SA HR news roundup: Brain drain in healthcare sector, the masks come off

Eskom warns of higher risk of loadshedding as protests continue after wage talks stall.

Government announces changes to Covid-19 regulations, with masks no longer mandatory in public. However, employers may still require masks to be worn at work. The University of Cape Town is offering students who were unable to complete their degree a second chance.

UCT offers second chance

The University of Cape Town, in partnership with NGO Umuzi, has launched the UCT Digital Bootcamp to provide a second chance to students who were unable to complete their degree with the institution, as well as to digitally upskill currently unemployed graduates.

“A study that was conducted in 2019 revealed that 78 percent of university students could not complete their three-year degrees in the allotted time. More than half did not complete their degree even after six years,” said UCT Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.

As part of the project’s pilot programme, 100 young people whose UCT studies have been interrupted or who have been unemployed for three years or more, will be offered the opportunity for digital skills training, which may take them in a different direction from their original career goals. Training is sponsored by Amazon, Google and Meta (previously Facebook).

Higher risk of loadshedding as Eskom wage talks stall

Eskom has warned that if protests at its power stations and facilities continue, they will increase the risk of higher stages of loadshedding.

“These protests included incidents of intimidation of working employees and blockading of roads leading to power stations and other facilities, inhibiting the free flow of personnel and commodities required for the generation of electricity and smooth operations,” Eskom said in a statement.

In May, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) demanded a 15 percent wage increase across the board, which Eskom management maintained it could not afford.

Brain drain in the healthcare sector

South Africa is seeing a significant brain drain of skilled medical professionals, including nurses, which will have a long-term impact on the healthcare sector, according to Profmed CEO Craig Comrie.

He said that over the last five years between 240-300 doctors and their families have left annually, with the country currently producing around 2,000 doctors a year through its various medical schools.

Craig noted that the majority of these professionals leaving are general practitioners, but this is because the country has relatively few specialist doctors remaining, and proportionally, they too are leaving.

Mask on, mask off

On 22 June 2022, regulations to contain the spread of Covid-19 relating to the wearing of face masks were repealed.

Although there is no requirement in law for employers to impose the wearing of face masks in the workplace, nothing precludes employers from implementing policies that require employees to continue wearing them while at work, according to Bowmans.

The legal firm advised employers to notify their employees of the requirements for their workplaces to assist in avoiding confusion and potential tension between employees who are comfortable without masks and those who still feel vulnerable and want to continue wearing face masks.