Nicol Myburgh

No work. No pay. The COVID-19 Salary Crisis.

Companies have been facing tough decisions over the past few months, particularly those with employees who cannot work during the crisis

The South African lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on industry, market and business. Many organisations were unable to open or function during the first two levels (four and five) of the lockdown, while others were in limbo until level two. This has severely impacted their revenue and their employees. Over the past five months, there have been several court cases brought against companies that have instituted a ‘No Work, No Pay’ policy and these have had mixed results in court. One case was enforced and a restaurant had to pay its employees in spite of their being unable to work. Another was not – the court found that employees were not entitled to pay if they did not work, even though it was through no fault of their own. It’s a minefield, one that has put both employee and company under pressure.

“Employment at its most basic level is defined as employees hired to render their services in return for payment,” says Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “Employees are required to work and companies are required to provide work. Now, during the pandemic, a third party has stepped in and said – nobody can leave the house and companies can’t operate. This has created a situation of force majeure for many organisations where they don’t have work and employees can’t work.”

The result is, quite simply, that the company is under no obligation to pay its employees while it is being prevented from creating work for those employees. However, there are options. This is not a dead-end situation that leaves both company and employee without the ability to minimise the impact of no work, no pay.

Not all employers have the funds to pay their staff

“Firstly, I would recommend that employees take their accrued annual leave as this is paid and they’re entitled to it,” says Myburgh. “They are under no obligation to take it and most employers are obliged to provide it, but if they have a heart, then this is a solid choice for both parties. Another option is to allow for employees to go into a negative balance of annual leave which they can accrue at a later stage. This is a risky move for the employer, however, as there is no guarantee that the company will get it back.”

The problem is that not all employers have the funds to pay their staff for this leave. Many companies keep their leave provision in a separate account, but many don’t. This means that they may be unable to pay out the leave options outlined above. That said, there is the choice to offer employees special leave – they are paid to stay at home but this is not taken from their annual leave nor is it classified as negative leave. For organisations that can’t afford these options, the funds offered by the government have been developed specifically to support organisations and employees as they find their feet in the coming months.

“The last option may not be as swift and seamless as a company salary, but it is one that can support people as they suddenly have to live with no salaries until the lockdown restrictions are eased,” concludes Myburgh. “The situation is far from ideal, but unfortunately the steps taken by government during this global crisis have had an unprecedented impact on everyone and the future is far from certain, even now.”

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Best practice for back to work in the pandemic

Best practice for back to work in the pandemic

COVID-19 introduces regulatory and ethical challenges to companies and employees returning to work

Stringent regulations and careful planning define the approaches of organisations and employees returning to the workplace in the pandemic. Employers have to prepare the work environment in line with existing regulations and must provide specific equipment to ensure safety and compliance.

According to Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit, companies need to develop a workplace readiness document that offers relevant guidance, as well as a workplace readiness plan that includes risk assessments, risk profiles and the systems needed to resolve any challenges or issues.

“It’s important to assess the risk-readiness of a company and allocate risk levels to different areas,” he adds. “For example, healthcare is usually high-risk so more systems need to be put in place to ensure the safety of medical professionals and staff. Other workplaces are low-risk so they need only meet the basic legal requirements for workplace safety.”

According to existing regulations, employers must provide every employee with two cloth face masks. They may not allow employees to perform any duties or enter the premises if they’re not wearing the appropriate covering. Employers that don’t enforce these regulations are liable for a hefty fine, six months’ imprisonment or both.

Precise workplace planning parameters

“Three different areas within the business must be considered – engineering, administrative and safety,” says Myburgh. “Engineering controls cover the physical workspaces, including physical barriers and elements that need to be put in place. Administrative controls include contact tracing and screening when people come into the office. Safety controls focus on ensuring that people are aware of the rules, keeping social distances, and wearing the PPE provided.”

In addition to these very precise workplace planning parameters, it’s good to include easily accessible sanitation stations throughout the workplace. Put rules in place that address the different requirements between low-risk and high-risk areas. Not all parts of the business are created equal so it’s important to ensure that staff have clear guidelines that they can follow to ensure their wellbeing.

“These guidelines can include something as simple as only allowing one person in the kitchen at a time, to more in-depth rules that define workplace disinfection controls at the start or end of the day and banning the use of air-conditioners until the filters have been changed,” says Myburgh. “Put policies in place around discrimination as well. No company can allow abuse of employees who catch the disease.”

Provide screening forms, checklists, medical condition disclosure processes, and ensure that temperatures are checked every day. Then, if the worst happens, ensure that you have protocols in place that define sick leave or quarantine restrictions and provide reassurance to employees. Finally, appoint a COVID-19 manager or representative who is in charge of ensuring that this all happens seamlessly, communicating to employees and management any changes or challenges in the process.

“From risk to engineering to sanitation and safety – all these elements are mandatory in the provision of a safe and compliant workplace during the pandemic,” concludes Myburgh. “By creating a plan, giving someone responsibility for its delivery, and emphasising adherence at every turn, you are creating a safe space for your people where they can work productively and healthily.”

The Ethical Implications of Employee Tracking

The Ethical Implications of Employee Tracking

Remote work. Remote people. And a complete lack of visibility. At what point does the company start watching?

