Dealers and dealer groups who have staff working from home should make every effort to ensure that these remote working staff comply with COVID-19 rules.
According to Wynand Strydom, co-founder of Stryde Consult, an HR and legal outfit specialising in supporting dealers and dealer groups, the definition of workplace in the Basic Condition of Employment Act includes “the place or places where employees of an employer work.”
“This definition of a workplace means that an employer could be held responsible for the actions of its employees even when they are not working from the dealership floor,” says Wynand.
“And very importantly, it also means that if your employees are working at their client’s premises, for instance when delivering a vehicle or doing an off-site demonstration of a vehicle at a customer’s premises, this too is seen as part of your workplace.
This becomes problematic when one considers the rules imposed on employees by the Disaster Management Act for the current COVID-19 pandemic.
“The COVID Health and Safety regulations require employees to wear masks and personal protective equipment, to report symptoms related to COVID-10 and report for testing and to comply with social distancing measures in the workplace,” says Wynand.
“If the workplace is your home, it means that those rules apply equally to this environment and it means that the employer could be at risk of being fined for an employee’s non-compliance or their misrepresentation of their COVID-status.”
Beyond the need for compliance, says Wynand, the dealer principal or owner should consider additions to its employment contracts to inform employees of their legal obligations and allow for disciplinary actions for non-compliance.
“Remote working is a strange new world for many dealers, and many are at risk of thinking that they can abdicate their legal responsibility when the worker is not on their floor. Unfortunately, the legal responsibility and risk remain with the dealer and it is well worth the effort to consider the legal and HR implications of remote working under the Employment and Disaster Management Acts,” says Wynand.
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