Following the Disaster Management Act and the national lockdown from midnight on 26 March 2020 to midnight on 16 April 2020, the South African wine industry shares a number of important employee guidelines.
See the following legislation:
Disaster Management Act Regulation 8 – 18 March 2020
Please note that no industry organisation or representative body can force its members to implement any of these guidelines. It remains the responsibility of each winery, farm or wine-related business to implement the necessary measures to ensure the safety of their employees.
The information below is included with the courtesy of Agri Western Cape, Agri SA, Agbiz, the Department of Employment & Labour and the Cape Agricultural Employers’ Organisation (CAEO).
Q: Agriculture (including the harvesting & processing of grapes) is deemed essential during the lockdown. What does that mean for me as a wine grape farmer or cellar owner/manager?
According to the Western Cape Government’s FAQ on agriculture during the lockdown, the food value chain has been exempted from the lockdown and the South African society is relying on harvesting to continue. Hence, nothing prevents people involved in the harvesting process to continue with their important work. However, it is also expected from those involved to continue with basic preventative measures such as washing your hands, social distancing, not gathering in large groups, etc.
In the case of alcoholic businesses, the harvest is allowed to continue under certain conditions, namely:
Although the production and sale of alcoholic products is not included as an essential good in Annexure B of Regulation 398, this regulation has been amended to include paragraph 31 which allows for the “Harvesting and storage activities essential to prevent the wastage of primary agricultural goods”. This implies that a wine farmer would be allowed to complete the harvest and also to continue with the necessary cellar processes.
However, please note that the purpose is to prevent wastage. Hence, it is expected that a gradual slowdown of activities will ensue as the wines stabilises with only occasional attention required at a later stage.
Note that all requirements pertaining to permits and directions in respect of hygienic conditions and the limitation of exposure to persons with Covid-19 must be adhered to.
The Western Cape Department of Agriculture’s FAQ on Covid-19 in Agriculture provides answers to questions like:
Do I (or my truck driver) need a permit to travel in order to pick up farming inputs or to take agricultural products to the market/depot/distribution centre?
Where can I obtain permits for my workers?
I am a farmer. Where can I obtain a permit for myself?
My business supply inputs to the Agricultural Sector, process farm products or distribute food and non-alcoholic beverages Where can I obtain a permit for myself?
A significant number of my workers live off-farm. Am I allowed to transport my workers to and from my farm during the lockdown? Are there any special terms and conditions?
I am a labour broker providing seasonal workers to a number of farms. Am I exempted from the lockdown?
Must farm workers work or are they part of the lockdown?
I am an agri worker. May employees be forced to take annual/unpaid leave during the lockdown if they are not considered to be essential staff? May employers refuse to pay employees?
Q: What precautions can I take to ensure the safety of my employees at work/home?
Take note of the State President’s measures as set out in his declaration of a national disaster and national lockdown and comply with it. Communicate this to everyone on the farm as well.
Take note of the Agri SA Safety In The Workplace Guidelines below and display them clearly in the workplace. Communicate this to everyone on the farm and make sure everyone understands the danger of COVID-19. Also display it in every household and hostels on the farm.
Where it is inevitable that groups can’t be smaller than 100 (eg harvest and packing teams), personal hygiene must be strictly observed. Make enough alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water available, even in the orchards. Encourage employees to wash their hands regularly.
As a precaution, employers can take employees’ fever every morning. If it is higher than 37.5 C, it is recommended that the employee concerned be sent home immediately and contact the COVID-19 helpline (0800 029 999) or WhatsApp line (0600 123 456) as soon as possible to report it.
NOTE that the Western Cape also has a COVID-19 helpline: 021 928 4102.
Q: How do I decide which measures to take to ensure the safety of my employees while trying to limit the effect on my business?
The South African Department of Employment and Labour published the following guidelines for employers to determine the risks and measures related to the health and safety of their employees. Use the diagram to assess your own risk and implement the necessary measures.
Department of Employment and Labour Workplace Preparedness: COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-19 virus)
Q: What basic health and safety guidelines can I share with my employees?
Implement and educate employees by downloading, distributing and talking to them about the following basic health and safety guidelines.
Agbiz Guidelines: Getting your workplace ready for COVID-19
Agri SA tips for a safe workplace during COVID-19: Download posters in the following languages: Afrikaans, English, Xhosa, Zulu, Sotho, Venda and Siswati.
Q: What about safety while transporting workers?
The Government has not yet banned public transport. When employees are transported and sit less than one meter apart, make them aware of the necessary health precautions, such as coughing into ones elbow and using a tissue when sneezing. Also try to get teams to work and be transported in shifts.
Q: What should I do when I suspect someone on my farm has the virus?
When any person on the farm shows signs of a cold, flu or high fever, send that person home immediately and make sure he or she is in isolation. Call the COVID-19 helpline to arrange testing ASAP.
Immediately send all people who have been in contact with the person concerned, home and recommend that they isolate themselves. Should the person concerned test positive, the COVID-19 helpline must be notified immediately of all the people that had contact with the person concerned, so that they can get tested as soon as possible.
In hostels: Enough water and soap should be available. Isolate a room or other space in the hostel that can serve as a temporary quarantine space. If an employee shows symptoms of COVID-19, all employees who share a room with the person in question must be placed in isolation immediately. They may not leave the hostel, get in touch with other residents or receive visitors. Should the person concerned test positive, the COVID-19 helpline must be notified immediately of all the people that had contact with the person concerned, so that they can get tested as soon as possible.
Q: Who pays for the test of an employee?
The test is free when calling the COVID-19 helpline.
When an employer chooses to take the employee/s to a private practitioner or laboratory instead, the employer is responsible for the account.
Q: What if the person tested positive for COVID-19?
Report it immediately to the help or WhatsApp line and to the Department of Health.
The person is not allowed into the work environment at all.
The institution that conducted the test will give the person concerned guidance on what to do next.
The employer must ensure that all persons who were in contact with the person are also tested for the virus ASAP.
Q: What applies when I send people home as a precautionary measure?
When an employee has to place him/herself in isolation due to contact with a person who has the virus, or when an employee is sent home as a precautionary measure, the period will be regarded as special leave and compensated by the UIF.
Q: What are the correct steps to take when I need to temporarily lay off employees during the lockdown?
You may temporarily retrench staff if your business needs to close as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
See the following guidelines from Agri Western Cape on the requirements, payout, cases where shorter working hours are required, illness benefits, etc (scroll down for the English). The documentation referred to in the pdf is the Easy-aid guide for employers to UIF benefits.
Agri Western Cape: Guidelines for Employee Lay-offs
Q: What guidelines are available to employers with regard to UIF and compensation for occupational injuries and diseases?
View the following documents from the Department of Employment and Labour:
Government Notice: Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act (COIDA).
Department of Employment & Labour: Easy-aid guide for employers for UIF benefits
Q: Who should I contact for the latest updates or medical advice?
To receive information directly from the South African National Department of Health, save the number 060 012 3456 on WhatsApp and send ‘hi’.
The Coronavirus Outbreak 24-hour Hotline Number: 0800 029 999.
Western Cape COVID-19 helpline: 021 928 4102.