Are employees entitled to a paid salary during lockdown?


By Richard Mayer, Fullard Mayer Morrison Inc.

The lockdown announced by President Ramaphosa on Monday night has drastic and far-reaching consequences for employment relations in South Africa.

Although not explicitly stated in Monday’s Presidential announcement, as matters currently stand, the forced leave that has been imposed upon employees by the lockdown is unpaid leave.

No obligation on employers

There is accordingly no obligation on employers to pay salaries to employees who cannot perform their normal work functions by reason of the lockdown. Many employers do not have the deep pockets and strong balance sheets to heed President Ramaphosa’s call for employers “to take care of their workers during this period” by continuing paying salaries during the lockdown.

Agreed paid leave

Employers who are unwilling or unable to the pay salaries to employees who cannot work during during the lockdown have a number of options open to them to attempt to ensure that employees do not suffer unduly. The first option is that they can reach an agreement with the employees that they take paid leave for whole or part of the period from 26 March to 16 April.

Naturally, any paid leave taken by employees during this period will be deducted from the employee’s annual leave allocation, reducing the leave available to employees to be taken on a voluntary basis.

UIF claims for unpaid leave

It is open to employees who are forced take unpaid leave to claim short term Unemployment Insurance Fund benefits and where a business employing more than 50 employees is forced to cease operations, the Department of Labour will send a special team to the business to help process the UIF claims. The President has also promised assistance to pay employees’ salaries through a Temporary Employee Relief Scheme.

Nevertheless, the Department of Labour and other government agencies are likely to be over-stretched by the calls on its resources as a result of the lockdown and the impact of the coronavirus. The processing of UIF claims will inevitably take much longer than usual. Likewise, the funds to assist small businesses and employees affected by the coronavirus derived from the funds donated by the Rupert and Oppenheimer families and allocated by the Department of Small Business Development are likely to take too long to reach many businesses when relief funding is most needed.

Conclusion

Despite the great uncertainty and disruption of the days ahead, TPN will be operating as usual during the lockdown and its call centre will continue to assist its clients and help with their queries. It is more important than ever that we continue to move forward with our goals wherever possible in an even more focused way than before.

Make a positive contribution!

As an employer, it is within your power to offer employees the certainty of a fully updated, verified employment history on the TPN credit bureau and allow them to bounce back positively from the most dramatic disruption we will experience in our life-times.

The TPN Team will continue to process UIF data and Payment Profile data - please submit your files to data@tpn.co.za.

Employees who find themselves in the job market for either a new or an additional income, our advice is to ensure that your employer continues to submit their employee data to maintain your verified employment information on the TPN System during this time. 

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