DURBAN - Vulnerable employees as defined by the Department of Health are encouraged to continue working from home insofar as possible, alternatively employers must take special precautions to ensure the health and safety of vulnerable employees who return to work.
Vulnerable employees include any employee with known or disclosed health issues or comorbidities or any other condition that may place the employee at a higher risk of complications or death than other employees infected with Covid-19. An employee who is above the age of 60 years who is at high risk of complications or death if infected with Covid-19.
According to Kirsten Eiser, a partner at Webber Wentzel, employers should formulate a clear and transparent policy and procedure on how to address the specific needs of vulnerable employees.
“Appropriate measures should be implemented that take the individual circumstances of vulnerable employees into account. Such measures may include ensuring potential exposure to Covid-19 in the employee's current role is eliminated or reduced. If this is not possible, temporary workplace accommodation should be considered,” she said.
These measures may include:
alternative temporary placement or redeployment to a different role;
restriction of duties;
protective isolation (eg providing the employee with his or her own office);
provision of specific personal protective equipment;
stricter physical distancing protocols (including staggering of shifts), barriers or additional hygiene measures);
limit employee's duration of close interaction with other people whilst at work;
provision of alternative transport arrangements (where feasible).
However, if temporary workplace accommodation is not possible, Eiser says the employer should consider making it possible for the vulnerable employee to work from home.
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