Employers could be held liable for employees contracting Covid-19 while working from home

Employers should consider having their employees sign an indemnity form to mitigate this risk.

The National Employers’ Association of South Africa (Neasa) has prepared a draft Indemnity agreement, which indemnifies employers from employer from any Covid-19 associated risks and illness for the duration of the work-from-home period.  This was done for employers that want to follow the return to work regulations, as published by the Department of Employment and Labour, by allowing employees who can to work from home.

Neasa chairperson Gerhard Papenfus said in the statement to members that this agreement would help to mitigate the risk associated with the regulations stipulated in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), based upon which the home of the employee may be considered to be the workplace of the employee and, consequently, oblige employers to ensure that the home environment is also safe and healthy.

Business Tech recently published an article quoting Talita Laubscher, a partner at law firm Bowmans, who said the OHSA and the Basic Conditions of Employment Act indeed placed a legal obligation on employers to provide and maintain, as far as reasonably possible, a workplace that is safe and without risk to the health of employees.

This means that, in accordance with the law, employers are required to ensure that employees’ ‘home offices’ are reasonably safe and that they have the appropriate safety equipment that they may need while working from home.

“In the normal course, employers are expected to inspect employee’s home office arrangements in order to ensure that they are reasonably safe,” Talita says in the article. 

“In the appropriate circumstances,  employees may be required to sign indemnity forms confirming this and indemnifying the employer against any claims that may later arise.”