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End of the National State of Disaster: employment in the new normal

On 4 April 2022, South Africa’s Cabinet decided to lift the National State of Disaster, effective from 5 April 2022, but what really changes? For now, the answer is, “not much”.

President Ramaphosa has announced that certain transitional provisions will remain in place for a period of 30 days after the termination of the National State of Disaster to ensure essential public health precautions and other necessary services are not interrupted while the new regulations in terms of the National Health Act, 2003 (“NHA”) come into effect.

What this means is that all regulations and directions made in terms of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 are repealed with effect from 5 April 2022, with the exception of a few transitional measures. These will be replaced by other regulations which will govern some of the key aspects we have become familiar with during the National State of Disaster.

To simplify, the most important changes:

  • The Alert Level 1 Regulations will continue in force for a period of one month from 5 April 2022 (with some inconsequential tweaks);
  • The Consolidated Direction on Occupational Health and Safety In Certain Workplaces, arguably the most important direction for employers during the State of Disaster, will fall away;
  • The new Code of Practice: Managing Exposure to SARS-COV-2 in the Workplace will come into force and in essence replaces the Consolidated Direction; and
  • Following the period for public comment, which ends on 15 April 2022, a final version of the amendments to the NHA Regulations relating to the Surveillance and the Control of Notifiable Medical Conditions will come into force.

The New Code, the NHA Regulations and the new Hazardous Biological Agents Regulations, 2022, which came into force on 16 March 2022, will maintain the key elements of the disaster management framework dealing with:

  • Risk assessments and the implementation of health and safety measures in the workplace, including mandatory vaccination; and
  • The regulation of mask-wearing, social distancing, ventilation, isolation and contract tracing.

We will only know for certain what the “new normal” will look like once the final NHA Regulations are promulgated, but until then, employers are encouraged to get familiar with the New Code and prepare for the next phase of the pandemic: coming out of COVID-19.

To register for our webinar discussing the key takeaways relating to these recent changes, click here.

Lauren Salt

Employment | Executive