Smile! The mask-wearing regulation has been repealed

mask
24 Jun 2022

Masks – the little piece of material that has divided many. Though some have come to love these “new” fashion accessories which allow us to hide our expressions or save some time doing make up in the mornings, others have grown to loathe this little piece of material which seems to serve no purpose other than to fog up glasses or result in frantic searches of every conceivable pocket in a desperate attempt to avoid the embarrassment of being denied entry to your local shopping center.

However, on 22 June 2022, the Minister of Health published a notice in the government gazette in terms of which the mask-wearing regulation, which had initially been implemented in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19, was repealed “in its entirety”.

The mask-wearing mandate was initially mandated by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs under the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002. When the state of disaster was revoked on 5 April 2022, the mask-wearing requirement remained in force by virtue of regulations issued in terms of the National Health Act 61 of 2003.

Therefore, employers were saddled with a duty to monitor compliance with this requirement and ensure that their workforce wore facemasks when attending at the workplace. A task which would have proven cumbersome given the Covid-19 fatigue faced by many individuals in the country. With this requirement having been done away, employers are relieved of this obligation.

So, how should employers approach their employees’ varying decisions either to wear or not wear masks at the workplace? Generally speaking, and in the absence of a policy stating otherwise, employers will need to accept the personal decision made by their employees as to whether they intend on wearing a mask to the workplace. Irrespective of their employees’ decisions, employers should encourage employees to respect one another’s views and continue to apply other preventative measures insofar as Covid-19 is concerned.

Despite the above, employers may still be able to implement policies mandating the wearing of facemasks in an effort to ensure health and safety in the workplace, provided that such a policy is fair and reasonable. What the courts will regard as fair and reasonable following the repeal of the regulations, however, remains to be seen.

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(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
Sandro Milo

Sandro Milo is a partner at Eversheds Sutherland's litigation group. He specialises in all aspects of litigation and arbitration, employment, and black economic empowerment law. Sandro is also an expert... Read more about Sandro Milo

Kyle Lamb

Kyle-Terry Lamb is an associate at Eversheds Sutherland's employment law department based at the Melrose Arch office in Johannesburg. He has gained experience in various aspects of employment law and... Read more about Kyle Lamb

Justine Shear

Justine Shear is an associate in our Employment Law department. Justine graduated with an Honours in Philisophy from The University of the Witwatersrand in 2015 and obtained her LLB Degree... Read more about Justine Shear

Kathleen Butler

Kathleen Butler was recently admitted as an attorney after serving her articles of clerkship at the firm within the Employment and Labour Department. Kathleen holds an LLB (cum laude) and... Read more about Kathleen Butler

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