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CWAO and COVID-19 Worker Rights

 

Workers can refuse to work if there is a Covid-19 risk

06 June 2020

On 4 June the Minister of Labour published a new Directive on health and safety rights for workers. The Directive confirms that workers have the right to refuse to work if there is a serious risk of being exposed to Covid-19.

CWAO calls on workers to refuse to work if they feel that the workplace is unsafe. No worker’s life should be sacrificed for the profit of the bosses!

What does the Directive say?

Workers can refuse to work if they have “reasonable justification” that there is an “imminent and serious risk of their exposure to Covid-19”.

  1. The directive does not say that workers must have proof of a Covid outbreak in the workplace before refusing to work. This means that workers can refuse to work if the required health and safety measures, such as provision of adequate PPE and social distancing, have not been implemented.
  2. Workers do not need to engage management or the health and safety officer before refusing to work.
  3. But once workers have refused to work they must notify the employer or the workplace health and safety officer as soon as possible, and give a reason for their refusal to work. The employer must then attempt to resolve the issues that the workers bring forward.
  4. The employer cannot “advantage” (or bribe) any workers who continue to work when other workers refuse.
  5. Workers cannot be dismissed, disciplined, prejudiced or harassed for refusing to work if they have “reasonable justification” that there is an “imminent and serious risk of their exposure to Covid-19”.
  6. Employers are not allowed to deduct workers’ wages during the stoppage of production or charge workers for implementing the measures that are required to make the workplace safe.
  7. If the employer dismisses or disciplines workers for their refusal to work under unsafe conditions, workers can open a case of unfair dismissal or unfair labour practice at the CCMA or Bargaining Council.

If your workplace is unsafe contact CWAO for advice

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