or even getting to the point of no new infections as they have managed to achieve in China. 

However, there is the possibility that there may be further COVID19 infections after the lockdown across the country. Employers will therefore need to best manage the situation and this will need an understanding of various employment and labour laws including health & safety considerations to manage and mitigate the risk of Covid-19 in the workplace.

SEIFSA has received many queries on how to manage the situation, with queries ranging from a health & safety perspective to general employment contractual laws and obligations, taking into account the Basic Conditions of Employment Act and the Main Agreement, with queries concerning quarantining and payment of remuneration in times of emergencies.

Here are 11 aspects you need to understand how to practically deal with these matters and steps employers can take to safeguard employees.

  • What is the coronavirus?

The World Health Organisation (WHO) describes coronaviruses as a “family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases”. At the end of 2019, a novel strain of the coronavirus (now known as Covid-19) broke out in Wuhan, China. Since the outbreak, and at the time of writing this article the WHO has reported that there have been over 250 000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 across the world, (nearly every country in the world had reported confirmed infections of Covid-19), including African countries (in ten days the number of African countries with confirmed cases rose from 5 to 35 countries) and over 10 000 people across the world have died after contracting Covid-19.

Of significance and a glimmer of hope, China advised on 19 March, that, on 18 March, there had been NO new infections in China. The only new cases were from people who had flew into China from other countries.

At the end of January 2020, the WHO declared the outbreak of Covid-19 as a public health emergency of international concern.

  • From a health & safety perspective, what legal obligations does an employer have in light of the global outbreak of Covid-19?

The Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 places an express obligation on the employer to maintain a working environment that is safe and healthy. On the issue of a healthy working environment, the employer must ensure that the workplace is free from any risk to the health of its employees as far as it is reasonably practicable. Within the context of Covid-19, there is a clear obligation on the employer to manage the risk of contamination in the workplace.

Practically, the employer can ensure a healthy working environment by ensuring that the workplace is clean and hygienic, promoting regular hand-washing by employees, promoting good respiratory hygiene by employees, social distancing (if possible keep a two meter gap between each other), not coming to work if displaying cold or flu type symptoms and keeping employees informed on developments related to Covid-19.

  • What practical steps can an employer take to ensure that the workplace is safeguarded from Covid-19?

The employer should conduct a risk assessment to determine the likelihood of contamination in the workplace. This assessment should include a contingency and business continuity plan should there be an outbreak of the illness. 

Employers should consider the following proactive steps given the scale of the illness globally 

  • Follow health advice and information: the employer should follow health advice from the WHO (as an international source) and the Department of Health and the National Institute of Communicable Diseases (as local sources).
  • Communicate with employees and provide updates on Covid-19 to employees, especially if these can be provided in positive manner to address any irrational fears that employees may have.
  • The employer must also advise on its approach at work regarding attendance, leave, isolation and preventing the spread of infection. The employer may also wish to display posters that provide information on the illness and hygiene.
  • Prevent the spread of infection: the employer should ensure that there are adequate facilities for employees to wash and/or sanitise their hands regularly within the workplace. Employees with a mild cough or low-grade fever (37.3 or more) should be encouraged to stay at home and seek medical attention. To properly manage the situation the employer would require sick notes
  • Identify vulnerable workers: Covid-19 poses a greater risk to employees with weakened immune systems and long-term health conditions. Vulnerable workers include pregnant employees and disabled employees. Employers should pay special attention to such employees, whether it be taking further measures to provide a safer working environment, such as providing masks, gloves and ensuring that these employees maintain a social distance with others. Consideration could also be given to allow these employees to remain at home during this time.
  • Update emergency contact information: employees should be required to review and update their emergency contact information.

Employees should however be encouraged to disclose general symptoms of a cold or flu to the HR Department without delay. Such employees will be required to stay at home until such time they are fit to return to work. They will however still be required to justify their absence by means of a medical certificate issued by a registered medical practitioner. Should the employee be able to justify absence from work by means of such a certificate, the period of absence will be paid from the employee’s sick leave entitlement. Should the employee not have sufficient sick leave available, such absence will unfortunately be without any remuneration or benefits, unless annual leave is available for payment purposes or if otherwise decided by the employer.

