Article written by Albert Mouton (SEESA)
South Africa and the world at large are currently going through a devastating economic downturn as a result of COVID-19. Employers and employees alike are living through an incredibly uncertain time with the nationwide lockdown. Whilst many efforts have been implemented by the Government to lessen the dire economic impact of the lockdown, money from the relief scheme is not always immediately available.
For the businesses that have been unable to work during the lockdown, it is important to note that employers are not legally obliged to pay staff and may put staff on lay-off whereby no work is rendered but likewise no remuneration is paid by the employer. Where employees have lost out on their normal remuneration or a portion thereof, they are eligible to claim from the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme.
Whilst awaiting possible pay-outs from the Scheme, employers may feel duty-bound to assist their employees in the interim by putting them on annual leave, should all or some annual leave still be owing.
It is of great importance to note that the process of submission of claims for benefits on the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme has been amended to now include pay-outs for leave taken during the lockdown, employers may claim annual leave benefits from the scheme. Employers may apply if their employees took all or some of their annual leave during the lockdown period.
They may then set off the amounts which they paid to employees for annual leave against amounts they later receive from the fund on condition that they credit the employees with the days leave they had taken.
Notwithstanding the above, SEESA does not recommend unilaterally putting employees on annual leave unless they have agreed to use their leave during the lockdown, this is in keeping with the norm of most annual leave agreements whereby leave is only granted upon employees’ application and employer’s consent.
In the unlikely event where employees contend the use of annual leave and may not understand that they will be credited the leave at a later stage, they will simply have to remain unpaid until the COVID-19 Temporary Employee/Employer Relief Scheme pays them out, whenever that may be.
SEESA continues to operate during the lockdown period. Should you require any Labour assistance please contact your nearest office.