Employee: Know Your Rights

As an employee living in a COVID-19 era, how are you protected by the law?

The year 2020 has hit South Africa with a pandemic, economic recession, and a lockdown. In a country that has a 29% unemployment rate, our country’s economy cannot afford to function under a lockdown. There is a fear that companies and businesses forced to shut down for this period will lay off employees as a first resort. This has triggered concerns over employee job security.

What Are My Rights as an Employee?

1. Will I be paid during the lockdown if I am working remotely?

If you are working remotely, you will continue to receive your salary from your company. If your company cannot afford to pay you, you will be able to claim your wages from the Temporary Employee Relief Scheme.

2. What if I fall ill?

According to the Basic Conditions Employment Act, you are entitled to leave if you decide to self-isolate (you may be required to produce a medical certificate). Should an employee’s leave be exhausted, he or she may be placed on unpaid leave. As per the Unemployment Insurance Fund, should you be ill for a period longer than 7 days, you may qualify for illness benefits. If you fall ill due to exposure at the workplace, you will qualify for the Compensation Fund in terms of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act.

3. Can I be forced to take annual leave during the lockdown?

More often than not, employment contracts stipulate that employers can determine the time in which employees take their annual leave. Many companies and businesses are requesting employees who cannot work remotely to take annual leave.

4. What if I work in the informal sector?

The government has announced that a safety net will be created to support businesses operating in the informal sector and their employees.

5. Does the government have a backup plan?

If necessary, the government will be able to access funds from the Unemployment Insurance Fund to support employees in small, medium and micro-enterprises and other vulnerable firms that cannot support their employees.

6. Must I still contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund?

Yes. However, the government is currently exploring the possibility of temporarily reducing the required contribution.