  • Managing Covid-19 – Quarantine and the Main Agreement’s short-time and lay-off provisions:

Let us consider various scenarios and give consideration to the Main Agreement and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act:

Scenario 1: If a medical doctor places an employee in quarantine, the employee needs a medical certificate, then the employee is entitled to sick leave.

Scenario 2: The employer enforces compulsory quarantine on one or more employees. The employee will not be on sick leave unless a medical certificate has been issued, and this would normally be paid time off. However for employees covered by the Main Agreement, one can consider using the short-time provision in section 7 and the lay-off provision in Annexure A of the Main Agreement. To note that this forced quarantining by the employer is not annual leave, however by mutual agreement annual leave may be used.

Scenario 3: The employer sends everyone home. For employees covered by the Main Agreement, the employer may make use of the short-time and lay-off provisions contained in the Main Agreement. However for employees covered by the BCEA, one would need to look at alternative arrangements as the BCEA does not have a short-time or lay-off provision. Alternative arrangements one can consider could be: 

  • one can consider working from home,
  • working at an alternative site,
  • working a skeleton staff on site in a strictly regulated environment to ensure no infections take place,
  • working skeleton staff on a multiple shift system, to ensure minimum personnel are on site at any given time, with sterilization taking place between shifts. or
  • any suitable and mutually agreed arrangement, like annual leave or ‘special leave’. Any ‘special leave’ given by the employer is at the employers discretion, as there is no legislation obligating the employer to make ‘special leave provisions’. 

Scenario 4: Where there is a self-imposed quarantine by an employee, then it would be unpaid, unless the employee claims sick leave and provides a sick note as required.

Short-time – section 7 of the Main Agreement

Let’s give consideration to, and more fully answer questions that there may be regarding an employer implementing short-time (Section 7, Main Agreement), to enable social distancing and / or to compensate for the economic effects of COVID-19. 

The short-time provisions do require that management spread the available work among employees as far as is practicable. However it must be noted that short-time can be implemented in such a way that only some employees are affected and others not, or that some employees are more affected than others.

The Main Agreement in section 7 says that one can implement short-time due to, “Justifiable contingencies and/or unforeseen contingencies and/or circumstances beyond the control of the employer”. Contingencies are also defined as emergencies, and certainly COVID-19 and the possible negative economic impact are emergencies and contingencies. How short can the short-time be? The Main Agreement allows short-time to be as short as four consecutive hours in a week, and the employer would be required to pay the four hours.

Employers in a state of emergency may therefore implement short-time, whether it be to enforce a quarantine and send employees home, or to implement skeleton shifts, where you would have only a portion of the employees working on certain days and the rest would be off. 

One can also consider having split shifts in any one day, don’t forget to disinfect between shifts!

Please note! – new UIF benefits to compensate for reduced pay due to short-time, lay-offs or for being quarantined. If employees end up getting less than the UIF benefit that they would get if they were unemployed, the UIF will top up an employees pay so that they can get the same financial benefit as if they were unemployed

Lay-offs – Annexure A of the Main Agreement

An employer may also consider implementing Lay-offs (Section 4, Annexure A, Main Agreement) to compensate for the economic effects of COVID-19? 

Lay-off is a temporary suspension of employment without pay for a minimum of 5 clear working days due to a reduction of work or due to other economic circumstances at an establishment or section thereof .The lay-off may not continue for more than 8 weeks, unless agreed upon. The employer must give notice, which must reach stakeholders 14 days before intended lay-off is to begin. If pressed for time and urgent relief is sought, lay-offs may not be the best procedure to follow, because of the 14 day notice period. One could however implement short-time first and then submit the lay-off notice, with the intention to proceed on to a lay-off.

Working in-time arrangements – section 38 of the Main Agreement

Companies can also consider an arrangement with the employees to work in lost time so that employees can catch up the hours and pay that have been lost. This will also allow the employer to catch up on lost production. It can be agreed that the hours that are being caught up are paid at normal time, this would also assist employers in minimising overtime pay.  


  • What if an employee requests self-quarantine?

