Tuesday, 13 October 2020
Cape Town: Employment and Labour Minister, Thulas Nxesi, has commended the role played by the Labour Health and Safety Inspectorate in wider efforts to combat COVID-19.
“A positive take-away from this is that we will emerge from this difficult period, as a department, with a much strengthened occupational health and safety inspection and enforcement capacity,” Nxesi said on Tuesday.
The Minister briefed the National Council of Provinces on progress made on measures to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on employment and labour.
The Minister said from lockdown levels 5 to 2, nearly 7 000 inspections were carried out.
At Tuesday’s briefing, the Minister said 5 406 inspections were carried out in the private sector, while 1 434 inspections were carried out in the public sector.
“These inspections took place in every province, every economic sector and across the private and public sectors. The level of compliance with health and safety regulations was well below par. This is particularly worrying, given the spread of the pandemic,” Nxesi said.
Compliance with regulations
The level of compliance with health and safety regulations was found to be at 58% in the private sector and 45% in the public sector.
In addition, 3 710 non-compliance notices were issued during this period, including 611 prohibition notices – closing entities’ operations either wholly or in part.
Four of the prohibition notices were served on Department of Labour and Employment premises.
“These inspections are conducted without fear or favour, and none of us can afford to be complacent,” said Nxesi.
The Minister also took the time to thank socially responsible employers, who ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, as well as unions and workers, who provide tip-offs to inspectors.
In terms of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines, the department would need some 10 000 labour inspectors to fully cover the economically active population of South Africa.
“We need all the help we can get from employers and labour,” Nxesi said.
With regard to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) and its Rapid Response Task Team ensured a united front in all aspects of the response to the pandemic, ensuring there was agreement and buy-in to the new COVID-19 health and safety directives.
With regard to COVID-19 Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS) payments, Nxesi said as of 9 October, since the beginning of the lockdown, over R49 billion had been disbursed in benefits in the form of over 11 million payments.
“These benefits were disbursed across all provinces, roughly in proportion to demographics and economic activity,” he said.
In Gauteng, R23 billion was disbursed in five million payments. In the Northern Cape, R484 million was disbursed in just over 100 000 payments.
Nxesi said R7.5 billion was disbursed in 1.3 million payments in the normal UIF benefits.
The Minister said millions of laid-off workers and their families received a much-needed lifeline, while companies were kept afloat.