he challenges of a scattered workforce

Remote management: The challenges of a scattered workforce

How are organisations supposed to manage and pay remote workers in world defined by distance?

Looking at the world of work today, it has been cut in half. On one side is the office, the traffic and the regular flow of people into places and roles. On the other is the remote workforce, with staff doing their best to complete their roles using digital tools and versatile technology. The Covid-19 pandemic has effectively turned every working eye towards what’s being referred to as the ‘newsual’ – the new normal – and what this means for employees and companies. Organisations are grappling with unexpected challenges around payments, management and control. According to the General Manager of CRS Technologies, Ian McAlister, the most important activity any organisation can engage in right now is to keep calm and develop a plan.

Build a solid plan, implement it and revisit it often,” he advises. “Make use of technology where it can benefit the business, don’t make hasty decisions that can have long-term consequences, and communicate often. Engaging with your employees on a regular and personal level can make all the difference.

“One of the more difficult areas of remote working is the management of employees. It can be challenging to ensure that individuals are meeting targets, being productive or even coping with their new working conditions. To resolve this, consider hosting regular online meetings that conclude with clear deliverables. If everybody knows what they are expected to do, the metrics that will measure their performance, and how they are to do it, then they will be more engaged and more likely to do the work.

Cater to your employee’s mental health

“It’s also important to cater to your employee’s mental health,” McAlister continues. “Your people need to be as comfortable as possible so that their needs are being met. If they feel heard and they understand exactly what is expected of them, then they will feel of value to the organisation.”

Salary payments should be one of the few areas that remain unchanged during the remote working revolution, as long as no cash payments are required and a proper payroll system is in place. The legislation around the payment benefits is changing regularly and only a solid payroll system is capable of keeping up with these changes. Ensure that the business practises separation of duties and maintains corporate oversight.

“It’s advisable to take advantage of the financial benefits available in legislation, not only for the company’s benefit, but for the employees that are being affected,” says McAlister. “It’s very apparent that a remote workforce is the future so it’s worth putting all these processes – financial, managerial, operations – into place right from the start. They may not be temporary.”

The processes that are required

During the course of the pandemic, the business should use this as an opportunity to refine the processes it is putting in place as they can be used going forward. A well-developed remote working policy that achieves results shouldn’t be thrown out the door the moment the regulations allow office working again. Best practice is to genuinely set clear and agreed expectations, communicate often and personally, and measure outcomes against expectations. Reward those who deliver exceptional performances during these complex times and mentor those who are struggling; it will pay off over the long term.

“There is little doubt that the processes that are required for the lockdown will be used going forward as companies realise that it’s practical to work remotely,” concludes McAlister. “With time they will be modified to suit a more long-term scenario. The HR function will need to move from a more traditional method to one that can manage the vagaries of remote working, and there needs to be more trust between management and employees at all levels. However, I think that South Africa is mature enough to meet this challenge. In fact, it already has.”

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Ian McAlister GM CRS Technologies

Doing business in the post-lockdown world

At the beginning of March few anticipated the significant impact the COVID-19 pandemic would have on the lives of all South Africans. As the gradual easing of the strict lockdown conditions approaches, thoughts turn to how companies will begin their recovery. Ian McAlister, GM of CRS Technologies, looks at what to expect.

Friday, 1 May signifies the transition to Level 4 lockdown conditions which will result in several more industries resuming operations, albeit in a limited capacity. And while all the details around operational issues are still to be confirmed, expectations are that at least 1.5 million South Africans will be returning to work. In part, this is designed to get the economy back up and running following several weeks of virtual non-activity in sectors outside the essential services category.

New reality

“Even though there is still a long road ahead before the country reaches Level 1 (complete easing of lockdown restrictions), thoughts must turn to how companies need to approach business from an operational perspective. For one, a core management or exco team will have to spend most of their time at the office in order to direct the company,” says McAlister.

“Each exco member will have meetings with their direct reports at least once a week. This helps to ensure that employees obtain a clear vision of what their roles and responsibilities will be in this dynamic environment. Organisations simply cannot return to the way things used to be done.”

