Covid and sick leave

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Although we have been held siege by the pandemic virus for a year, many employers are still unclear about how they should handle coronavirus cases in the workplace. We hope to shed some light on the most common concerns, but remember that if you have any further queries, RMI will be happy to provide advice.

One of the questions employers most frequently ask is: what to do if an employee has been in contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid? In these instances, the employee is required to quarantine for 14 days, after which they may return to work if they remain symptom-free. The employee will not require a medical certificate, as there will be no sign of infection

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Photo: Anna Shvets, Pexels

If, on the other hand, an employee absents himself because he is displaying Covid symptoms, he will have to isolate for 10 days. This period is shorter than quarantine because it is presumed that the four days required for symptoms to present have already passed. The employee should present a medical certificate when he returns to work.

Finally, if an employee advises that they are experiencing symptoms while at work, they should be sent home and continue with self-isolation for 10 days. A medical certificate is not required, because the instruction to be released from duty was issued by the employer.

Although medical certificates may not be required from a legal point of view because of the potential impact on the employee’s salary, it is advisable that the employee provide a Covid status certificate on their return to work. Proof of a positive status may serve as a substitute for a medical certificate in all cases. 

In terms of payment, a medical certificate is not required for the first two days of absence. If a certificate is presented, payment must be made for the days of absence. This may take the form of the usual payment for sick leave if there is existing sick leave available. If the employee is a member of the Sick, Accident, and Maternity Pay Fund, the usual claim must be submitted to the Fund. If the employee does not produce a medical certificate but advised the employer of the need to quarantine or isolate, the employer should apply to the UIF Fund on behalf of the employee, helping make a claim of Reduced Working Time. Please note that the UIF Temporary Employee Relief Scheme (TERS Fund) is no longer available for such cases. Finally, if the employee appears to have contracted the virus while at work, they can make a claim to the Rand Mutual Association under the Compensation for Occupational Injuries and Diseases Act. 

If you feel that a case is unclear, it’s best to err on the side of caution, remembering that, as an employer, you have a duty and responsibility to look after the health and safety of your employees. An employee who gets a few days of unwarranted sick leave is a far lesser threat to the business – and to your community and other employees – than one who is forced to work while ill. That said, you are within your rights to ask for proof of illness.

Podcast:
Jacques Viljoen, Regional Manager at the Retail Motor Industry Organisation (RMI), discusses what employers and employees should know about sick leave during Covid-19.
Listen to the #OFMBusinessHour podcast here!

Right to Repair Guidelines a major win!

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Les McMaster, Vice Chairman of the Motor Industry Workshop Association (MIWA) and a director of Right to Repair South Africa, (R2RSA), a Section-21 not-for-profit organisation, says the final Right to Repair Guidelines published in December by the Competition Commission have distinct implications for consumers, Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), and Aftermarket Workshops (referred to as independent service providers or ISPs). They also highlight the critical and urgent need for sharing of information and training.

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What is the impact on motorists?

Motorists will be able to approach vehicle maintenance very differently this year, thanks to the Competition Commission’s lifting of restrictions pertaining to servicing and buying vehicle parts in December. Here’s what drivers can look forward to:

Freedom to shop around: OEMs are no longer able to bundle service or motor plans, along with other value-added products, as add-ons when motorists buy a car. Instead, these must now be presented as separate purchases, and the cost must be made clear to the consumer. 

Freedom of choice during the warranty period: From now on, a warranty does not become void if a consumer opts to have their car repaired by an independent service provider; nor will the motorist be penalised if non-original parts or accessories are fitted. Linked to this, OEMs are not able to set a minimum retail price for spare parts, and they are not able to prevent a consumer from buying a value-added product when they purchase a new car from an approved dealer. This, ultimately, means that consumers can now buy value-added products wherever they like, including from independent or third-party providers, so long as the provider is licensed.

Insurance work: Motorists’ freedom to choose where they would like to have their car repaired is valid even for insurance claims. There is an onus on insurers to make this clear when settling a claim.

Access to technical information and training by Independent Service Providers: ISPs are entitled to access the same technical information, programming tools, training, and original spare parts, as OEM approved workshops, so long as they meet the OEMs accreditation requirements and standards. They must, furthermore, record all in-warranty work in the customers’ vehicle service book. 

A full record of the guidelines put forward by the Competition Commission may be viewed here. MIWA is making every effort to ensure that our members are up to date with the changes that will follow the implementation of these guidelines in July and will therefore be publishing information on this topic regularly. We are sure many of you will have questions, especially around servicing a car that is still under warranty – please do not hesitate to send us these queries.

A very happy customer

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The RMI team was delighted to receive an email from Dewald Meyer, congratulating Gerry Sutherland (pictured below) of the Tygervalley and Durbanville Car Service City Franchise for his exceptional customer service and nominating him as Franchise/Franchisee of the Year 2020/2021.

