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Employers may be held accountable in case of COVID-19 in workplaces

It is the role of an employers to provide necessary measures, training, tools, and ensure that Ministry of Health guidelines are followed so that no employee catches the virus from work.

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Employers may face lawsuits if their employees claim there was not much done to protect them against catching the coronavirus (COVID-19) while at work.

Speaking at the Federation of Uganda Employers’ zoom meeting on Wednesday afternoon, Medard Sseggona, a lawyer said it was employers’ role to provide necessary measures, training, tools, and ensure that Ministry of Health guidelines are followed so that no employee catches the virus from work.

This means it is the employers’ duty to provide hand washing water, masks, necessary social distancing and sanitizers to workers – that measures that the government has indicated must be adhered to for an organisation to use its premises.

“Any employee that a company didn’t do enough to protect is one to take seriously,” said Sseggona.

Sseggona said employers must also sign indemnity agreements that will protect them from liability from the sub-contractors. This shields them if an employee of the sub-contractor who includes security services providers, food suppliers and cleaners get infected with the virus.

Jenipher Male, the healthcare manager at Minet Uganda, an insurance broker said they have had to “do a re-orientation for the service providers like the cleaners and security personnel. We do a lot of training on mental health, nutrition, social distance ad proper use of PPE.

Meanwhile, several employers say they have started changing their workplace policies including disciplinary and output measurement policies to accommodate the needs occasioned by COVID-19.

As companies emerge from the coronavirus lockdown, some still have a section of their employees working from home while others have returned but have to adjust their time, environment at workplaces for safety reasons.

Edgar Kakooza, the manager performance and employee relations at Centenary bank said the bank has had to change the way they do disciplinary hearings, incorporating the fact that some of them have to do virtually.

He said they now track productivity through constant supervision and continuous evaluation of performance from line managers.

Male said sometimes adapting the new guidelines by employees might take some time. She said as companies “it’s important to tailor the guidelines of the coronavirus to business needs and the country. Also, understand the stages of change and communicate regularly. Be tolerant of people as they adapt to the guidelines.”

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