One of the positives that has emerged from the lockdown is the realisation of the practical benefits technology has on operations.

“For example, more business will be done via video conferencing as this not only saves time and money by eliminating travelling, but also leads to less traffic and congestion on our roads. The peak morning and evening hours could become greatly diminished as people do more things online.”

Optimising resources

The lockdown has also highlighted those employees who have simply become professional managers.

“By this I mean there are people who have made a career out of attending on-site meetings and overseeing other people’s tasks,” McAlister explains. “The current climate of remote working has exposed these individuals in that they are not quite sure what they should be doing now. If they do not start delivering value post-lockdown, they could very well be on their way out.”

“Additionally, there is a group of people who are sitting at home and do not have much work to do because they are not being allocated tasks. This exposes their lack of value to the company.

“The lockdown provides the perfect opportunity for managers to evaluate their teams, as it shows them who the valuable and productive members are and enables them to identify those individuals capable of working on their own. These are the people who simply get on with the job without requiring a lot of management input. Furthermore, such a process will empower management with insights on the skill sets of each team member and identify where to optimally use staff resources.”

“The reality of business in a post-lockdown world will be significantly different to what was in place before, but this will require a leadership who is willing to adapt and learn from the lessons of the past several weeks. Of course, technology will have a role to play but the focus must now turn to creating a more enabling working environment for those employees who have proved themselves to be assets.”

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importance of employee mental health during lockdown

The importance of employee mental health during lockdown

Even though the extension of South Africa’s lockdown until the end of April may not have been unexpected, companies would do well to consider the mental impact this prolonged period of isolation could have on their employees. Beyond the economic repercussions of the 35-day lockdown, the human issue cannot be ignored, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

“The realities of remote working have been driven home in recent weeks, especially to those who have been caught off guard about the complexities this would entail. On a basic level there is ensuring people have the means to work remotely, for example, having reliable internet access. However, employees must now acutely balance their home and professional roles in a restricted environment. Managing a conference call while the children are playing close by might be distracting to the uninitiated, not to mention the added pressure of trying to meet targets while doing home schooling,” he says.

Senior employees who have experience in working from home might have a good understanding on how best to fill their day, but for those who do not know how to structure their time to ensure they fulfil their responsibilities, companies must be on hand to help.

“Management should give clear instructions to staff, with deadlines and measurable targets. There is a lot of free software available online to facilitate remote working and monitoring. Some software can push tasks to people while others encompass a time sheet management system which can facilitate project teams or departments.”

The new normal

Beyond this, however, staff who are unfamiliar with the new remote working dynamic will have difficulty changing their mindset to stick to office hours. The temptation might be to sleep late and catch up on work after hours, but this potentially disrupts the team dynamics, especially when people are reliant on one another to meet specific deadlines.

And then there is the real concern about managing issues such as burnout and isolation during remote working.

“The best way to deal with isolation is to ensure employees are in constant communication with one another,” Myburgh advises. “Even though they are working in a ‘virtual office’, employees must be able to speak with their colleagues at any time. This can be achieved either through daily team calls or just having a quick chat with a colleague to share in each other’s experiences.”

Closely monitor employees to ensure they maintain work-life balance

Burnout is also a significant risk when the home becomes the work environment. Nothing stops someone from working around the clock or even slotting in an extra hour or two to make up for time usually spent in traffic.

“This is where management must closely monitor employees to ensure they maintain work-life balance. It simply cannot be all work or the employee risks serious mental and physical harm. Key to this is being in constant communication with one another. Even though physical proximity is restricted, nothing stops the company from promoting team culture and doing fun activities through virtual means.

“The reality is that business will never return to normal following the lockdown. How employees adapt to the new style of working will depend on how company leaders help drive this change,” Myburgh concludes.

