COVID-19: National State of Emergency now official, regulations gazetted

Government, represented by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, has signed a off on measures to be implemented in response to the Coronavirus outbreak. These measures concern all government departments and it outlines their responsibilities to stop the spread of COVID-19. Included in these are regulations that will have a direct effect on the business owner/employer.

First among them is a prohibition on gatherings – meaning no more than 100 persons may be assembled whether this takes place in open air, in a building or at any other premises. If these gatherings will have alcohol/liquor sold for consumption on the premises, this prohibition limits the number of assembled people to less than 50 persons provided there is enough space. “Enough Space” is defined as at least 1-meter square per person.

This regulation affects any premises where people gather, including bars, taverns, shebeens, clubs, restaurants, event venues, etc.

The regulations are strict on the limitations on the sale, dispensing or transportation of alcohol/liquor.

  • All venues/premises that sell alcohol/liquor (bars, taverns, shebeens, clubs, restaurants, event venues) must be closed with immediate effect, or must not accommodate more than 50 people at any time. This is also dependent on whether there is adequate space for each person with respect to hygienic requirements and a limitation to the exposure of the persons to the possible spread of COVID-19.
  • Premises that provide accommodation as well as selling alcohol/liquor must implement measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, ensuring that adequate space is provided and that all directions in respect of hygienic conditions and limiting of exposure to persons with COVID-19 are adhered to.
  • No special or events liquor licenses will be considered during the national state of disaster.
  • All premises selling liquor must adhere to the following, limited, operating schedule:
    • Weekdays and Saturdays: Open from 09:00 and close at 18:00 (and must remain closed between 18:00 until the next morning 09:00)
    • Sundays and Public Holidays: Open from 09:00 and close at 13:00 (and must remain closed from 13:00 until the next morning 09:00)

Schools and partial care facilities have also been closed (including nurseries and creches). This places an extra burden on employee so still report for duty while often being in turmoil of having no one to look after their children during this time. Employers are encouraged to speak to employees and find a mutually beneficial working solution under these extra-ordinary times.

In these difficult times, business will feel the strain and employers will consider all possible avenues to limit damage and not to stop haemorrhaging capital. To this end, we recommend implementing short-time work schedules rather than retrenchments in order to future-proof your business as well as looking after the best interests of the employees that are dependent on them.

All notifications sent to employees regarding operational changes must be legally drafted in order to prevent later claims of unfair labour practice or dismissal. It is very strongly encouraged to engage the services of a labour law expert in this endeavour to prevent CCMA challenges.

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