INFORMATION SHEET – CORONA COVID-19
As expected there have been further cases of CoVid19 within South Africa. To date there are thirteen cases and they all appear to have been as a result of international travel in areas already infected. The good news is, so far, there have been no deaths within South Africa.
Remember, the virus, like many viruses, is respiratory – that is, the virus is spread through the air, commonly by coughing or sneezing. As recommended in the previous briefing: maintain a distance of about 1.5m from those who are sneezing or coughing; do not touch hands, faces, mouths; politely avoid hand-shakes; and, most importantly, frequently wash hands with soap and water for about twenty seconds.
One of the questions we have received I, “How do we communicate with staff?”
That will depend on the size of the institution but generally, avoid the doom and gloom approach, keep it simple and use fact-based courses. Address issues in a straight forward manner, relate to facts – not speculation. If asked a question and you do not know the answer, then say so but that you will investigate and report back. Make sure you do report back, otherwise it weakens the trust issue.
The South African Government appears to have a sound approach to the issue and has a number of procedures in place. One of these is the NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR COMMUNICABLE DISEASES (NICD) on their toll-free number 0800 029 999. We are advised the line is open 24 hours per day and they will deal with covid-19 questions, including suggestions regarding any symptoms such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.
Each company must decide its own policy regarding travel and absence from work.
There is no current restriction on travel within South Africa. If travel is essential then perhaps go ahead, circumstances permitting. If not essential then use video conference facilities such as Skype or Zoom.
Try and arrange working from home. This would mostly apply to knowledge workers.
If an employee is absent from work, the law as it stands applies. Sick leave, if in excess of two days, must be accompanied by a sick note signed by a medical practitioner.
A sick note may not be available where the NICD recommends self-isolation and companies may need to set policy to deal with such cases. Such policy should consider the available facts of the matter, general well-being of its staff and customers, the company’s financial considerations.
Where sick and annual leave are exhausted, the employee is not entitled to compensation. In other words, the “no work, no pay” rule applies. That may sound harsh but presumably the company also faces “no service, no payment”.
Recognise that we are dealing with somewhat different circumstances. Insisting that an employee come to work when sneezing and coughing, may affect the health of others. In such a case one cannot rule out civil action against the employer. In other words, each circumstance must be dealt with on its own merits.
Each company must assess its own risks. The following may assist :
- Risk Identification – identify risk events and their relationships. For instance; schools close, mothers need to stay at home.
- Risk Impact Assessment – Probabilities and consequences of risk. Consider consequence costs, scheduling, technical performance, function capabilities. One method is to measure the probability (0 – 1) and the consequence (0 -1) and multiply the two. 1 is low; 0.5 medium; 0.9 high. Consequence is generally based on the financial impact.
- Risk prioritisation – identify from most to least critical.
- Risk mitigation planning, implementation and progress monitoring. Those risks assessed as high or medium criticality – deal with now. Low risks place on a risk register and monitor.
- Risk tracking – risk events change and need to be monitored.
Risk mitigation should consider the following:
- Avoidance – what can be done to avoid the risk. For example, enabling work from home.
- Transfer – perhaps reassign accountability, responsibility, authority to another stakeholder.
- Acceptance – once aware, simply let it happen.
- Monitor – continually monitor the environment.
We will, as required, prepare further briefing news sheets dealing with the risk management issues.