The rights of employers during the lockdown

The rights of employers during the lockdown

With South Africa’s lockdown well and truly underway, companies are facing unprecedented times. Even when the country was in the throes of the State of Emergency in the 80s and early 90s, work continued, albeit with strict social controls in place and a strong police and military presence. But business as usual has not been possible for many organisations, leaving employers perplexed about the issue of salary payments. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies, examines the situation.

“The legal basis of payment for employees is that where the contract of employment exists, the employer has a duty to tender work, and the employee has a duty to tender their services for such work,” he explains. “If the employer cannot provide work and instructs the employee to go home, the employer is required to pay the employee. The only example where this was not the case is contained in the Metal Industries Bargaining Council Main Agreement. This deals with supervening impossibility of performance on the part of the employer, and if procedures are followed, the employer is liable for lesser payment to employees.”

No work, no pay

“The pandemic has created a situation outside the employer’s control,” Myburgh continues. “With employers forbidden to offer work to employees and employees not permitted to tender their services while in lockdown, a situation has arisen where both employers and employees cannot fulfil their contractual obligations to one another.

“Consequently, according to the letter of the law, for the period of the lockdown employers are not obliged to pay their employees. The situation is one of ‘force majeure’ and can be insured against.”

Myburgh advises companies to check whether the provisions of their business insurance policies contain such an indemnity. “While these provisions are standard practice in countries that frequently experience natural disasters, in South Africa, where natural disasters are less common, the provisions often do not exist in policies except in a limited scope.”

Fortunately, however, Myburgh says there are several steps employers can take to alleviate the burden on their employees:

  • Allow employees to take their accrued paid annual leave entitlement.
  • Extend unaccrued paid leave to employees. This would normally only accrue later in the leave cycle.
  • Assist employees with UIF documentation.
  • Provide part payment of wages and salaries.
  • Where possible, apply for government assistance.

Remote working 

While the internet enables companies to implement remote working practices where it is possible to do so, this may only be suitable for certain sections of the workforce and, depending on the nature of the business, the work may be of reduced scope and would not attract full remuneration as specified in the contract.

According to Myburgh, in this instance employers can come to an arrangement with these employees in respect of deliverables and associated remuneration. “In effect this would be an agreement to temporarily modify or amend the contract of employment in respect of work and remuneration.

“Of course, once arrangements are put in place, the employer must document everything and make it reviewable once the lockdown ends. Should the lockdown period be extended, the employer needs to be able to change its arrangements.”

One of the key questions that remain is whether a company can engage in retrenchment proceedings during this time.

The lockdown does not suspend the contract of employment, Myburgh notes, it merely prohibits the physical proximity of employees in the workplace. “The employer is therefore still entitled to issue retrenchment documentation, provided it can consult with employees (even if this is done in writing). The employer is obliged to consult for a period of 60 days from the date on which the retrenchment notice is issued.”

“The long-term impact of the lockdown remains difficult to predict,” Myburgh concludes. “However, employers and their employees must work together to identify ways to mitigate some of the economic impact on the business if companies are to continue operating once the lockdown is lifted.”

Occupationally acquired COVID-19

Occupationally acquired COVID-19 – where do you stand?

By now most employers and employees, across all sectors and industries, are painfully aware of the impact of the global pandemic Coronavirus (COVID-19) on business.

It’s no secret that the virus has negatively disrupted many operators, with markets and currencies floundering as society reels from lockdowns, restricted movements, business closures and the like.

On Friday, 20 March South Africa’s Department of Labour published a notice on the compensation for occupationally acquired novel Coronavirus in terms of Section 6A of the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).

A disease contracted by an employee during employment

Legislation defines occupationally acquired COVID-19 as a disease contracted by an employee arising out of and during his/her employment.

The notice deals with infection through exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the workplace, or after an official trip to high-risk countries or areas.

As employers in South Africa, we face a period of uncertainty, disruption and abnormality in the general business environment. We are obliged to implement the rules and regulations of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993.

Law dictates that claims must be set out as per sections 65 and 66

When it comes to submitting related claims, the law dictates that claims must be set out as per sections 65 and 66 of the COID Act, and regulations must be followed through thoroughly to avoid claims by employees and fines imposed on the employer at a later stage.

