On Monday, 23 March, the President announced a comprehensive lockdown for the country which has impacted a vast majority of businesses, large and small.
CEO is currently ensuring that all our members are regularly updated on the rapidly evolving environment and how current (and possible future) restrictions will affect your business.
Most of our members have been forced to shut down their businesses for the 21 days, while others have been permitted to operate during the lockdown, as they render an essential service.
Commencing today, and in addition to our normal content, CEO will be publishing daily newsletters and articles aimed at addressing the challenges that businesses face at this time. For companies that continue to operate, various legal and ethical issues, presented by the current crisis, will be addressed. For example:
- Many employees will have to report for duty during the lockdown using public transportation. In the normal course of events this has its challenges – how do you deal with employees who fail to report timeously or at all?
- With the need to observe “social distancing”, how do you adapt your operations to create a safe working environment?
- Can I be held liable if an employee contracts the coronavirus during employment?
- What measures must I take to be legally compliant during the current crisis?
On the other hand, many members are forced to shut down until 16 April. We will endeavor to address the ongoing challenges that you are facing. We will also attempt to anticipate concerns that develop during the course of the next 3 weeks. For instance:
- What do I do if the lockdown period is extended?
- Am I permitted to attend to necessary administrative tasks at my office, like payroll and VAT returns?
- Are employees entitled to receive remuneration after the 16 April if the lockdown is extended?
- Am I permitted to remain closed after 16 April when the lockdown ends and what will my liability be towards my employees?
In truth, there is an endless number of questions and concerns relating to this unprecedented reality in which we find ourselves. We would encourage you, as our members, to share your concerns with us as we have the expertise and resources to address those concerns.
Is an extended lockdown possible?
It is important to note that the lockdown period which commenced on 26 March will run its course and terminate on 16 April 2020 at 24h00. Therefore, Friday 17 April reflects the first day that those business’ that are currently in lockdown may commence operations. Is the government able to extend the lockdown period, and if so, under what circumstances?
Government notice, issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs and dated 23 March 2020, defines “lockdown” as the restriction of movement of persons during the period for which this regulation is in force and effect namely from 23h59 on Thursday, 26 March 2020, until 23h59 on Thursday 16 April 2020, and during which time the movement of persons is restricted. Section 4 of the notice provides that the application of the amendments will be in force for the period stated above or “on a date to be determined by the Cabinet minister designated under section 3 of the Disaster Management Act”.
Therefore, should circumstances require an extension of the lockdown period beyond 23h59 on 16 April, this extension must be determined by the applicable minister and should be published in the government gazette. The period of any extension must also be determined.
Although there is no reason to expect an extension of the lockdown period, we believe that it would be in our members best interests to plan and make necessary arrangements in the event that it does happen.
We will be addressing the various effects this may have on your business during the coming days.
Article by: Stephen Kirsten
Provincial Manager – Cape Town