In the case of voluntary quarantine (i.e. quarantine at the request of the employee for precautionary purposes), the employee is not sick and therefore, is not entitled to sick leave. There is the possibility that if employees are forced to take unpaid leave or annual leave in these circumstances, they may opt not to self-quarantine. We therefore recommend that the company consider initiatives to encourage employees to come forward and not hide any infection that they may have. These initiatives could be special paid leave, working from home, which will allow employees to be paid, or any other workable arrangements which will be mutually beneficial, such as being able to catch time up and thereby not lose pay.

The employer must carefully consider the circumstances under which special paid leave will be awarded to employees. These circumstances must be made clear to employees. It should be an option of last resort as it may be open to abuse by employees.

If the illness spreads across South Africa, the reality for employers is that employees may request to be placed in quarantine to minimise their risk of infection. In this instance, the employer will need to consider implementing remote working for employees who can work from home, and other initiatives that are mutually beneficial.

  • What happens after the quarantine period?

After the quarantine period and even if an employee does not display any symptoms, the employer may nevertheless require the employee to be tested by a medical practitioner and to provide the employer with a medical certificate confirming that the employee can return to work.

  • What is a reasonable period of quarantine?

The WHO has indicated that a person should be in quarantine for a period of at least 14 days.

  • What if an employee contracts Covid-19?

In such an instance, the employer should apply its sick leave policy to such an employee. The employee must obtain a medical certificate and any time out of the office will be considered as sick leave.

Due to the nature of the illness, an employee with Covid-19 should not be permitted to return to work until that employee is cleared to do so by a medical practitioner.

  • How should an employer manage employees who travel out of South Africa at this time?

The employer should issue clear travel guidelines to its employees on international travel, particularly to countries affected by Covid-19. 

The employer may elect to place a moratorium on business travel until such time as Covid-19 is contained. If this is not possible, a moratorium should be placed on business travel to affected countries.

It may be more challenging to regulate personal/holiday travel by employees. Employees should be encouraged not to travel to affected countries. Importantly, employees who nevertheless choose do so should not be allowed to immediately return to work after such travel. Such employees should be required to self-isolate (compulsory quarantine) for at least 14 days. Employees should be informed that they must take all reasonable steps to avoid exposure to the illness which may mean cancelling or postponing international travel until Covid-19 is contained.

The employer should also bear in mind that travel by employees to countries which are currently unaffected by Covid-19 could still pose a risk of infection as such countries may become affected at any time. In any event, at this stage, the risk of infection is high given the nature of travel, exposure to different people of different nationalities particularly on flights with multiple legs.

It is advisable for employers to consider requesting all employees to disclose international travel (to all countries) undertaken by them (or any person who they live with) since 1 February 2020. This may assist the employer with its risk assessment to determine the likelihood of contamination in the workplace.

  • The Department of Labour’s COVID-19 guideline

The Department has developed a COVID-19 guideline. This COVID-19 planning guidance was developed based on traditional infection prevention and occupational hygiene practices. It focuses on the need for employers to implement the following:

Engineering controls – isolating employees from work-related hazards, installing high-efficiency air filters, increasing ventilation rates in the work environment and installing physical barriers such as face shields to provide ventilation.  

Administrative controls – these controls require action by the employee and employer. Examples of administrative controls include: encouraging sick workers to stay at home; minimizing contact among workers, clients and customers by replacing face-to-face meetings with virtual communications e.g. conference calls, Skype, etc.; minimising the number of workers on site at any given time e.g. rotation or shift work; discontinuing nonessential local and international travel; regularly check travel advice from the Department of Health at:; developing emergency communications plans, including a task team for answering workers’ concerns and internet-based communications, if feasible, providing workers with up-to-date education and training on COVID-19 risk factors and protective behaviours (e.g. cough etiquette and care of PPE); training workers who need to use protective clothing and equipment on how to put it on, use/wear it and take it off correctly, including in the context of their current and potential duties. Training material should be easy to understand and available in the appropriate language and literacy level for all workers.

Safe Work Practices – these include procedures for safe and proper work used to reduce the duration, frequency, or intensity of exposure to a hazard. Provide resources and a work environment that promotes personal hygiene. For example, no-touch refuse bins, hand soap, alcohol-based hand rubs containing at least 70 percent alcohol, disinfectants, and disposable towels for workers to clean their hands and their work surfaces, regular hand washing or using of alcohol-based hand rubs, and display handwashing signs in restrooms.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) – while engineering and administrative controls are considered more effective in minimizing exposure to SARS-CoV-2, PPE may also be needed to prevent certain exposures. Examples of PPE include: gloves, goggles, face shields, face masks, gowns, aprons, coats, overalls, hair and shoe covers and respiratory protection, when appropriate. Employers should check the NICD website regularly for updates about recommended PPE.

