Sustainability: A Catalyst for Building Resilience

The United Nations Brundtland Commission (1987) defined the term sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”. In simple terms, this means that the present and the future benefit equally as much from current practices and neither one draws a shorter end. Resilience means that an individual, a community, a business, an economy or an ecosystem has the capacity to withstand the impacts of negative events and to continue developing. Although the two concepts, sustainability and resilience, are often used interchangeably, they are not similar in their definitions and meanings. Instead, they are complementary to each other. Over the long term, sustainable management practices aid resilience and vice versa.

Karla Hoogendijk (SIZA Environmental Specialist)

Read the full article here
To support your mental health while protecting your and your family’s physical health during this pandemic is very important. This was probably not that difficult while you were working from home; however now it is expected of you to go back to your workplace. Somehow this seems difficult for some, but a welcome solution to others. What do the laws say, and do you as an employee have a choice?
The legal right of employers
In terms of the Disaster Management Act: Regulations: Alert Level 4, during the COVID-19 lockdown, if a person is employed by a company or a division of a company that provides essential goods or essential services, it becomes an obligatory expectation to continue working during the lockdown if the employer requires it. Only non-essential services cannot force employees to work, according to Minister of Employment and Labour, Thulas Nxesi. Employers should however be cautious of possible unfair labour practices.

With a number of workers set to return to work from 1 May onwards under Level 4 regulations, the Department of Employment and Labour has drafted the minimum guidelines for employers to ensure the workplace is safe for returning employees. These guidelines come as government gradually reopens the economy under Level 4 of lockdown while ensuring that the spread of COVID-19 is contained.
Read the full article here
I have a higher risk of infection because of my medical condition, what now?
An employee’s medical condition must be declared and communicated to the employer, prior to returning to work. Employers can request additional documentation from the employee substantiating the underlying medical condition. If the employer deems the workplace safe for the employee to return, all measures must be adhered to, as set out by Department of Employment and Labour, as mentioned above.
Underlying health conditions that might pose a risk to the employee, may include:
  • People who are 60 years and older
  • People with chronic lung disease or moderate to severe asthma 
  • People who have serious heart conditions
  • People with diabetes
  • People with chronic kidney disease undergoing dialysis
  • People with liver disease
  • Any other vulnerable person.
Mental health after working from home

For the last six weeks or even longer employees were expected to work from home, but now the essential services and employers are expecting the employee to go back to the workplace. Naturally, some employees enjoyed working from home and would prefer to continue as such going forward. Many employees may experience unexpected mental health consequences from mandated remote work once the expectation is to return to the workplace. It is important to recognise the underlying symptoms of this reality. The shift from working from home for a period of time and moving back to the office/workplace, may have detrimental effects on an individual. Employees might have adapted to a different pace of work at home, or re-arranging timelines.

The immediate change my affect mental well-being. Some of these effects can include:
  • Angst 
  • Confusion
  • Fear of the unknown/health/safety
  • Depression
  • Anger; and more.
Employers can assist employees by preparing employees as much as possible by adequately informing employees, understand new restrictions and risks, changing risk-measures and regulations, regularly checking in with employees and showing compassion during challenging times. Businesses should support employees to reassure their mental well-being.

Although working from home seems the ideal solution for most, especially working mothers, it is not necessarily the ideal situation for employers. Try to see both sides and not just your own situation because that will give you a balanced view on going back to the workplace.

The following aspects are very important when taking into account the relationship between employee and employer:
  • Accountability
  • Structure in terms of daily tasks
  • Energetic and positive environment in the office
  • Emotional support that is offered between employees, daily
  • Cohesion and innovation
  • Working effectively because information is shared.
See the WHO guidelines on coping with stress
What am I going to do with my children while schools are still closed if the expectation is to return to my workplace?
  • Have a plan in place for their children’s supervision during working hours
  • Inform their employer if any challenges exist
  • Parents should support each other during this period
  • Contact schools and remain up to date on changing regulations

As the Government promulgated a risk-adjusted-strategy to returning to the workplace during the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses should not only adhere to these regulations for each restriction level, but also implement a similar process to ensure working parents can return to the workplace while their children are at home.

It remains crucial for essential businesses and services to continue with production to ensure an economic drive, not only for the business and national economy, but for employees as well. The important considerations remain that schools should not open too hastily, as the protection of children should always be a main priority. Parents are now struggling to ensure adequate childcare during such time where they must return to work, without being able to arrange supervision due to the Level 4 restrictions. As the Level 4 regulations do allow caretakers of children to travel and return to work, employees can utilise this option.

This does have further financial implications for some parents. It is however important for both the employee and employer to engage in discussion in order to determine the best way forward to ensure the return to the workplace is in the best interest of all parties involved.
How are you going to protect yourself and your family when you are back at your workplace?

It is very important to remain informed and cautious during this time. As businesses are mandated to conduct internal risk-assessments, it is a good practice for you to analyse your daily risk.

Here are some tips to implement in order to protect yourself, your colleagues and your family:
  • Make sure to sanitize when you enter the workplace, when leaving and when arriving home
  • Do not expose your entire family to retailers when buying goods, remember to sanitize before and after returning
  • Wear masks AT ALL TIMES when leaving your house
  • Do not visit family or friends in social settings
  • When your children of loved ones are ill, do not go to the workplace if you have any of the symptoms, and inform your employee accordingly
  • Make sure to always report any symptoms to the employer and call the Emergency Hotline on 0800 029 999 or WhatsApp Support Line on 0600 123456
Additional Resources
Implications for Transport in Agriculture
COVID-19 Occupational Health and Safety Measures in Workplace
COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses
Covid-19 in Agriculture FAQs
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