Picture this. A busy office, people bustling. A few are in the kitchen grabbing a coffee and a catch-up, some are in meetings, others are sitting at their desks typing or on the phone. Managers and executives walking through the office have almost complete visibility into what people are doing and how they are doing it. IT restrictions and access limitations reduce the risks of social media distraction, and policy and regulations minimise the impact of inappropriate website and email. Then, suddenly, the picture changes and the office is empty. The work is being done from home. Or is it?

“It’s been a stark and dramatic change in work environment and responsibility,” says Nicol Myburgh Head: CRS Technologies HCM Business Unit. “People are working from kitchen counters, home studies and lounge suites. They’re waking up and heading into the virtual office in pyjamas. The world is online, and organisations that resisted remote working for years are living out their worst fears – will the work get done? Will the employee deliver? How do I know they’re not watching Netflix?”

For some companies, trust has become critical. Employees have been given trust and space and allowed to reach their goals without consistent monitoring and assessments. Others have gone big brother – installing monitoring tools and surveillance apps onto laptops and devices to ensure that their people are doing the work and not disobeying the rules. It’s a hard-line approach that doesn’t necessarily win employee favour or trust, but that is, unfortunately, entirely legal.

If employees are using company equipment then the company is entitled to monitor what happens on it,” says Myburgh. “They can implement tracking tools and monitoring software onto the laptops that have been provided to the employees and they can completely track exactly what the employee is doing on these devices. They belong to the company and are intended for work purposes so this level of surveillance is allowed.”

Laws about tracking employees do not extend to video

An uncomfortable thought. But one that shouldn’t bother the employee that does the work, delivers the goods and steadily meets their KPIs and uses the company equipment. However, this does change if the employee has used their own personal devices to continue working from home. Then, the company needs a court order to access any information on these devices. They belong to the employee and any activity that’s taken place on them is theirs alone.

“It’s generally a good idea for companies to stay away from secret monitoring tools that track their movements and behaviours,” says Myburgh. “If it’s absolutely necessary to monitor employee behaviour, consider using transparent and visible tools such as online timesheets which everyone can see and assess. It’s not particularly fair to watch an employee’s every move.”

The laws about tracking employees do not extend to video. Activating a laptop camera to watch employees and their activity opens the door to a long line of ethical questions that generally result in one response – that’s not okay. There are so many rules and regulations that already surround employee conduct and managing misconduct and ensuring that both company and employee are respected that the best solution is the one that asks for honesty and trust without heavy-handed control.

“People need recognition, clarity and engagement so that they remain involved in the company and committed to working for it,” concludes Myburgh. “Rather focus on these factors than on their every move and tweet. A great example of this is how NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) treated its cleaners – their work was seen as critical to the success of every mission because without clean floors and spaces, the work wouldn’t get done. The result? Passionate people who felt part of a team. This is a far better approach than secret software and monitoring.”

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Integrated HR and Payroll Software Solutions

From complacency to compliance: POPIA is here

In 2013 the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) was put into motion, with some sections coming into effect from 2014 and others slowly entering the business arena over the years that followed. On 22 June 2020, the Act suddenly got serious – President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that there would be further provisions coming into effect as of 1 July 2020. These changes are not simple, nor are they steps that any organisation should ignore. It is critical that organisations understand the implications of POPIA and what it means for their business.

The following sections have come into effect as of 1 July:

  • Sections 2-38 that deal with the exclusions and conditions for the lawful processing of personal information;
  • Sections 55-109 that relate to the responsibilities of information officers, direct marketing, relevant codes of conduct and enforcement mechanisms;
  • Section 11 that relates to fees;
  • Section 114 (1), (2), (3) that relates to transitional arrangements.

Human resources, payroll data, employee information, CVs, employment information, CCTV records, performance reviews and internal email records are also connected to these POPIA requirements.

POPIA regulations

These amendments are a warning. Employers must ensure that all information they collect is secure and that these security measures are compliant and aligned with POPIA regulations.

Now is the right time to work with a professional organisation that can help you prepare your business so you and your employees are safe. The fines are hefty, but the work you put in now can save you and your business both financial and reputational costs down the line.

Speak to CRS to find out how we can help you ensure you are compliant and remain that way.

Customer Experience (CX) – old concept, new opportunities

The world of customer experience (CX) is constantly changing, but some things always stay the same.

 

Read the full article as published in The Margin on 1 March 2020, by clicking here

 

 

 

 

 

 

We believe it is critical for business owners to be aware of rapid changes to tax legislation in South African. Fortunately, we have the expertise to guide businesses through the ‘minefield’ of tax legislation and updates.

The latest change is that PAYE BRS for Employer Reconciliation version 17.0.2 was published, as amended by SARS, and published on 10 July 2018.

Why is this important? Well, for starters the changes in the official document – under Revision History – amends the validation for monthly calculated ETI to make provision for the designated Special Economic Zones (SEZ).

A list of SEZ’s for ETI purposes has been added as Appendix E in the BRS.

To make life a bit easier, we’ve put together a table of SEZ’ under discussion: –

COE                 COEGA SEZ

DTP                  DUBE TRADE PORT SEZ

EAL                  EAST LONDON SEZ

MAP                 MALUTI-A-PHOFUNG SEZ

SLB                  SALDANHA BAY SEZ

RIB                   RICHARDS BAY SEZ

It is important to take note that employees who are employed at a fixed place of business within the SEZ zones listed (and where the person renders services to that employer mainly within that SEZ), the age limit to determine if the employee qualifies for ETI, does not apply,

This means employees of any age can qualify to generate the tax incentive for an employer.

For more information and to access the new BRS, click here

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