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  • There are new draft regulations that change the rules for companies returning to work, labour minister Thulas Nxesi said on Friday.
  • It is not yet clear when they will actually come into force.
  • Workers will be able to refuse to work if they feel unsafe, and compulsory face masks will no longer need to be washed and ironed at workplaces.
  • Here's what we know about the changes so far.
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The safety obligations for companies returning to work after South Africa's coronavirus lockdown are about to change, labour minister Thulas Nxesi said on Friday.

With many more people going back to work under Alert Level 3 as of Monday, "there are important actions that need to be taken to make sure that we reduce exposure to Covid-19," he said. So some changes have been drafted to the existing rules that impose duties on employers to keep workers safe.

Most of the previous rules remain, including the requirement to have a Covid-19 plan with an accountable safety officer in charge of it.

See also | New Covid-19 rules: What your workplace needs to look like

But there are "key changes", Nxesi said.

They include:

  • Workers may refuse to work "if they have a reasonable belief that the necessary precautions have not been put in place to prevent the transmission of Covid-19." The onus is on employers to resolve such disputes – with the warning that victimising those who complain could see cases referred to the Council for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA). The government will rely on unions, and workplace health and safety committees to help workers in this regard, Nxesi said.
  • Employees who "have had close contact involving a high risk of transmission" (under department of health rules for assessing the risk of transmission) must be given 14 days of paid sick leave. This will apply to "all workers", Nxesi said on questioning, including healthcare workers.
  • The two face masks companies must issue to every staff member no longer needs to be washed – and ironed – by the company. This requirement was yanked based on feedback from unions, Nxesi said.
  • The cost of Covid-19 precautions, such as personal protective equipment, can not be recovered from employees in any way.
  • Rules dealing with employees over 60 or with existing health conditions  "have been clarified".

It is not yet clear when the changes will come into force. The draft changes "will be finalised and published, upon approval," Nxesi said.

(Compiled by Phillip de Wet)

See also: All domestic workers can return to work on Monday – subject to 'protocols'

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