Dewald noted that he was particularly impressed by Gerry’s proactive approach in paying for repairs by an accredited, reputable panel beater, unprompted by the RMI or franchisor. Moreover, the repairs were complete in just four days. “If that isn’t going the extra mile, I don’t know what is,” Dewald said.

Looking after your car’s vital organs

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Consumers are always looking for ways to save money, especially when it comes to grudge purchases essential for safety and car maintenance. With this in mind, we have compiled a list of the most important car components; those which have the potential to undermine a car’s safety and which therefore require extra special care.

Tyres: Exposure to sunlight, heat and coastal conditions all contribute to the degradation of rubber, which is why it’s worth checking these, even if the tread appears to be in perfect condition. In fact, even ‘new’ tyres may be compromised because of perishing. MIWA Chairman, Dewald Ranft,  says it’s important to check the age of a tyre before buying it and to seek advice from an accredited workshop or mechanic.

Brakes: Although brake failure can be caused by any faulty component, it’s most often the result of worn brake pads. This can lead to other issues, like a damaged rotor. Dewald says that to prevent such damage, motorists must check their brake fluid with every regular oil change, and replace it every four to five years. This will ensure that the fluid flows steadily; critical for keeping the entire hydraulic braking system in good condition. That said, if the brake fluid is emitting a burnt odor, has become cloudy or opaque in appearance, and is at a lower level than it should be, it should be attended to immediately. Dewald informs that it is best to stick to the same type of brake fluid, as recommended by the manufacturer.

Lights: Simply asking someone to watch the car while you switch lights and indicators on and off is enough to let you know that your lights are in good working order. Dewald points out that this is crucial, as safety is severely compromised when lights do not come on and the car becomes less visible to other drivers. Motorists should check driving lights, brake lights, indicators, reverse lights, and the light above the number plate.

Cooling system: Running an overheated car can damage the car’s cooling system. Given that 70% of the energy burnt from petrol in a car engine is converted to heat, the role of the cooling system is critical. The cooling system – which comprises a radiator with a fan, water pump, thermostat, sensors, and fluids – must be kept primed by replacing recommended coolant at intervals suggested by the manufacturer. Remind motorists to flush the cooling system when replacing old coolant so that the correct mixture ratios are maintained.

Charging system: A faulty charging system – comprising the alternator, voltage regulator, and battery – can compromise the car’s functioning, because the system charges electrical components that get the car started. Motorists should be aware that leaving their cars in the cold during winter affects the charging system by placing strain on the battery life. They also need to keep the battery clean, using a damp cloth to wipe off any white residue on the battery terminals. It’s important to check that the alternator is charging quickly. This can be difficult to gauge because most motorists drive short distances, but if it is undercharging, the alternator may fail the next time they take a long trip. Regular servicing will also make sure that the system remains in peak condition, as an accredited mechanic will be able to identify and address small issues before they grow into larger problems.

Wiper blades: Because wiper blades are fairly fragile, manufacturers recommend that they are changed every six months or, at the very least, once a year. Once a wiper blade starts leaving streaks on the windshield, ‘stuttering’ when it wipes or cleaning only one side of the windscreen, it is definitely time for a change.

Photos: Unsplash

The right way to jump-start a car

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We’re still not driving around as much as we used to – which means that many motorists are faced with a flat battery when they try to start their cars. This isn’t a difficult problem to solve; however, it’s important to consult the owner’s manuals to check if there are specific starting instructions, and to locate the jumpstart terminals, as an incorrect method can damage the car’s electrical system.

First, make sure the car (and the car with the booster battery) are both turned off, with the handbrakes up and gear selectors in park or neutral position. All headlights, indicators, car radios, and air conditioners should be turned off, and radar detectors and cell phones unplugged. Accessories from the cigarette lighters and power sockets must be removed. The cars should be lined up as close together as possible. 

Before proceeding further, check that the terminals are free from battery acid and wipe away any corrosion. Be careful, though: if you notice that the battery is cracked and leaking liquid, stop right there. A cracked battery might explode if you try to jump-start it.

Now, connect the battery jumper cables, remembering that the positive cable is usually red or orange, and the black or ground cable is traditionally black (although you should double-check that this is indeed the case in your car). One positive end of the jumper cable must be attached to the positive terminal of the dead battery, and the other positive end must be connected to the positive terminal of the good battery. Now, connect one negative end of the jumper cable to the good battery, and the other to a shiny nut or bolt on the dead vehicle. Note that the jumper cable should be attached to the negative terminal on the dead battery only if there is no other option, as it may cause an explosion. Run the now connected car batteries for a few minutes before starting the dead vehicle; then, allow the engine to run for up to five minutes so that the flat battery can pick up enough voltage to keep running once the jumper cables are removed. Before removing the cables, switch on one or two electrical components – like the lights – so that the voltage doesn’t spike, causing damage to the electrical system, and remove the cables in the reverse order. Turning off electrical components that may have been switched on will help the battery recharge while you drive a few kilometres to get the engine started again.

