Business Insider Edition

Your boss can force you to take a Covid-19 test, SA govt regulator says

Business Insider SA
 Apr 04, 2020, 07:43 AM
Coronavirus
(Getty)
  • Employers can force employees to be tested for the novel coronavirus behind Covid-19, says new guidance from South Africa's Information Regulator. They can ask for specific health information.
  • That confirms the advice from lawyers, who say an employee can be barred from the workplace if they refuse to be tested.
  • Because Covid-19 is a notifiable disease in South Africa, a positive test should see data automatically forwarded to health authorities.
  • Employers may also be obliged to report employees they think may have Covid-19, with or without a test.
  • For more stories go to the Business Insider South Africa homepage.


Employers can force their workers to be tested for the SARS-CoV-2 virus behind Covid-19, South Africa's Information Regulator said on Friday.

The regulator laid out how personal information can be gathered and processed during the Covid-19 disaster in a "guidance note" that stressed the need for privacy – but laid out many instances in which normal privacy protections can be overridden in a quest to slow the spread of the disease.

"Can the employer force an employee to undergo testing for the Covid-19 virus?" reads on section of the document. "Yes, the employer can force an employee to undergo testing in order to maintain a safe working environment."

See also | You are legally required to report a neighbour with the coronavirus in South Africa

That is in line with advice from lawyers, who say companies may ask for tests in order to create a safe work environment – which employers are obliged to do – and may do so because of the coronavirus' status as a notifiable disease.

An employee who refuses to be tested may be barred from the workplace, lawyers advise. But if they have reasonable suspicion that an employee has Covid-19, bosses may be obliged to notify health authorities. Under rules that pre-date the discovery of the coronavirus by years, everyone in the community has that obligation for notifiable diseases.

Employees who are tested and found to be carrying SARS-CoV-2 will have their details disclosed to health authorities, in terms of rules that require every lab and health worker to notify the government.

They could then be subject to quarantine or mandatory treatment under disaster regulations, while cellphone network operators can be ordered to hand over their location data going back to early March.

See also | The govt can now track cellphone locations back to 5 March: how Covid-19 tracing will work

Anyone who may have been in contact with a carrier of the virus may then also be subjected to no-choice testing.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

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