Being absent from work because of the virus is not a valid reason, lawyers say.

Being absent from work because of the virus is not a valid reason, lawyers say.

17 March 2020

Labour and Employment Minister Thulas Nxesi. Picture: Moneyweb

Employees do not have a right to work from home unless they were told otherwise, despite panic and fears of being exposed to the Covid-19 virus.

Being absent from work because of the virus was not a valid reason.

Workers fearing contracting the virus needed permission from their employers to stay away from the office, said Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr law firm’s national head of employment Aadil Patel.

“Employees remain obligated to come to work unless instructed otherwise by their employers.

“Employees who refuse must have a valid reason for their absence.

“The mere presence of the coronavirus in South Africa does not constitute a valid reason to stay away. Employees who do may face disciplinary action,” he said.

Employers had a legal duty of care and should take extreme measures to protect the health and safety of their employees, Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi said.

“Employers are required to provide employees … with the necessary protective equipment required …”

He is to discuss with stakeholders instances where an employee needed to be quarantined and the type of leave to be utilised as well as other measures to be taken.

“We will be dealing with this matter case by case,” he said.

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