In these times of deadly pandemic, both employees and their employers need to observe all workplace safety protocols to the letter. As the Labour Court recently pointed out, having fancy COVID-19 policies in place is meaningless if they aren’t strictly observed by everyone, and all the time.
The Court was dealing with the case of an Assistant Butchery Manager who reported for duty on three days after testing positive for the coronavirus, putting his fellow employees, customers, and anyone else unlucky enough to come into contact with him at serious risk. His dismissal was held by the Court to be substantively fair and confirmed. We discuss the facts, and the reasons for that outcome.
“The facts of this case are indeed extraordinary. They are indicative of the need for more to be done at both the workplace and in our communities, in ensuring that employers, employees, and the general populace are sensitised to the realities of this pandemic, and to further reinforce the obligations of employers and employees in the face of, or event of an exposure to COVID-19” (extract from judgment below)
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both employers and their employees to a whole new slew of risks. One of the more serious is the danger of infected employees coming to work and by doing so endangering the lives of not just their colleagues, but also customers and anyone else unfortunate enough to come into contact with them.
A new Labour Court decision confirms that our courts will not hesitate to act decisively where employees disregard health and safety protocols.
The butcher who tested positive but went to work
The Court’s warning to employers
The Court also rapped the employer over the knuckles for allowing business to continue as usual in a deadly pandemic without social distancing, allowing “mask-less ‘huggers’” to walk around on the shop floor, despite “having all of these fancy COVID-19 policies, procedures and protocols in place”.
As the Court put it “…the facts of this case in my view clearly compels the need for serious introspection by the applicant and all other employers in the light of the above questions posed, in regard to whether existing health and safety measures and protocols in place are being taken seriously by everyone affected. It is one thing to have all the health and safety protocols in place and on paper. These are however meaningless if no one, including employers, takes them seriously.” (Emphasis supplied).
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