Amalta Seevnarayan Dhanee | Attorney: Legal Services Division
Look at what is buzzing in SA currently….
- A Four Day Work Week
- Loadshedding and Going Solar
- The Use of Cannabis In The Workplace
1. A FOUR DAY WORK WEEK
The onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the manner in which most companies operate.
Companies have become more forward thinking and a hybrid working arrangement has been well accepted by employees across the board.
In countries such as the United Kingdom and Belgium a four day work week has been successfully implemented after a trial study confirmed an increase in productivity and most companies who participated in the study reported no loss of earnings. Further, it was reported that stress levels of employees decreased and there were fewer sick days taken.
Given South Africa’s regulated employment and labour laws, not to mention the trade unions and bargaining councils, it is uncertain if this concept can be successfully implemented in South Africa.
If sought to be implemented, various amendments will have to be made to the employment and labour regulations, in addition to various consultations and negotiations with the trade unions and bargaining councils. Each employment sector would have to establish whether a four day work week can be successfully implemented.
As of 1 March 2023, twenty-seven South African Companies are participating in a trial study to determine the viability of a four-day work week. Whether South Africa will achieve the same positive results as the UK remains to be seen.
2.1. Loadshedding and the Workplace
With loadshedding here to stay, there is an onus on businesses to ensure that they implement measures to reduce the effect that loadshedding will have on their operations.
In the event that employees are unable to perform their duties in the workplace during loadshedding it does not entitle an employer to implement a “no work, no pay policy”. In terms of South African laws, if an employee arrives at work as stipulated in their employment contract they are entitled to compensation.
In instances where employees are working from home, they must ensure that loadshedding does not affect their ability to perform their duties, alternatively they are to return to the workplace to resume work.
What happens in instances where employees work overtime to make up for time lost during loadshedding? Section 10 (2) of the Basic Conditions of Employment, Act 75 of 1997 stipulates that “an employer must pay an employee at least one and one-half times the employee's wage for overtime worked.” However employers and employees can reach agreement whereby they can agree to change working hours in order to accommodate for loadshedding. By doing so overtime pay will not be required.
Another issue that arises during loadshedding is the late arrival of employees at the workplace. There is a duty on employees to ensure that they factor in extra travel time in order to ensure they arrive at work timeously.
It is evident loadshedding is here to stay for the foreseeable future. There is an onus on both employer and employee to ensure that they minimize the effect of same.
2.2. Going Solar – Regulatory Requirements
With loadshedding here to stay individuals and businesses are looking to alternative sources of power, with some looking to go off the grid altogether.
The option of going solar has become more attractive since the tax incentive, in the form of a 25% tax rebate, has been introduced, which is for the period 1 March 2023 until 29 February 2024, and is limited to R15 000.00 per individual.
When it comes to installing solar panels, property owners generally do not require permission to install same on the roof of their free standing property. However, the City of Cape Town and the Stellenbosch Municipality have imposed specific requirements. They require that all installations be registered in accordance with the City of Cape Town’s Electricity Supply By-Law or Guidelines for Small Scale Embedded Generation in the Stellenbosch Municipality. No charge is levied to register such installations.
When selecting a service provider for the fitment of your solar panels there are some important questions to ask as one will want to ensure that all regulatory requirements are complied with.
The City of Cape Town has published a checklist for going the solar route in a safe manner.
Some of the important questions to ask are as follows:
- Ensure your service provider is experienced and accredited in solar installations.
- Request electrical compliance certificates, alternatively professional engineers sign-off on previous installations.
- Enquire if the service provider sub-contracts staff to design and install systems.
Further, from a legal point of view certain regulatory requirements must be complied with such as:
- Register the system with your local municipality or Eskom. This will depend on who supplies your electricity, irrespective of whether your system will be feeding back into the grid.
- If you elect for a stand alone grid, confirm with your supplier if any further authorizations are required.
- If your supplier is unable to assist with this it should raise a red flag, however double check with your electricity supplier.
- Should you fail to obtain the necessary authorizations and proceed with the installation, it is more than likely your insurer will repudiate your claim in the event of a disaster.
- In the event that you reside within a Homeowners Association or a Sectional Title scheme, ensure you obtain the necessary approvals in line with the rules that govern the respective Homeowners Association or a Sectional Title scheme.
- All compliance certificates must be sent to your insurer when updating your policy to include the system installed.
Going the solar route is a costly and time consuming process therefore it is best to get it done correctly from the outset.
3. THE USE OF CANNIBIS IN THE WORKPLACE
Since the decriminalization of cannabis in private spaces by the Constitutional Court, many individuals look to this “herb” for relief from, inter alia, pain and anxiety. The use of the substance, albeit legalized, can be tantamount to a dismissal for misconduct in the workplace.
In the recently reported case of Bernadette Enever v Barloworld Equipment, a division of Barloworld South Africa (Pty) Ltd, case numbers JS 633/20 and JS926/20, the Labour Court ruled that the constant use of cannabis in a private space can be tantamount to an automatically fair dismissal.
The employee herein had been a chronic user of the substance which assisted her with her anxiety. She kept this fact from her employer, knowing full well that her employers had a zero-tolerance alcohol and substance abuse policy in the workplace. In line with the workplace policy the employee underwent a routine urine test and tested positive for cannabis. She was instructed to immediately leave the premises.
The employee failed the seven day clean-up process as she continued to use the substance. She refused to stop using the substance and was accordingly dismissed, with the appropriate dismissal processes being followed. She pleaded unfair dismissal.
The Labour Court ruled that, inter alia, the employee had breached the zero tolerance alcohol and substance abuse policy, she was aware of the dangerous work environment and she continued to use the substance. Further the Court compared alcohol use to that of cannabis. Whilst alcohol remains in one’s system for a few hours, cannabis can remain in one’s system for a few days. As a result, the use of this substance in your private time will result in one being under the influence in the workplace.