In line with the Lockdown Regulations, employers may implement measures such as temporary suspension of its common law and contractual legal obligations to provide work to, or to remunerate employees. These relief measures are limited to the period of the national lockdown only and as soon as the lockdown is lifted, the usual contractual obligations must immediately be reinstated.

Considering the economic impact of the lockdown, many companies will not be able to return to “business as usual” and may have to review and restructure their pre-lockdown workforce, which may in turn may for example also require new contracts. To this end, there are various options at your disposal, subject to the unique circumstances of your particular business scenario.

Considering that such a restructuring may also require that a number of difficult decisions will have to be made that may not only impact your people, but that are also necessary for the very survival of your business, objectivity will be key. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you engage the services of an external labour consultant to assist you with such a review and to help you compile your post-lockdown plan, before taking any action.

When to start compiling your post-lockdown labour plan

Based on the current status of Government’s alert levels to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic,  as well as President Ramaphosa’s announcement on 14 May 2020, some employers who have been impacted by the national lockdown have already resumed some form of economic activity and most employers will in all likelihood resume operations from the end of May. Therefore, in spite of the fact that some provinces or hotspots in some provinces may still be in some level of lockdown, the time to start compiling your post-lockdown workplan is right now.

The benefits of a post-lockdown labour plan

A post-lockdown labour plan will provide you with all the relevant information to guide your decision-making and ensure that you are prepared to deal with all eventualities that may form part of resuming normal operations, including operational requirements, other alternatives to normal operations and how to best communicate the different scenarios to the stakeholders involved.

It will also define the protocol you should follow for each step you need to take to restructure your workforce, as well as templates for officially communicating and recording these steps. The plan should constantly be revisited and evaluated against what you aim to achieve, as and when you realign your business to each phase of the economic downturn that will no doubt follows.

Critical pointers to consider when planning your post-lockdown operations and workforce

  • Assessing your business operations post-lockdown, should naturally also involve a re-evaluation of your employee requirements
  • Remember that having some work, is better than having no job at all
  • Consider implementing alternative measures in accordance with the regulations of current labour legislation, including the National Minimum Wage, Sectoral Agreements and Determinations
  • Bear in mind that changes to conditions of employment may not be applied unilaterally. Without exception, you must always follow the correct procedures before implementing such changes
  • Sound labour relations is hugely dependant on concrete policies and the ability of an employer to engage with its employees by means of written communication

Critical processes that must be adopted to prepare for resuming of operations

Post lockdown, employers will be faced with a completely new set of workplace scenarios that may require disciplinary actions, for which formal processes and protocols will have to be in place. When designing these processes, bear in mind that:

  • Employees remain obligated to come to work, unless instructed otherwise by their employers
  • Employees who refuse to come to work must have a valid reason for their absence
  • The mere fact that South Africa is affected by the Covid-19 virus, does not constitute a valid reason to stay away from work
  • Employees who stay away from work without a valid reason, may face disciplinary action

Regardless of any of the above, we encourage employers to openly communicate with their employees first, and to address their concerns before instituting any disciplinary action

Navigating through the complexities of the post-lockdown business environment

The nature of this pandemic is unlike anything we have ever experienced in history and it presents business with an unprecedented set of challenges and economic uncertainties. Businesses will have no choice but to explore all avenues to survive and ultimately continue to thrive in these uncertain times.

Even though this may require a significant restructuring of your workforce, it is critical to make sure that you do not compromise on productivity and that any action you take, is 100% compliant with all the relevant labour legislation, so that you do not suffer any further negative consequences down the line.

Our comprehensive Post-Lockdown Plan and Toolkit comprise expert guidelines to help you compile and tailor your specific plan, as well as 26 templates to deal with the various labour eventualities that could arise from restructuring your workforce. This is best used in consultation with a professional labour consultant. Follow this link to purchase it now, for a mere R575 (incl. VAT):

More about Johan Bantjes

A true example of the fact that the bridge between skill and mastery is time, Johan Bantjes has more than two decades of hands-on experience in industrial relations – across the board, in all business sectors. It therefore comes as no surprise that he has become the go-to representative of a myriad of blue-chip companies, who fully trusts Johan to represent them at the CCMA and other bargaining councils, or to handle disciplinary hearings on their behalf. Johan also fulfils critical roles at the SAUEO, as Gauteng Regional Organiser and Coordinator of the Illegal Protest Action Task Team.