Employers and workers should use this planning guidance to help identify risk levels in workplace settings and to determine any appropriate control measures to implement. Additional guidance may be needed as COVID-19 outbreak conditions change. In the event that new information about the virus, its transmission, and impact, becomes available you may have to modify your plans accordingly.

For employers who have already planned for influenza outbreaks involving many staff members, planning for COVID-19 may involve updating plans to address the specific exposure risks, sources of exposure, routes of transmission, and other unique characteristics of respiratory infections (i.e., compared to influenza virus outbreaks).

In the case of suspected exposure contact the coronavirus hotline in South Africa: 0800 02 9999

The Department of Employment and Labour will for now keep its labour centres opened. The Department has put in place a Crisis Management Team which will be guided by the Department’s business continuity plan. The Crisis Management Team will meet every day at 09h00 to assess the situation and put measures in place to promote health and safety of staff and its clients.

The queues at labour centres and services provided will be managed to adhere to the 100 people not gathering in one place at the same time.


  • Regulations issued on 18 March 2020 in terms of the Disaster Management Act of 2002.

It is important to be familiar with the recently released Regulations issued on 18 March 2020 in terms of the Disaster Management Act of 2002. These have been issued with the intention to minimise the effects of this disaster (Covid-19), and include the –

  • banning of gatherings of more than 100 people,
  • banning of the assembly of more than 50 people on premises where liquor is sold and consumed,
  • places that sell liquor must be closed between 6pm and 9am, and between 1pm and 9am on Sundays and public holidays, this includes places like restaurants and bars where alcohol is sold,
  • no person who has been tested positive for the corona virus may refuse quarantining, 
  • places of quarantining will be established,
  • schools to be closed from 18 March until 15 April, 
  • any person that contravenes any of the above is guilty of an offence, and could be imprisoned for 6 months and receive a fine.


A company should advise employees of guidelines that they will be following, such as advising employees that,

  1. If you have been tested positive for the Coronavirus and have a sick note from a doctor, you will be required to stay at home in quarantine.  This will be treated as sick leave.
  2. If you choose not to come to work, and do not have a doctor’s sick note, time taken will be treated as unpaid leave or may be taken against your annual leave if you have accumulated days.
  3. If you cannot get to work because of a lack of public transport, taxis, trains etc the principle of no work no pay will apply.

Preventative Measures

  1. Please ensure that you wash your hands regularly
  2. Maintain social distancing
  3. Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth
  4. Practice respiratory hygiene
  5. If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing, see medical care early

Employees should disclose general symptoms of a cold or flu to the HR Department without delay.

In order to manage the risk of contamination effectively, employers should consider appointing an internal committee of professionals. The committee will be responsible for issues such as monitoring the spread of Covid-19, assessing the risk of contamination and taking measures to ensure that the workplace is healthy and safe. The committee should include representatives from the health & safety, human resources and risk and compliance departments of the employer.

We wish you all the best during this trying period and pray that you, your loved ones and employees remain unaffected.

Can employees, who are infected with the Coronavirus, be compensated in terms of COIDA?

The South African Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act, 1993 (“COIDA“) addresses compensation payable to employees, who suffer from occupational diseases, which has arisen out of, and in the course of their employment.

Section 65(1) of COIDA provides that an employee shall be entitled to compensation in terms of COIDA for an occupational disease,  if it is proved to the satisfaction of the Director-General of the Department of Employment and Labour (“Director-General“), that the employee has contracted a disease mentioned in Schedule 3 and that such disease has arisen out of, and in the course of his or her employment (section 65(1)(a) of COIDA); or that the employee has contracted a disease (other than a disease contemplated in Schedule 3) and that such disease has arisen out of, and in the course of his or her employment (section 65(1)(a) of COIDA).

