As lockdown restrictions continue to ease, we look at what the requirements of Financial Services Providers who are opening their offices again.
Bryan Thomas from Omega Compliance Solutions (Pty) Ltd has provided us with some insight as to what a workplace plan should look like:
Should FSP’s go back to their offices and when this is possible?
In terms of the legislation, Insurers are considered essential services and Financial Services Providers (FSP’s) as “Professional Services.”
FSP’s can return to their offices should it be necessary.
The legislation states businesses should allow staff who can work from home to continue to do so. As per the president on level 3 all manufacturing, mining, construction, financial services, professional and business services, information technology, communications, government services and media services, will commence full reopening from 1 June.
Requirements for key employees to return to your offices:
In returning to work special consideration must be given to employees with known or disclosed health issues or co-morbidities and those above the age of 60. Returning employees must be provided with Form 2 in Annexure A of the regulations.
All employers must develop a workplace plan which minimises the number of employees at any given time and states which employees may work.
Omega Compliance gives some examples of what such a plan should cover in the items list below.
- Employers must provide employees (and contract workers), who may come into direct contact with members of the public as part of their duties, with a mask or appropriate item that covers the nose and mouth (two masks for companies employing 500 or more employees) as well as instructions on their use, hand sanitisers (which must have at least 70% alcohol content) for use by the public and employees at the entrance to the premises and promote physical distancing of at least 1.5 metres (preferably by working from home given that we’re focused on financial services businesses). Employers must arrange for washing, drying and ironing of cloth masks.
- There should be sanitary facilities for the washing of hands with soap and water and only paper towels to dry hands in various areas of the workplace. Employees must wash or sanitise their hands regularly. Ensure workstations and common areas are disinfected before returning to the premises frequently during the working period and at the end of the day.
- Each business premises must assign a suitable person who must ensure compliance with the measures above, as well as hygiene controls. A person responsible for overall compliance must also be appointed (can be the same person). They are accountable for the phased-in return of employees and adherence to the various standards. They should address employee concerns, keep them informed and explain how the workplace plan will be implemented.
- Companies must ensure employees with any of the symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, redness of eyes, shortness of breath, body aches, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness) are not permitted to work and are to take paid sick leave. Such employees must notify the employer if they have any symptoms while at work or not. They must be immediately isolated and then safely transported from the workplace for testing. Employers should immediately contact the COVID-19 hotline (0800029999) for instruction for themselves and the employee, which will include any contact tracing measures implemented by the Department of Health.
- Such employees must be put on paid sick leave unless they have no such leave left.
- Employers must investigate the possible cause of infection, including any control failure and amend such controls should it be necessary. Additionally, the worker’s workstation should be disinfected and any colleagues who may be at risk of infection sent for screening.
- Provide employees with information that raises awareness of the virus, the manner of transmission, prevention measures and where to go for testing.
- Employees should be screened when they report for work, to ascertain whether they have any of the observable symptoms associated with COVID-19. Wherever possible, screening measures of non-employees entering the workplace should be undertaken.
- Should a worker have been diagnosed with COVID-19 previously and isolated as per the Department of Health Guidelines they may only return to work if they have undergone a medical evaluation which confirms they have tested negative for COVID-19. The employer must ensure that personal hygiene, wearing of masks, social distancing, and cough etiquette is strictly adhered to by the worker and monitor the worker for symptoms.
- Biometric systems should be disabled or made COVID-19-proof.
- Employers must require members of the public and suppliers to wear masks when in the premises.
- Requirements stipulate that employers must keep the workplace ventilated by natural or mechanical means. Where practicable, have an extraction ventilation system with high-efficiency particulate air filters which is regularly cleaned and with vents that do not feed back through open windows.
Credit for the above content of this article – Bryan Thomas from Omega Compliance Solutions (Pty) Ltd
Who is going to monitor Employers on the workplace plan?
Keep your plan and implementation on record for inspection.
Employers who do not implement the workplace plan would put their employee’s health and safety at risk. The consequence of failing to implement a plan would inevitably lead to positive COVID-19 cases resulting in a temporary closure of the workplace.
If there is a positive case in the workplace, you will be forced by the department of health to temporarily close with associated downtime and loss of production. You also have the associated costs on deep cleaning and maintaining a safe environment.
The regulation does not set out any specific penalties imposed if the employer fails to develop and implement a plan. Technically the department of health and labour will have jurisdiction to conduct inspections should they believe any workplaces are at special risk. Call centres can be inspected at any time by law enforcement officials and inspectors.
On a practical level and as a matter of best practice, all employers should comply with the new regulations and directives or else their businesses may face more direct health consequences.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act requires employers to maintain a safe and healthy work environment and take all reasonable steps to ensure that its employees are safe while performing their duties.
We trust this blog has provided you with some insight into the requirements and will assist you in compiling your workplace plan if you are returning to the office or workplace.