South African employers are required to give their workers paid time off to get vaccinated against Covid-19. And employees who experience side effects can be booked off on paid sick leave by producing their vaccination certificate as proof, with no need for the standard medical certificate that may be required to claim sick days.
Those are some of the provisions of occupational health and safety measures in South African workplaces, which have now been updated to include specific protocols around Covid-19 vaccinations.
The amendments also require employers to undertake risk assessments which limit Covid-19 exposure in the workplace.
These assessments, which need to include input from trade unions and safety committees, must be made available to health inspectors. Earlier versions of these workplace directives issued by the department of employment and labour have required employers to define a phased approach for the return of workers while ensuring that the personal protective equipment provided meets the minimum requirements.
The regulations also detail necessary responses to Covid-19 outbreaks, symptom screening and social distancing in the workplace. The most recent amendments, signed off by minister Thulas Nxesi at the end of May and officially gazetted on Friday, deal extensively with the vaccine rollout and the responsibility that employers have to ensure fair treatment of their workers.
Employees must also be made aware of the benefits and potential side effects of the Covid-19 vaccine. It’s the responsibility of the employer to raise awareness by distributing leaflets and notices in the workplace.
The employer is also obligated to assist workers with registering on the Electronic Vaccination Data System (EVDS).
Employees must be given paid time off on the day allocated for vaccination by the EVDS but will need to provide “proof that the vaccination has occurred or is to occur” during work hours.
“Should an employee suffer side effects as a result of the Covid-19 vaccination and is unable to attend work following vaccination, the employer must, in accordance with Section 22 of the BCEA [Basic Conditions of Employment Act], place its employee on paid sick leave,” says to updated regulations.
“An employer may accept a Covid-19 vaccination certificate issued by an official vaccination site in lieu of a medical certificate.”
The BCEA requires that employees produce a medical certificate as proof of illness if they’ve been absent from work for more than two consecutive days or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period.
Common side effects which can occur after receiving the Covid-19 vaccine include pain, swelling, or redness where the vaccine was injected, mild fever, chills, feeling tired, headache, muscle and joint aches, as noted by the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) of South Arica. These side effects should only last between two and three days according to the NICD.
Serious and less common side effects include difficulty breathing, swelling of the face and throat, fast heartbeat, a bad rash, dizziness, and weakness.