There are two further provisions in COIDA that bear mentioning for the purposes of this article.  The first is section 66 of COIDA, which provides that if an employee, who has contracted an occupational disease was employed in any work mentioned in Schedule 3 in respect of that disease, it shall be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that such disease arose out of, and in the course of his/her employment.  Secondly, section 69 of COIDA provides that the Minister of Employment and Labour may, on the recommendation of the Director-General, amend Schedule 3 of COIDA.

On 23 March 2020, a notice was published by the Compensation Commissioner, stipulating that, effective from date of publication, employees who have “occupationally-acquired” the Novel Coronavirus Disease of 2019 (“COVID-19“) may be compensated within the delineates of COIDA.

Although the term “occupationally-acquired” is not defined in the Notice, it is clear that it refers to an infection that has arisen out of, and in the course of an employee’s employment. It is therefore important to keep in mind that the mere fact that a person has contracted COVID-19 is not sufficient for the disease to be compensatable. The infection must have arisen out of, and in the course of employment. For example, the infection of a medical doctor with COVID-19, whose work related to the diagnosis of patients with COVID-19, will be categorised as occupationally-acquired COVID-19 and therefore compensatable in terms of COIDA.

It is important to note that the Notice is not a notice as contemplated in Section 69 of COIDA and therefore Schedule 3 has not been amended by the Notice.  Secondly, insofar as COVID-19 is not a disease contemplated in Schedule 3 of COIDA, the presumption provided in section 66 of COIDA is not applicable.  In other words, an employee will bear the onus to demonstrate to the satisfaction of the Director-General that his/her occupationally-acquired COVID-19 infection was acquired out of, and in the course of said employee’s employment.

It is also imperative that the principle delineated in the case of MEC for the Department of Health v De Necker is applied. In this case, it was provided that if the injury (or condition in this instance), is a risk incidental or necessary to one’s employment, then the acquired disease is compensatable in terms of COIDA. The Notice must therefore be understood in the context of this judgment, as well as sections 65, 66 and 69 of CODA – the risk of infection of occupationally-acquired COVID-19 must be a risk incidental or necessary to one’s employment.

Occupationally-acquired COVID-19

The Notice stipulates that, for occupationally-acquired COVID-19 to be considered as “occupationally-acquired”, the infection must have:

  • been a result of single or multiple exposures of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace; or
  • been contracted after an official trip to high-risk countries or areas in a previously COVID-19-free individual.

In other words, if a trip by a person to a high-risk country was for personal reasons, then the infection with COVID-19  will not be viewed as occupationally-acquired and is therefore not compensatable in terms of COIDA.

The following prerequisites must be met:

  • occupational exposure to a known source of COVID-19;
  • a reliable diagnosis of COVID-19, as per the World Health Organisation (“WHO“) guidelines;
  • an approved official trip and travel history to countries and/or areas of high risk for COVID-19 on work assignment;
  • a presumed high-risk work environment, where transmission of COVID-19 is inherently prevalent; and
  • a chronological sequence between the work exposure and the development of the symptoms.

Categories of risk

The Notice delineates different categories of occupations that are at risk. The categories of occupations are differentiated as being: “(v)ery high exposure risk occupations”, “high exposure risk occupations“, followed by medium- and low-risk occupations. By way of example, one very high exposure risk occupation is healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, dentists, paramedics, emergency medical technicians), who perform aerosol‑generating procedures, for example, intubation, cough induction procedures, bronchoscopies, some dental procedures and exams, or invasive specimen collection, on known or suspected COVID-19 patients. An example of a high exposure risk occupation is healthcare delivery and support staff (doctors, nurses and other hospital staff that must enter a patient’s room) exposed to known or suspected COVID-19 patients.

Medium exposure risk occupations include those that require frequent and/or close contact (within two metres) with people, who may be infected with COVID-19, but who are not known or suspected as COVID-19  patients. In areas without ongoing community transmission, workers in this risk group may have frequent contact with travellers, who may return from international locations with widespread COVID-19 transmission. In areas where there is ongoing community transmission, workers in this category may have contact with the general public (eg in schools, high‑population density work environments, such as labour centres, consulting rooms, point of entry personnel and some high‑volume retail settings).

Low exposure risk occupations are those that do not require contact with people known to be, or suspected of being infected with COVID-19, nor frequent close contact with the general public. Workers in this category will have minimal occupational contact with the public and other co‑workers.


