Since the start of Lock Down in March 2020, not only were South Africans thrown with a new rule book… but also the rest of the world.
We were told to wash hands, wear masks and keep our distance from one another, shopping centres even went as far as doing away with shopping baskets and forcing people to use shopping trolleys to keep a social distance from each other. These were are all rules that are commonly heard and seen everywhere around the globe, rules that will have to be adhered to until this pandemic is over, or maybe not? The answer is, we don’t actually know when this pandemic will come to an end, and have to acquaint ourselves with the new rule book, whether in the workplace or in our social lives.
The fact is, we often get to comfortable with the new norm, as soon as the President has addressed us on the relaxation of lock down levels, we tend to go back to our normal ways, “oh, need to wear a mask, I’m just running in to the shop to grab a coldrink, after all it is only lockdown level 2!” Where after you’d possibly be reprimanded by security or management of the store to please put your mask on. Well in the workplace, such a reprimand can cost you your job!
Ignorance can’t save you from getting dismissed
In DETAWU obo Jacobs v Quality Express (National Bargaining Council for Road Freight Logistics Industry) (case no: ECPE4805-20) (Gruss J) – Jacobs was dismissed for putting other employees at risk, he had gone for a COVID – 19 test and before receiving his result, he returned to work. The company had argued that all employees were well aware of the rules in the workplace, Jacobs, on a previous occasion self – isolated while he was waiting for his COVID – 19 test result and only after he had tested negative, he returned to work. He therefore knew about the rule and could not plead ignorance herein. The employer argued that Jacobs had damaged the trust relationship in that he had put other employees at risk knowing that he could have had the virus, he had further failed to inform his employer that he had gone for a COVID – 19 test.
In the Labour Court Judgment, Eskort Ltd v Mogotsi and Others (LC) (unreported case no JR1644/20, 28-3-2021) (Tlhotlhalemaje J), the employee was employed as a manager and also formed part of a site committee created during lockdown. The employee had also gone for a COVID – 19 test thinking that he might have contracted the virus, he carried on with business as usual, breaching the company’s self – isolation and safety protocol. The employee placed others at risk and also failed to disclose this to his employer, his dismissal was found to be fair under the circumstances.
It is important to note that you have a fiduciary duty towards your employer, a legal obligation to act to the best interest of your employer and the company. If you experience COVID – 19 Symptoms, it is best to disclose this to your employer in writing. If you believe that you can put any staff member or colleague at risk, be sure to disclose this to your employer immediately, don’t plead ignorance in times were the breach of workplace COVID – 19 protocols can lead to the possible death of a colleague. One can always apply for another job should you get dismissed, but the person you have exposed to high risk, does not have the opportunity to apply for another life.
Make sure you act not only to the best interest of your employer but to those around you, your colleagues, clients and family members.
“Knowledge is NOT power. Knowledge is only POTENTIAL power. Action is power.” – Tony Robbins
(Article by Michael Buitendag)
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