COVID–19 and Its Implications on Employment Relationship

Afrilex Associates
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As you are aware, the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania has announced that up until March 23 2020, there were twelve (12) cases of people affected by COVID–19 in Tanzania. Whilst the Government has not restricted movement of people, we understand that various employers have implemented “working from home policy”. In that vein, this legal update deals with implication of COVID– 19 on employment relationship.

  1. Working from Home Paradigm
    • In terms of the Occupational, Safety and Health Act, No. 5 of 2003 (OSHA), Work Place has been defined to mean “any premises or place where a person performs work in the course of his/her employment”.
    • OSHA further imposes upon the employer certain various obligations of ensuring safety, health and welfare standards at Work Places are met. These are provided for under Parts IV; V and VI of OSHA.
    • OSHA further imposes upon the employer certain various obligations of ensuring safety, health and welfare standards at Work Places are met. These are provided for under Parts IV; V and VI of OSHA.
    • Having established that with the working from home strategy, employees’ homes have become Work Places. The question is – do employers still have to comply with OSHA notwithstanding the fact that they do not have control of such homes? This matter is new in Tanzania and further our Courts have never been invited to litigate on the same. Moreover, Courts in other Commonwealth Countries and United States have had an opportunity to look at similar incidences and placed obligations upon employers. Given the similarity of the underlying laws, we do not see why the situation would be different in Tanzania.
  2. What should the Employers do? In light of the above, we advise employers to do the following-
    • Provide employees with DOs’ and DONTs’ with safety and health standards and encourage them to implement such standards while working from home.
    • Provide a proper work space to employees working from home and furthermore, in relation to the DOs’ and DONTs’ under (a) above, assist employees who cannot meet the DOs’ and DONTs.
    • Confirm with the insurer that the insurance policy holders will cover all risks associate with working from home such as fire, personal damage, employers’ property damage etc.
  3. Employers must also remember that their obligations under the Employment and Labour Relations Act No.6 of 2004 (ELRA) as amended from time to time will not be affected by COVID-19 and or working from home policy. Employees will still be entitled to annual leave, sick leave, salary payment, assignment of duties etc. Should there be a need to terminate any employee, then this termination shall be in accordance with the law.
  4. For employers who intend to lay off employees due to COVID-19, where hereby strongly discourage this act. This is so because, under the ELRA, COVID-19 or any other pandemic is not one of the reasons for retrenchment. Alternatively, parties can separate mutually through a compromise agreement or employers invoking the force majeure clause (FM), provided such FM clause exist on the contracts of employment and covers pandemic element.

We hope you will find this update useful.

Should you require our services on any of the above, kindly contact us.

Important Notice

This publication has been prepared for information purposes only, and it does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and, to the extent permitted by law, Afrilex Associates, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it.

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