Moving into Level 4 of Lockdown with effect 1 May 2020, came with its own challenges and uncertainties.
One of which was the “movement of people” in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 Regulations issued in terms of section 27(2) of the Disaster Management Act, 2002 signed and published on 29 April 2020.
General measures to contain the spread of COVID-19
The published regulation provides for the adoption of measures to promote physical distancing of employees and specifically asked that special measures should be taken for employees above the age of 60 who are at a higher risk of complications or death if they are infected with COVID-19.
An Annexure to the regulations that dealt with the “Workplace Plans” request for a list of staff who can work from home, staff who are 60 years or older and staff with comorbidities who will be required to stay at home or work from home. The inference that could be drawn from this is that employees who are 60 and above, should be required to work from home if possible, as a precaution only.
The regulation that will take us into Level 3, presumable from 1 June 2020, also addressed the measures when it comes to employees who are 60 (and above) and people with comorbidities. It provides that they should self-isolate and leave home for exceptional reasons. Again, a precaution or special measure.
The rationale in providing special measures is to protect vulnerable employees. Isn’t this exactly what our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, said when he addressed the nation on Sunday 24 May 2020 “Because of their vulnerability, all staff who are older than 60 years of age and those who suffer from underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease and cancer should ideally stay at home.”
He did not say, they should be forced into early retirement or dismissed for operational requirements. The message is clear, not only in his address to the nation but also in the gazetted regulations. They should ideally stay at home and they should be required to work from home if possible.
The Return2Work website, an initiative offering businesses clear and simple step by step guidance on re-opening and staying open provides a 5-STEP ROADMAP TO RE-OPENING YOUR BUSINESS. One of the aspects raised in this roadmap is that people 65 years and older are at higher-risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19.
Operational Requirements versus Early Retirement
The flipside of the coin is that if it is not possible for an employee over 60 to work from home, for instance a Foreman, employers should be innovative and put special parameters in place at the workplace. Not depriving them from generating an income or forced them into early retirement!
The latest trend in the Retail Motor Industry is that our members who are 60 and above, some even from 55 years of age, are asked to go on early retirement. The perceived rationale for this is two-fold. Allegedly as an alternative to retrenchment, or as a result of not understanding, or abusing the regulations that requires special measures for people who are 60 and above.
You have a choice:
You must make an informed decision.
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