Your Social Media Activity During Covid19 vs The Rights of the Employer

Your Social Media Activity During Covid19 vs The Rights of the Employer

Now that the festive season has come to an end, employees are returning to work. While employees have enjoyed their time off from work during the festive season, they posted their activities on social media. As this information has been voluntarily provided by employees via their social media accounts, an employer may make use of said information. These activities may have, included being in an enclosed crowded space such as clubs, restaurants, etc without wearing a mask or being less than 1.5 metres away from the next person. This is of concern to employers as their other employees would have potentially been exposed to Covid-19. This article seeks to address the position of the employer in these circumstances.


The first thing to consider is whether an employer may deny entry to the premises to the employee. Where an employee reports to work after having been potentially exposed to Covid-19 due to their own negligence, an employer has a responsibility to protect the rest of his/her employees from such potential exposure. An employer would have the right in terms of the Employment Act 55 of 1998 as well as the Occupation Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993 request information in terms of the employees Covid-19 status. An employer who has a reasonable suspicion that an employee was exposed to Covid-19 may deny entry to said employee. This would be in the interest of the health of the rest of the employees.

The control exercised by the employer over the employee is one of the main characteristics of the employment relationship.[1] Due to this it may be a reasonable assumption that an employer may require an employee who has potentially been exposed to Covid-19 to be tested and only be allowed on the premises once it has been confirmed that said employee is negative for the Covid-19 virus. The Information Regulator of South Africa holds that an employer may enforce Covid-19 testing in order to maintain a safe working environment.


Employees remain obliged to obey the lawful and reasonable instructions of their employers, refusal to do so is treated as a form of misconduct justifying disciplinary action.[2] Where an employer instructs an employee to stay home due to potential Covid-19 exposure and such employee refuses, this can be construed as misconduct and disciplinary proceedings may then be followed. This may result in a temporary suspension or leave without pay, dependant upon the employer’s disciplinary process. However, where an employer requires an employee to be tested for Covid-19 and the employee complies, the employee would obtain a sick certificate and this would mean that the employee would be entitled to paid sick leave.

An employee has the responsibility to act in a manner which is in the best interest of their colleagues. In the current circumstances the world finds itself in, everyone has a responsibility to try and curb the spread of Covid-19. Where you are aware that your job requires you to come into regular contact with your colleagues, you are required by social contract to limit your potential exposure to the virus so that you do not unknowingly pass it on to your colleagues. Should you act contra boni mores to this, your employer may take action against you in the best interest of their employees and as such may bar you from entry to the employment premises.

[1] Grogan J ‘Workplace Law’ JUTA 12th edition 2017.
[2] Grogan J ‘Workplace Law’ JUTA 12th edition 2017.

In a year of uncertainty, you can rest assured knowing that we at BBP Law are ready and able to assist you.

Saeedah Salie
Candidate Attorney


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