Not wearing your mask? Flouting Covid-19 regulations outside the office can get you dismissed

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A young man wearing a mask.
A young man wearing a mask.
Zinyange Auntony, AFP
  • If you flout Covid-19 regulations outside, your employer can use it as a ground for your dismissal, a legal advisor says.
  • Employers might have the right to take disciplinary action against you if it is found that you knowingly put colleagues at risk.
  • However, employers will need to have the correct policies in place.

Not wearing a mask or lying about your Covid-19 status can land you in hot water with your employer.

Employers can take disciplinary action or dismiss employees who flout Covid-19 regulations outside of work, an expert says.

Justin Hattingh, a senior legal advisor at Strata-g Labour Solutions, says that if an employer can prove an employee has behaved recklessly and that the person's behaviour has endangered co-workers, it can take disciplinary action.

This is because staff are obliged, in terms of the Occupational Health and Safety (OSH) Act, to assist their employers to keep everyone in the workplace safe and healthy.

If an employer is able to prove that someone has exposed co-workers to Covid-19, the employer might have a basis to act, Hattingh said.

READ | People arrested for not wearing masks in public will have criminal records, warns Cele

Failing to disclose your Covid-19 status can lead to a similar result, if it comes to light that a staff member knowingly put colleagues at risk.

"The possibility of disciplining staff for providing false or misleading information also exists. At the end of the day, employees need to be reasonable, and they need to understand that their conduct not only affects themselves, but it can affect everyone else," Hattingh added.

However, to exercise these rights, employers will need to have policies and occupational health and safety-related offences in their codes of conduct. If an employee is dismissed for flouting Covid-19 regulations without these policies, the dismissal can be considered unfair.

"Short of disciplining employees, employers must explain to their staff that if they don't comply with regulations and they then become ill, they won't be able to work and can potentially be placed on unpaid leave. That will affect them from an economic point of view.

"Employers therefore, need to appeal to their employees' humanity by reminding them that reckless behaviour can lead to a super-spreader event in the workplace, affecting everyone's livelihoods and even placing their families at risk," Hattingh said.

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