COVID-19 and Employment Law in South Africa: Comparative Perspectives on Selected Themes
Authors: Lonias Ndlovu & Clarence Itumeleng Tshoose
Affiliations: Associate Professor & Dean: School of Law, University of Venda; Professor of Labour & Social Security Law, School of Law, University of Limpopo
Source: South African Mercantile Law Journal, Volume 33 Issue 1, 2021, p. 25 – 55
Public health emergencies such as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), which was elevated to a global pandemic, usually have severe implications for people in various spheres of life. For example, people’s employment and social welfare are affected. In this paper, the authors explore the possible implications of COVID-19 on the rights of employers and employees in South Africa. The issues that need to be considered include leave when employees elect to stay at home as a precautionary measure against contracting the coronavirus at work, the enforcement of employment contracts, employment security, workplace discipline, working hours, absenteeism, and the employer’s duty to provide the employees with a safe working environment. Using a doctrinal legal research method, the article provides an analysis of the applicable laws and cases from South Africa and related jurisdictions. The comparative content, analysis of legislation, case law, and sector-specific guidelines show that COVID-19 has and will continue to have a significant impact on the employment laws as reflected in different jurisdictions. Although employment law is generally jurisdiction-specific, there are many commonalities in the laws of different countries, both on the African continent and globally. It is also important to note that the existing employment laws need to be adjusted in order to accommodate the effects of the pandemic. For example, South Africa can draw valuable lessons from other jurisdictions on how to deal with employment matters during a pandemic, and therefore COVID-19 presents the country with an opportunity to develop both its employment laws and the common law.