Right to Repair member, Champion Lubricants, boosts fair competition in the automotive repair industry in South Africa

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As a globally recognised lubricant brand with over 65 years of experience, Champion Lubricants works according to the highest possible quality standards. All of our products are blended on-site in Belgium and our expertise is validated by more than 130 OEM approvals globally! We provide a one-stop solution in the market, meaning one can easily find an extensive range of cutting-edge lubricants for all segments and different vehicle types.

As a global brand, Champion Lubricants believes that it is now more important than ever to invest in the future of its brand. Further strengthening relationships with like-minded motorsport partners such as World RX illustrates the company’s commitment towards a long-term strategy, helping to build and secure a bright future for the sport. In South Africa, World RX has staged a round of the championship in Cape Town since 2017, the first FIA World Championship to be held in Sub-Saharan Africa in over 20 years.

We are available in South Africa through our partner Grandmark International, one of the leading distributors of replacement automotive parts in the region. With Grandmark, we are proud to be a member of Right2Repair, a non-profit company that aims to promote freedom of choice and fair competition in the automotive repair industry.

Having joined the campaign a couple of years ago, we find it meaningful to be a member of such an organisation to promote a competitive framework in the South African motor industry, which benefits both consumers and industry. This campaign empowers consumers to enjoy freedom of choice out of the various offerings from independent companies, which combines the service and price that caters to consumers’ individual needs.

The industry will also be able to enjoy the freedom to supply replacement parts and accessories, and full access to technical information, diagnostic tools, and training for independent workshops.

In a nutshell, we, Champion Lubricants, are happy to stimulate free consumer choice, access to vehicle information, economic inclusion, and the independent aftermarket by becoming a member of Right2Repair with our valued partner Grandmark.

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Time to be kind

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While our country (and the world) has had a rare opportunity to band together through our common disaster, the pandemic has emphasised fault lines in our societies. People who feel secure enough to visit restaurants and other places are criticised by those who don’t, who are equally scathing of their less risk-averse counterparts. 

Scientists are ridiculed by people whose qualifications are limited to what they watched on YouTube, and the only people more vocal than conspiracy theorists are denialists. In the midst of this chaos, one thing remains true: almost all of our behaviours are driven by fear. And it would be so much easier to handle if we were to be a little more tolerant of each other’s views. With that in mind, we would love for you to read these words from Suicide Prevention Bristol – a reminder to bear in mind that we are all viewing this crisis from a different perspective.

Working parents want kids to go back to school because school closures directly impact them.

Teachers don’t want schools to open because covid spreading round their school directly impacts them.

Healthcare staff want a full lockdown because sick covid patients directly impact them.

Business owners want to carry on as normal because lockdown directly impacts them.

People with physical health problems want everyone to stay socially distant because catching covid could kill them.

People with mental health problems want people to spend time with because isolation could kill them.

Some can’t wait for a vaccine because they believe it will bring back some normality. Some are terrified of a vaccine because they believe it could harm them.

We are all going through this, but none of us is going through the same thing. Some face crippling financial challenges; others face heartbreak. We don’t all have to agree with what is best because what’s best for us won’t be best for everyone. We don’t have to understand what others are going through. But we do need to stick together and keep loving each other no matter our differences.

We need to be mindful when some things go the way we want it to; it could be terrible news to another person.

We need to be kind. Always.

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Graphic: United Nations Covid-19 Response, Unsplash

MIWA in the media, January 2021

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MIWA had excellent coverage in terms of media over the period. Here are some articles that were published:

Witbank News
Jumpstart your vehicle the right way

Krugersdorp News
What to check on your vehicle before hitting the road

Alberton Record
Motorists, know your rights

Pretoria Rekord
Look after your car’s 6 vital ‘organs’

African Reporter
Know the difference between a quote or estimate

BizCommunity.com
The 6 vital organs of a car that should be looked after

Autoforum
Connected cars: Industry will need to ensure fair play says MIWA

The North Coast Courier
Towing a trailer – here’s what you need to know

IOL
Consumer Watch: Aftermarket shake-up good news for motorists

From the Director’s Desk, January 2021

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There’s a lot of pressure on 2021 to deliver: to deliver happier times, greater prosperity, hope. 

One thing we know this year isn’t able to deliver and that’s the complete end to Covid-19 that all of us have been wishing for. To the contrary – since we are only now emerging from a spike that has been, by all accounts, even worse than anything we experienced, it’s obvious that we have a long way to go until the end of this ordeal. 

The reality is that 2021 will be unable to deliver on anything on our wish list – hope, health, economic recovery – if we don’t play our part. Please continue practicing social distancing, masking and sanitizing your hands.

On a more positive note, I’m pleased to be able to tell you that MIWA’s has shown excellent financial performance during the first six months of the financial year, while recruitment is looking good – proof indeed that members see value in being part of a professional organisation.  I thank you for keeping our flag flying high and for leading by example. Let’s keep on doing what we have been doing and will get through to the other side.

Pieter Niemand, MIWA National Director