As South Africa moves from a prohibitive nationwide lockdown to a more collaborative alert Level 3 employers have been asked to introduce rotational and staggered working schedules in order to maintain physical distancing and to limit congestion in public transport.
This is contained in the Level 3 regulations gazetted by the government on Thursday.
The regulations come after extensive consultation with stakeholders in individual sectors and labour to prepare for an additional eight million people returning to work on Monday when the majority of industries will be allowed to return to productivity except a few that have been declared “high-risk”.
Firms in the construction, manufacturing, business and financial services sectors with more than 500 employees should finalise sector-appropriate workplace arrangements detailing how they will provide or arrange transport for employees coming to work.
Where transport arrangements cannot be made by the business the firms have also been asked to stagger working time arrangements to reduce congestion in public transport during peak time as people return to work.
Where possible businesses with more than 100 employees have also been urged to consider staggered working hours, shift work and remote working.
In sectors with representative bodies, the regulations state that where there are high health risks, the bodies should develop health protocols that are specific to the sector and detail what businesses need to do if they are unable to implement staggered working hours or provide transport to employees.
Cramming on public transport to be avoided
In a briefing on Thursday Minister of Trade and Industry Ebrahim Patel said the aim of the regulations is to ensure that there is no pressure on the public transport system during rush hour where people will be crammed together, creating key sites for the spread of the Covid-19 virus.
Patel said the draft framework agreements have already been developed and will be made public by the sectors in the next few days ahead of June 1 when workplaces open.
They include health and safety measures such as screening employees daily for Covid-19 symptoms and requiring that companies submit the data collected to the director-general of health.
“The agreements are comprehensive and create a framework for ensuring a safer workplace environment,” said Patel.
“But even when we have these measures in place it will still take extraordinary focus and monitoring that we [must] adhere to,” he added.
Private and public entities will have to appoint a Covid-19 compliance officer who will be responsible for overseeing the implementation of the organisation’s return-to-work plan. The plan should stipulate which employees will be allowed to return to work, how the business aims to phase-in their return, and the health protocols that are in place. The compliance officer will also oversee adherence to hygiene and health protocols.
Household domestic workers who are not live-in staff can also return to work in Level 3 “subject to the health protocols being followed”, said Patel.
“There are particular challenges within a domestic environment [and] we will be looking to see if the existing directions need to be elaborated [upon] or extended to provide for circumstances like these,” he said.
Consumers will be allowed to collect their own takeaway orders at restaurants and grocery stores will be permitted to sell hot food in-store.
Alcohol will be able to be sold from Monday to Thursday between 09:00 and 17:00 at any licensed premises or through e-commerce facilities, but strictly for at-home consumption.
Individual outdoor exercise will be allowed within a closed timeframe between 06:00 and 18:00.
People are expected to continue wearing masks.
The movement of people between provinces, districts, metropolitan areas and hotspots is prohibited unless it is for work, school, moving or caring for an immediate family member. People will be expected to provide permits or affidavits to prove this.