Employees afraid of contracting COVID-19 can refuse to work

Although government lifted the requirement of wearing a face mask in public buildings, employees still have the right to refuse work. Those who are afraid of being infected by COVID-19 may face no repercussions for refusing to do so. This is according to rules that were republished on Friday, 24 June.

Phaahla removed the COVID-19 restrictions while Nxesi republished workplace rules

The last remaining restrictions that were put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 were pulled by Minister of Health Joe Phaahla. On Thursday, 23 June, Phaahla said the risk of life, with regard to the virus, had declined to a level that these restrictions were no longer needed.

Following this, Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi republished a set of workplace rules. These rules were first published in February and imposed a number of special requirements for businesses in terms of safeguarding employees from COVID-19.

What is the right to refuse work?

The protection of the right to refuse work is one that stood out.

“Any employee may refuse to perform any work if circumstances arise which, with reasonable justification, appear to that employee or to a health and safety representative to pose an imminent and serious risk of their exposure to SARS-CoV-2 virus infection,”

reads the rule.

Employees are not required to follow specific processes and can down tools before informing their employers of the reason. Employees may not be ‘dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced or harassed’ for their refusal to work in terms of this rule.

The regulation is formally known as the ‘Code of Good Practice: Managing Exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the Workplace. Employers, under this code, are required to create a risk assessment plan.

What are the rules on workplace vaccinations?

The plan may require that certain types of workers be vaccinated. These employees may also be asked to provide proof of vaccination. For those who do seek vaccination, the employer is required to provide paid time off as well as transport.

In terms of those who do not want to be vaccinated, the regulation states that they should be ‘reasonably accommodate’. Business Insider reports that for the employers who can provide a VALID medical reason why they cannot be vaccinated an employer must accommodate the employee in a position that does not require them to be vaccinated.

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