In light of the nationwide lockdown that was extended to 30 April 2020, and to the fact that most of us are house bound during this period, various questions pertaining to our employment arose.
With this blog, I intend to put your minds at ease or at the very least inform you, the reader, of your rights and/or certain relief provided to assist you during these uncertain times.
The first question that comes to mind is that of remuneration or simply put, "Is my employer liable to pay me for the period during lockdown?".
The simple answer is based on the trite legal principle of no work no pay. However the government has indicated that they do not support employers applying this principle in their businesses due to the rise in unemployment that this might cause and the plight of minimum wage employees in South Africa.
The government has therefore implemented various government backed financial relief measures that South African businesses may use in an attempt to limit employers to apply the trite principle, which are amongst others the following:
1) Business Growth and Resilience Facility
2) SMME Relief Finance Facility
3) SEFE-Debt Restructuring Facility
4) The Industrial Development Corporation has put a package of more than R3 billion together to assist businesses
5) The Department of Tourism has made available R200 million in aid to assist SMME's
6) TERS Fund
The above relief can however only be claim by the employer and should the employer apply for same. Whether total or temporary lay-off of employees, the employer can claim for a period of 3 months or less if such lay-offs were due to the Covid pandemic. The benefit received from TERS for example is calculated on a sliding scale of 38% to 60% to the max of R17 712.00 per month and a minimum of R3 500.00 per month.
Various financial institutions has indicated that they are prepared to grant payment holidays with regard to debts and can you further apply for debt review.
The second question pertains to leave, or differently put "May my employer request me to take my annual leave during the lockdown period?".
The Basic Conditions of Employment Act allows employers to determine the time that employees can take their annual leave or by agreement with the employee. However if the employees does not agree the employers are within their rights to insist that employees take annual leave during this time of lockdown, which must therefore be paid leave.
If you as an employee however refuse then the principle of no work no pay will apply and the employer is encouraged to utilise the TERS Fund.
The third question relates to after lockdown and in circumstances when the employer intends to institute retrenchment procedures.
Retrenchment should however not be the first option and should alternatives such as reduced times or reduced days be considered, any reduction in salaries may be claimed by the employers from the TERS Fund.
Claims may be lodged with the TERS Fund until 25 June 2020 and should this be done by the employer before it considers retrenchment.
I hope that the information provided above gives you some peace of mind. Keep safe and healthy.