The recent dismissal of an assistant butcher working for Eskort Limited, who disobeyed COVID-19 regulations and went to work knowing full and well that he had tested positive for the virus, highlights our judicial system’s firm stance on the seriousness and realities of the pandemic.
Judge Edwin Tlhotlhalemaje overturned a previous ruling by the CCMA, that the employee be reinstated with a final written warning after initially being dismissed for charges relating to gross misconduct and gross negligence. In dealing with the matter at the Labour Court, the Judge held that employers and employees’ obligations in the face of COVID-19 or in the event of an exposure need to be reinforced.
An important element of the matter is that the employee in question underwent COVID-19 testing and was informed of a positive result on 9 August 2020. The employee went to work the following day and was observed hugging a fellow employee as well as walking on the shop floor without a mask on.
The CCMA commissioner, while acknowledging how irresponsible the employee’s conduct was, awarded that the employee be given a final written warning instead of being dismissed in line with the company’s disciplinary code.
The Judge of The Labour Court found that the disciplinary code is merely a guideline and that the employee’s conduct was not only irresponsible and reckless but was inconsiderate in the extreme.
It was found that the employee ignored all health and safety warnings as well COVID-19 protocols and policies and procedures at his employer. Furthermore, the employee placed everyone he came into contact with at great risk of which he was able to have clearly foreseen.
The Judge held that it is one thing to have all the health and safety protocols on paper however these are meaningless if not taken seriously.
The above case reinforces the importance of not only having the necessary COVID-19 policies and procedures in place, but also ensuring that the policies and procedures are adhered to by all parties at the workplace. As demonstrated by the finding at the Labour Court, failure to adhere to these policies could have grave consequences.
Contact Invictus on 0861 737 263 for any queries/assistance regarding your policies and procedures or for us to assist you to conduct your disciplinary inquiries.