Employees diagnosed with COVID-19 to return to work under strict conditions

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

The Department of Employment and Labour has refuted media claims that COVID-19 patients no longer need to test negative to resume work.

"It is not correct that COVID-19 patients no longer need to test negative to resume work," said the department’s Chief Inspector for Health and Safety, Tibor Szana. 

However, according to Szana, in terms on the new directions, if a worker has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and completed the mandatory 14 days of self-isolation as per the Department of Health guidelines, an employer may only allow a worker to return.   

Other conditions include the worker undergoing a medical evaluation confirming fitness to work if they had a moderate or severe illness in relation to COVID-19, he explained.

“It was vital for the employer to ensure that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette amongst other known best practices identified is strictly adhered to by the worker and, the employer must closely monitor the worker for symptoms upon returning to work." 

The employee may also be required to wear a surgical mask at least for the period of 21 days from the date of the diagnosis in their interest and the best interest of those around them especially, the department said.

According to the new directive, the employer must assess that worker's exposure in accordance with the Department of Health’s guidelines if they have been in contact with the employee who has tested positive to ascertain whether it carries a high or low risk of transmission between staff.

“If there is low-risk exposure, the employer may permit the worker to continue working using a cloth mask complying with standard precautions and, the worker's symptoms must be monitored for 14 days from the first contact,” he said.

In addition, if there is a high risk of exposure the worker must remain in quarantine for 14 days, and the employer must place the worker on sick leave, Szana added.

People are encouraged to continue to adhere to the lockdown regulations.

"Stay home, wash your hands regularly and keep maintaining the social distance.”

Employers who need further clarity on understanding and interpreting the direction can contact the Chief Inspector on 082 883 5737. – SAnews.gov.za


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