Employers can discipline workers who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work, and this could even result in dismissals. However, they can only exercise this liberty if they have policies in place, or health and safety-related misconduct offences in their employment document.
A TimesLIVE report says this is the view of labour expert Justin Hattingh, a senior legal adviser at Strata-g Labour Solutions. ‘While employers are obligated under the Occupational Health and Safety Act to provide a safe and healthy working environment, staff members must also comply to those regulations and ensure they assist the employer in keeping everyone at the workplace safe and healthy,’ Hattingh said.
He said where employers can prove someone has been reckless after hours and exposed other employees at work, there could be a basis to act against them as that kind of conduct materially impacts on the employment relationship and the duties and responsibilities of both parties. He said employers need to have policies in place to deal with those who flout Covid-19 regulations.
Hattingh said employers who dismiss employees on the grounds of flouting Covid-19 protocols, without the necessary policies in place, could possibly be found to have done so unfairly. Most employers do not have any sort of occupational health and safety-related offences in their codes of conduct. ‘These codes do not need to be specific to Covid-19 but need to explicitly state that any breach of occupational health and safety is not tolerated.’
He said employers cannot simply assume employees will act according to regulations without being aware of what amounts to misconduct.