The Director-General of the Department of Health on 10 November 2020 issued a notice regarding the return to work of vulnerable employees under the amended Alert Level 1. The notice provides guidance on how the return to work of vulnerable employees should be managed in light of the decline in the number of Covid-19 cases.
Workplaces are reminded to comply with the Department of Labour and Employment and Occupational Health regulations and directives regarding prevention management of Covid-19 in workplaces, including those which relate to vulnerable employees.
Employers should determine whether vulnerable employees should return to work based on assessment of:
- The employee’s level of vulnerability based on their age and co-morbidity.
- The risk of exposure based on the employee’s current job description.
- The risk of community transmission based on the district Covid-19 positivity rates.
The previous list of co-morbidities has been reviewed and now includes the following:
- Chronic cardiac disease
- Chronic renal disease
- Tuberculosis (current and past)
Level of vulnerability
To determine an employee’s level of vulnerability, refer to the table as set out in Annexure B.
Employers should first seek to eliminate or reduce potential exposure to the virus by vulnerable employees. This can be done by accommodating employees through alternative temporary redeployment to a different role, restriction of certain duties, protective isolation, provision of specific PPE, stricter physical distancing protocols, additional hygiene measures, and reducing external risks.
Risk categories for vulnerable employees
Based on their current job description, the level of exposure of an employee should be assessed according to the following risk categories:
Decisions regarding return to work must also take account of district Covid-19 positivity rates, which is based on the average positivity rate over the previous 14-day period and is updated on the 1st and 15th of each month. These figures are available on the NICD website.
The notice sets out recommended action based on the job-related risk of exposure and district positivity rates in Annexure A. The following vulnerable persons should continue to stay at home:
- Highly vulnerable employees with one or more medium, high, or very high factors as outlined in Annexure A.
- Vulnerable employees with one or more high or very high-risk factors.
You can download the full notice and its Annexures here.
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