Workplace: ‘No mercy’ for firms flouting Covid-19 regulations

The move to level three lockdown regulations will bring new risks for workers but, writes Legalbrief, the Trade, Industry and Competition Department plans to close down companies that flout Covid-19 regulations to protect the well-being of employees. According to Business Report, Lionel October, the Director-General of the department, told Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry on Friday that the government had adopted a ‘no mercy’ approach to firms that did not adhere to the regulations. ‘The essential workers are most exposed. People working in the health sector and people working in the retail sector are vulnerable. We are adopting an approach where worker safety and protection is imperative. We are adopting an approach where we are saying there is no mercy. If people do not implement these regulations properly, they will close down. The social contract is that we will have an opening of the economy on condition of protective measures being in place to protect employees,’ October said.

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Gauteng Premier David Makhura reiterated the threat in a Business Day report. The provincial government is working with various sectors in Gauteng to ensure they are compliant with requirements such as sanitation, social-distancing and wearing masks. Gauteng is the economic heart of SA and ordinarily contributes more than a third of the country’s GDP, but its economy faces devastation as a result of the lockdown. Makhura, who has met with businesses, said he expects that everything would be in place, but that if ‘a business doesn’t comply, we will simply shut that business down’ and that workers’ rights would not be placed at risk. The province has focused on getting the retail sector and the transport industry compliant with the measures imposed. It will also focus on other sectors, such as manufacturing and mining, which employ large numbers of people. He said workers should raise any non-compliance issues if they are required to go back to work.

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Organised business has added its voice to calls for domestic firms to take steps to ensure that their workplaces are Covid-19-ready, reports Mining Weekly. In welcoming the easing, Business Unity SA (Busa) president Sipho Pityana said it was critical that businesses, big and small, played their part in ensuring workplaces were ‘corona-ready when employees return to work under level three’. Business Leadership SA CEO Busi Mavuso added that, during a meeting between business, the President and some Cabinet members on 21 May, an understanding developed that further transition through the lockdown levels will only occur if business is able to demonstrate that it can operate safely and protect workers. Mavuso said the pressure was now on business to innovate and adapt to the crisis.

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