The Notice provides detailed particulars regarding assessments, impairments, and temporary/permanent disability and payments in respect thereof. Importantly, the Notice specifically provides that the employer will be liable for remuneration for days of absence, with regards to suspected and unconfirmed cases of COVID-19, in instances where self‑quarantine is recommended by a registered medical practitioner in accordance with the Department of Health, WHO and International Labour Organisational guidelines.

In respect of reporting, a number of documents are required to be submitted. The ordinary prescribed forms are still required to be completed, but in addition, the Notice also requires additional documentation to be submitted including an Exposure and Medical Questionnaire, as well as exposure history and/or any other appropriate employment history, which may include any information that may be helpful to the Compensation Commissioner. In circumstances, where an employer cannot be traced or will not timeously submit the prescribed report, the Notice provides that an affidavit by the employee infected with COVID-19 must be included. Both electronic and manual submission facilities are available.


The Notice is welcomed, as an appropriate reaction, to provide for statutory reimbursement to persons, who are at risk of infection of occupationally-acquired COVID-19, which risk is incidental or necessary to their employment. For the selfless people, who form part of the categories of very high risk and high risk occupations, the Notice goes a long way to ensure that these employees are included in the employment compensation scheme applicable in South Africa.

Willem le Roux
Executive Consultant | mine and occupational health and safety
+27 82 772 5267

Pieter Colyn
Executive | mine and occupational health and safety
+27 83 327 2474

Celeste Coles
Executive | mine and occupational health and safety
+27 82 875 8202

[divider line_type="No Line"][nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

COVID-19 Testing Sites

According to Lancet Laboratories, doctors and patients are urged to contact the NICD directly on their hotline if they want testing to be done at NICD 082 883 9920.

If Doctors want their patient to be tested at Lancet Laboratories, and there is any uncertainty that the patient meets clinical and epidemiological criteria, the Lancet virologist on call on 0113580800 may be contacted.

Below is a list of all testing sites in the country:

[divider line_type="No Line"][nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

The Department of Employment and Labour issued guidelines to deal with COVID-19 at work places

On 17 March 2020, the Department of Employment and Labour issued guidelines to deal with COVID-19 at work places, which was circulated to all members.

In addition, the Department recommends that employers:

  • Be cognizant if the prescriptions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the applicable regulations in safeguarding their workplaces;
  • Review and regularly update risk assessments, taking into account the new hazards posed by exposure to COVID-19;
  • Prepare as far in advance as possible for potentially worsening outbreak conditions; and
  • ‘go back to basics’ by conducting hazard identification and risk assessment, determine the level of risk exposure, and communicate with employees.

Furthermore, the Minister of Employment and Labour announced measures that the Department will put in place to contain the spread of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) and its impact on UIF contributors.

The Unemployment Insurance Fund will compensate affected workers through its Illness and Reduced Work Time benefits. The guide is applicable to all employers who are registered with UIF and make contributions as required by the Contributions Act of 2002.

Please note that attempts to secure the UI2.1b form (from the Departments website) referred to in the guide have been unsuccessful, but Busa have requested same from the UIF and will share the form with members as soon as this is received.

A copy of the Easy Aid Guide for Employers is attached.

[divider line_type="No Line"][nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

COVID-19 Preventative brochures

[image_with_animation image_url="83809" alignment="" animation="Fade In" hover_animation="none" border_radius="none" box_shadow="none" image_loading="default" max_width="100%" max_width_mobile="default"]

Tswana Version

[nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

Sotho Version

[nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

Xhosa Version

[nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

English/Afrikaans Version

[nectar_btn size="large" button_style="regular" button_color_2="Accent-Color" icon_family="none" url="" text="Download"]

The Coronavirus: Wrap Up

In order to manage the risk of contamination effectively, employers should consider appointing an internal committee of professionals. The committee will be responsible for issues such as monitoring the spread of Covid-19, assessing the risk of contamination and taking measures to ensure that the workplace is healthy and safe. The committee should include representatives from the health & safety, human resources and risk and compliance departments of the employer.

Despite only eighty-two confirmed case in South Africa, employers should act proactively within the context of Covid-19. Employers who are proactive will ensure that employees are protected and that business can continue to function as efficiently as possible.​

Contact SEIFSA COVID-19 Hotline