As always, CRS Technologies is here to help and has the expertise to do so.

Contact our legislation team at for more information.

Temporary Employer and Employee Relief Scheme

Temporary Employer and Employee Relief Scheme

As South Africa, along with the rest of the world, mobilises resources to battle the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there is a realisation within the labour market that it is most definitely not ‘business as usual’.

During times of emergency and threat, people look to leaders for guidance and evidence of clear thinking and deliberate, focused action.

And so we see the introduction of measures by the Department of Employment and Labour to try to contain this global healthcare crisis under the Temporary Employer and Employee Relief Scheme (TERS).

Under the scheme, the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) will compensate affected workers through the existing illness and Reduced Work Time benefits.

There is substance to this scheme and employers must take note

This is applicable to all employers who are registered with UIF and make monthly contributions as required by the Contributions Act of 2002.

There is substance to this scheme and employers must take note that in terms of the TERS process, the UIF may fund companies affected by COVID-19 directly in relation to the TERS allowance.

Additionally, the affected company will only be funded if it has complied with the relevant UIF legislation.

Should a company not be compliant, the said company must undertake to pay outstanding contributions and bring its declarations up to date within a stipulated timeframe.

We are here to help

The following applications will be considered: wage subsidy rulings, over and above wage subsidy and training intervention, and turnaround solution intervention.

CRS Technologies is a leader in HCM solutions and all labour-related matters. We are here to help. For more information or to obtain application forms, email and

Employee declaration form

Employer declaration form

fraudulent sick notes

Sick note controversy: Fraud or ill health

Employers and employees have rights when it comes to sick leave, but fraudulent sick notes are a rising problem

In the wake of Jacob Zuma’s alleged medical certificate presented to court in January 2020, there has been widening controversy around these documents and their validity in the South African workplace. For companies and employees, sick notes are essential when it comes to verifying ill health and non-attendance at work, but when these are modified or faked, the repercussions can lead to loss of earnings for companies and potentially loss of reputation and career for employees. Faked sick notes constitute an act of fraud and can lead to dismissal.

Everyone is entitled to 30 days’ sick leave

“Everyone is entitled to 30 days’ sick leave over a three-year cycle, but many people use up the last few days of sick leave they have left before the next three-year cycle begins,” explains Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies. “Some even go so far as to plan their sick leave in advance.”

According to the Basic Conditions of Employment Act employers may request a sick note from an employee who has been absent from work for more than two consecutive days, or on more than two occasions during an eight-week period.

The note must be issued by a medical practitioner or someone who is certified to diagnose and treat patients, and who is certified with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA). In addition, the HSPCA has developed a fairly stringent list of rules that must be met when it comes to medical certificates. Some of the stand out points include:

  • Specific details around the practitioner, such as name, address and qualification;
  • The name of the patient;
  • The date and time of the examination;
  • A description of the illness in layman’s terms; and
  • The exact recommended sick leave period.

“A sick note may include the doctor’s diagnosis but only if the employee consents to this disclosure,” Myburgh points out. “Additionally, the actual dates on which the employee is unable to work, not the date of the visit to the doctor, must be stated. The doctor’s signature alongside the employee’s name and surname is also required to ensure the sick note’s legitimacy.”

Sick notes are not a joke

It’s important to note that the information around the medical condition affecting the patient is only released at their discretion. If the patient is uncomfortable with full disclosure, the practitioner can frame the diagnosis in a way that doesn’t give away too much information. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the note is forged, but only that the employer may want to further verify the note with the relevant practitioner.

“However, a sick note on which the dates have been changed, doesn’t have the practitioner’s name or practice number, and isn’t filled out correctly should be cause for concern,” Myburgh continues. “If a person says they are sick and hand in a fake note, they could ultimately face dismissal on the grounds of fraud. Following a disciplinary hearing, it’s very likely they will be asked to leave as the trust relationship between employer and employee has been broken.

