Code of Practice does not mean workplaces will go back to normal

Ivan Israelstam discusses the end to the National State of Disaster.

Labour law expert Ivan Israelstam says the labour department’s new Code of Practice, written to replace Covid-19 regulations that fall under the National State of Disaster, has been issued in line with the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“There are eight major labour statutes in South Africa and the one that is now of relevance is the Code of Practice,” Ivan says.

According to Ivan, the Code of Practice, which takes effect on 15 April, focuses on Covid-19, one of the many workplace hazards. “The act and the code make it clear that there are different categories of dangers at the workplace,” says Ivan.

He notes that there are no major changes between the State of Disaster and the Code of Practice. “It’s changing things slightly by saying if you are outside you don’t have to wear a mask,” he notes. “Social distancing is still required but has been reduced to one metre instead of one and a half metres.”

He says it’s important to understand that the lifting of the State of Disaster does not mean that people can relax and go back to leading normal lives. “That is far from the truth. In addition to enforcing the old regulations, this code goes into detail with regard to vaccinations,” says Ivan.

“It’s welcome because it is somewhat clearer in terms of what the department of labour, as one of the authorities of this country, is saying as to whether there can be mandatory vaccination or not.”

The code does not, however, specifically say that vaccinations are mandatory, but it does give employers licence under certain conditions to make them so. “It is not just a blanket authority to implement mandatory vaccination. It is one of the many measures the employer has to take to ensure that employees are protected,” Ivan says.