On 30th May 2020, the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) published Collective Agreement No. 1 of 2020: Concession process to follow for employees with comorbidity (COVID-19). The ELRC is a bargaining council that serves South Africa’s public education sector, both provincially and nationally. The parties of ELRC are the State and trade unions, including South African Democratic Trade Union (SADTU), CTU-ATU, National Professional Teachers Organisation of South Africa (NAPTOSA), Suid-Afrikaanse Onderwysersunie (SAOU), National Teachers Union (NATU), Professional Educators Union (PEU), Public Servants Association (PSA)and Health and Other Service Personnel Trade Union of Southern Africa (HOSPERSA).
South Africa moved to level 3 of the lockdown of the economy on 1 June. The education sector is among the sectors that returned to work in level 3 of lockdown, with schools scheduled to reopen in a phased approach from 8 June 2020.
This collective agreement is a response to the concerns about the safety of high-risk educators vulnerable to covid-19. The agreement aims to provide a concession for educators employed in terms of the Employment of Educators Act, 1998 (Act 76 of 1998), (EEA) who have underlying illnesses or those who are 60 years of age or higher.
The ELRC answered the frequently asked questions about Collective Agreement No. 1 of 2020: Concession process for employees with comorbidity (COVID-19). Below is an extract of the responses to the key concerns addressed in the agreement.
What is the purpose of the Agreement?
The Agreement provides a protocol on the management of educators with underlying medical conditions (comorbidities) in the schooling system.
What if my condition is not classified as high risk by the Department of Health?
Your treating doctor should motivate that your condition renders you vulnerable to infection. Annexure A in the Agreement must be completed for this purpose.
What if I am 60 years or older with no comorbidities and concerned that I may contract the virus if I return to work?
You aren’t allowed to stay or work from home without approval if you’re 60 years or above with no comorbidities, but concerned about your health. To get the required approval, complete Annexure A and apply to the Provincial Education Department.
What if I am below 60 and have one or more underlying conditions, can I do the same submission?
Yes, you can. As long as your doctor can provide medical evidence that your condition falls within the category of comorbidities determined by the Department of Health, irrespective of your age.
Will these concessions be in place during 2020 and 2021?
Concessions granted in terms of Collective Agreement No. 1 of 2020 will only be applicable for the duration of Alert levels 3 and 2 of the national state of disaster as a result of COVID-19.
Who decides which educator can work from home?
This decision is at the discretion of the Employer. The Head of Department may subject applications to the Health Risk Manager or a Health Professional for further assessment for a period not exceeding 30 days. The educator will be allowed to remain and/or work from home with full pay whilst waiting for the outcome by the Health Risk Manager or a Health Professional.
Will educators be on leave and will they be required to fill in leave forms?
No. This is not an application for leave but an application for a concession to work from home or in a working environment that is safe and without risk to the health of the employees. Therefore, educators will be expected to work in keeping with their core functions.
What if the educator and the manager/principal don’t agree with the suggestions on how their condition can be accommodated in the workplace?
If there is no agreement on the matter, or if the application to work from home is not approved, the grievance procedure in Chapter G of the Personnel Administrative Measures document will be activated.