Sick notes are not a joke or a clever way of using up sick leave on a fantastic holiday. If the note isn’t valid and the employee is discovered, they could lose their job and their reputation. For employers, it’s important to ensure that any note handed in meets the stringent criteria laid out by the HPCSA to avoid sick leave fraud and loss of earnings. Either way, sick notes are meant to be used by those who are genuinely unable to work so that both employer and employee are protected,” Myburgh concludes.

Nicol Myburgh Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies

Managing tech addiction in the workplace

On average, people touch their phones almost 3 000 times a day. This is hardly surprising given how we are exposed to technology in every facet of our lives. With this comes the risk of tech addiction, which can have a seriously negative impact on work performance, says Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HCM Business Unit at CRS Technologies.

“Some of the most common forms of tech addiction are gaming and social media. In fact, internet gaming disorder is featured in the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases. Studies show that males are generally more likely to become addicted to gaming, while females are more susceptible to social media. In many instances, the addiction does not revolve around the technology itself, but has more to do with the dopamine fix that comes with the instant gratification of moving up to the next level of a game, or receiving ‘likes’ for posts shared on social networking platforms,” he explains.

For their part, companies can formulate policies to put healthy guidelines in place around the usage of technology in the workplace and establish boundaries that will ensure a healthy working environment.

But, cautions Myburgh, they must make sure that employees adhere to these guidelines.

“Some companies, especially those in the manufacturing sector, go so far as to eliminate cell phone usage during office hours, especially during meetings. This ‘forces’ employees to talk to their colleagues and interact meaningfully with one another.”

Looking beyond policy, businesses can also institute tech-free zones where cell phones and laptops are not allowed. This encourages employee interaction and reduces the time people spend looking at screens.


“Like any other addiction, the impact of tech addiction on workforce performance is significant,” Myburgh continues. “For example, staying up all night to play games will see employees too tired to be productive at work. Similarly, spending long periods of time on social media platforms can lead to a drop in performance and even costly mistakes when people invariably become distracted.”

Another consequence of tech addiction is that more people are opting to send text messages rather than conduct a face-to-face conversation. “One has only to look at the younger generation’s lack of vital social skills because of their smartphones to see how this is impacting society’s ability to form relationships,” says Myburgh. “This is likely to worsen as children increasingly become exposed to technology at an extremely young age. Just imagine the long-term impact of replacing a baby’s rattle with a tablet or smartphone.”

Next steps

From a practical perspective, companies can consider setting up counselling sessions for affected employees and enforce stricter rules to limit technology usage when it does not form part of the core requirements of a job role.

“Even after putting all these mechanisms in place to assist employees, if the addictive behaviour continues, the company could have no choice but to charge the person with misconduct if they wilfully disobey a rule. All told, tech addiction is a very real concern in the digital world and if something is not done to curb its prevalence, it can quickly spiral out of control,” concludes Myburgh.

Article Source:  CHRO South Africa

How to manage non-conventional beliefs in the workplace

As world views change and people are exposed to different issues, opinions and insights, so too must organisations be willing to adapt their policies to incorporate non-religious beliefs. Nicol Myburgh, Head of the HR Business Unit at CRS Technologies, notes that what was previously relegated to the fringes of society has become more prevalent in the modern workplace.

“Beside flat-earthers, there has been a rise in Pastafarians who promote a light-hearted view of religion while advocating the belief in the flying spaghetti monster as their deity,” he says. “The Employment Equity Act legislates against discrimination on beliefs and religious grounds. Perhaps most telling is the line that states ‘…or for any other arbitrary reason’. This would include non-conventional beliefs, even those some might consider to be illogical or uninformed,” he says.

Avoid conflict

When it comes to the protection of non-religious beliefs, Myburgh says it is always advisable for the company not to discuss religion and beliefs in the workplace. “This can lead to conflict and usually does not end well for the parties involved. Furthermore, this can result in the creation of unnecessary ‘factions’ inside the business that can negatively impact productivity and morale.

