Can Employers be Held Responsible if Employees Contract Swine Flu? I
recently received a very topical question from a MyPE reader relating
to the current worldwide pandemic commonly known as swine flu.

The reader, who is understandably very concerned, wants to know whether
his employer has a responsibility towards him and his fellow employees
should it become known that one of them has contracted the virus.

He says exposing employees to the virus indirectly means that families
and extended families are also at risk, even of death.

The reader wants to know whether he would have any recourse against his
employer should the latter fail to take the necessary steps to inform
the rest of the staff timeously of a fellow employee’s infection,
should it come to his attention.

At the time of writing this column, there were already nine confirmed
swine flu deaths in the country. However, the Department of Health have
issued a statement in which they reassure the public that measures are
in place to deal with the outbreak and that there is no need for panic.

Having said this, employers have a responsibility to inform their staff
should it come to their attention that one of their employees has
contracted the H1N1 virus, or swine flu. They also need to ensure that
the infected employee understands that he/she is not to return to work
until a complete recovery has been made.

Employees who have been in contact with the infected person should
monitor their own health for seven days, but they are not required to
be quarantined. If an employee starts to experience flu-like symptoms,
he/she should visit a doctor immediately so that the relevant tests may
be carried out to determine whether the virus is present.

The symptoms are very similar to seasonal flu strains and may include:
coughing, a sore throat, body aches, fatigue, diarrhoea and vomiting,
fever and chills and a runny nose.

The virus is spread through droplets released during coughing or
sneezing and people may also become infected by touching contaminated
surfaces and then their own mouth, nose or eyes. An office situation is
therefore a near perfect breeding ground for the H1N1 virus.

Employers need however not stress as the only time they may be held
liable for an employee who becomes ill with something like swine flu,
is if they wilfully ignore the fact that an employee is infected and
force him/her to attend work.

Under normal circumstances, it would be very hard to prove where the
virus was contracted, but, if negligence can be proven, an employer may
be held liable.

Employers should therefore take all reasonable precautions to ensure a
clean and healthy working environment.

& Rossouw Attorneys
in Port Elizabeth specialises in
the fields of labour relations and injuries on duty. The firm also
deals with all other legal matters.

to have
your labour
and other workplace related questions answered

courtesy of Coetzee Gouws from Full
Stop Communications

Related Links:
Swine Flu
| Swine
Flu Discussion in the Forum

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