How can HR help with the loadshedding situation?

It has to have open discussions with employees on how the business will navigate power cuts.

If you don’t have a back-up generator, loadshedding is probably disrupting the hell out of your organisation, leaving employees increasingly frustrated with the unexpected downtime. As an HR leader, you have to find a way to manage this inconvenience, which also has a major impact on the costs to the business. Not only does this downtime prevent your organisation from serving your customers, it is likely to lead to increases in overtime to make up the lost productivity. 

Employment contracts require employers to pay employees for the hours that are specifically stipulated in their contract. So, ideally, organisations should have uninterruptible power supplies to enable them to cope with the power cuts. But if they don't, they have to get creative. That could mean shifting meeting times and training to periods when the power is out, for example. Alternatively, HR can negotiate different employment terms or make provision for short-time arrangements, where the employer reduces the working days/hours that the employee is required to work. Other ideas are changes to stipulated times for lunch breaks and changes to shifts. These are all examples of informal arrangements based on trust and mutual respect. 

However, in some industries, there are formal agreements with employees on how to deal with power down time – specifically by differentiating between planned and unplanned load shedding, negotiating new employment contract that includes various remuneration options in case of loadshedding – such as suspending pay when it strikes, allowing employees to work from home, or agreeing to only pay for hours worked before the power cut and employees can be sent home. But none of these ideas can be implemented unilaterally without agreement from the employees.

That said, if employees are not willing to negotiate, businesses can legally implement retrenchment procedures in terms of sections 189 or 189A of the Labour Relations Act 66 of 1995. It is therefore best that HR opens a dialogue with employees on how to weather the storm that is sure to come with loadshedding.