“These matters should be covered in the organisation’s Employment Equity policy. But regardless of what is defined in the policy, people should never impose their beliefs on others. While they might have a right to preach what they believe in, other parties also have the right to refuse to listen.”

However, unfair discrimination in any form is forbidden by the Employment Equity Act. For a business, it is simply a matter of putting this into practise.

Balanced environment

Myburgh notes that “even though companies do not have a responsibility to grant additional benefits when it comes to beliefs, they should try to accommodate employees in this regard, as much as it is operationally possible. Companies do have the right to refuse leave if it is felt that the leave will impact negatively on their operations.

Practically speaking, companies cannot draw a line when it comes to belief systems. The only area where some leeway exists is if those beliefs negatively impact people at work. For example, burning incense in the office could become a health and safety issue.

“Beliefs are a listed as a discriminatory ground in the Employment Equity Act and must be included in the company code of conduct. If the code of conduct is breached, the perpetrator must be disciplined accordingly. Furthermore, these non-traditional beliefs do not have to impact on morale. If anything, it shows the company’s willingness to embrace diversity in the workplace and openness to generate engaging discussions,” Myburgh concludes.

Hasty cloud adoption increases companies’ risk profile

Hasty cloud adoption increases companies’ risk profile

The relevancy of the cloud will soon begin to wane as more decision-makers come to acknowledge the hype for what it is and realise that cloud computing is not all it’s cracked up to be. This is the view of CRS Technologies General Manager Ian McAlister, who says that while cloud computing holds several benefits, organisations need to think carefully before migrating all their functions to this environment.

“There is no doubt that data has become fundamental to business growth and cloud computing has transformed the business landscape over the last two decades. This being said, valid concerns around the availability and security of data stored in the cloud continue to hamper its adoption. This is especially true for sensitive information such as HR and payroll.

According to McAlister, the cloud has failed to deliver on the cost benefit that the market eagerly anticipated when it was first advocated, and it is also not the impenetrable security haven that its proponents claim.

“On the contrary, because data stored in the cloud is accessible from anywhere on the internet it has merely served to create huge opportunities for cyber-terrorists who love nothing more than a good hacking challenge. All it takes is a disgruntled employee or careless password security to leave your system vulnerable to a cyberattack.”

Various cloud platforms available

Consequently, decision-makers contemplating a migration to the cloud need to familiarise themselves with the differences between the various cloud platforms available and fully understand the pros and cons of each.

Data in a public cloud environment is accessed through the internet, which means it is significantly less secure than its private counterpart, where companies have a dedicated server at a secure location with applications that can be customised to their unique requirements.

While the latter model is ideal for HR and payroll departments, given the sensitive nature of the information they deal with, McAlister recommends the hybrid cloud as a more practical approach. “Companies can enjoy the flexibility and computing power of the public cloud for non-sensitive tasks, but keep business-critical applications and data on premise,” he explains.

Storing sensitive HR and payroll data on premise not only renders it more secure, but ensures much quicker access to the information, because users don’t have to contend for bandwidth or be concerned about downtime.

“Consider, for example, the slowdown in internet speed during the recent undersea cable breakage and its impact on the timeous payment of employees’ salaries. Now imagine the financial and reputational fallout for an organisation whose information is lost, compromised, or becomes unavailable owing to the cloud storage provider going down.”

Companies will be held accountable through harsh penalties

Another important consideration is that of regulatory compliance, McAlister continues. “Data must be stored and maintained in accordance with the Protection of Personal Information (POPI) Act, which is expected to come into effect soon. Companies who fail to comply with this legislation will be held accountable through harsh penalties and even jail time if their data is compromised in any way. This responsibility may not be shifted to the cloud storage provider, regardless of what your contract may state.”

Information has become mission-critical to the running of a business and HR and payroll is rapidly becoming one of the primary sources of data that enables CEOs and top management members to make decisions impacting the strategic direction of the organisation. Consequently, companies must be aware of the implications of where their data is stored – from a cost, security and legislative point of view – and ensure they take full advantage of the business benefits offered without compromising on their competitiveness.

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