Printing SA, in partnership with Health Squared and Agility, hosted a free and informative webinar that addressed how to prioritise overall health and wellbeing in the printing, signage, packaging and visual communications sectors.

Panellists included:

– Marcia le Roux, Sales Executive for Agility Channel.
– Hannele Steyn, Founder and CEO behind The Passion 4 Wholeness range of healthy food.
– Jermaine Naicker, Printing SA KwaZulu-Natal Regional Chamber Manager.
– Dr. Jacques Snyman, Medical Director of Agility Health.
– Juan Royffe, Traumatologist.

How do you build a culture of wellbeing and resilient employees who can deal with stress?

‘A key aspect to this is creating an environment that promotes a positive and a productive workplace,’ said le Roux, ‘This can include access to services and experts who can assist employees with aspects they are currently faced with, such as health, psychological, financial and legal matters that all add to major stress.’

‘As part of a duty of care perspective from an employer’s side, the employer can also assess the current healthcare cover that employees may or may not have, and the employer can then have a partner such as Agility and Health Squared to assess and provide an integrated solution that will be financially viable to all of the LSM groups at the company, and also then particularly focus on that individual’s healthcare needs,’ added le Roux.

With many uncertainties around the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines, especially how this affects businesses – can South African employers require their employees to undergo mandatory vaccination for Covid-19 as a pre-requisite to employment?

Naicker outlined the following:

‘The government has made clear on a number of occasions that whilst the uptake of vaccines was to be encouraged, it would not required/be obligatory on South African citizens to become vaccinated. It may accordingly be safely assumed that the government will not seek to legislate compulsory Covid-19 vaccinations. This is consistent with the reluctance by governments to require vaccinations for other contagions such as polio, measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR).

The government aims to vaccinate up to 70% of the country’s citizens over 16 years of age in order to reach herd immunity (the condition under which the spread of a contagious disease is contained) by the end of 2021. Given the impact of Covid-19 on employers and employees in the private sphere, the prospect of early vaccination is particularly attractive. The subject of compulsory vaccinations has, however, become increasingly contentious and there are significant legal and moral facets that must be considered.

In the President’s address to the nation towards the latter parts of January 2021, when he delivered the much anticipated news of the first batch of vaccines coming into the country, he mentioned that ‘no person’ will be forced to take the vaccine – it would be based purely on a voluntary basis. Even with this, there is no specific legislation that speaks to this, but rather a reliance on existing legislation that addresses the aspect of vaccinations.

Given the lack of any legislation requiring vaccinations, employers will need to assess whether it would be permissible or desirable to require their employees to be vaccinated. In our view, there would be considerable legal risk attendant upon employers adopting workplace policies that require their employees to be vaccinated in order to prevent them from contracting or spreading Covid-19.

Any mandatory vaccination policy could, depending on the circumstances, violate section 12 of South Africa’s Constitution, which guarantees everyone the right to bodily integrity. Section 187(1)(f) of the Labour Relations Act of 1995 (the LRA) prohibits dismissals that discriminate against employees based, inter alia, on their religion, conscience, belief, political opinion or culture. The Employment Equity Act of 1998 (the EEA) offers similar protection against discriminatory conduct that falls short of a dismissal.

Section 5(2)((c)(iv) of the LRA prohibits employers from prejudicing an employee (or person seeking employment) for refusing to do something that the employer is not lawfully entitled to require them to do. Therefore, these are three pieces of legislation that impact the decision to make the vaccination a mandatory requirement for employees.’

Can you explain the importance of nutrition and a healthy diet to maintain mental and physical wellbeing?

‘These aspects have been very important because I used to be a professional sports person,’ said Steyn. ‘Your health and your body is your business, so it becomes very important to keep your body healthy. I always say that science is your base and logic is your lead. So if we look at science, all the research will show how important it is to have a healthy body to be able to operate better. If your physical wellbeing is not good then it affects your mental health in a big way, and in the workforce the healthier the body is, the healthier the mind is. Nutrition plays a big role in this.’

Steyn believes the pandemic has created an opportunity for people to have a healthier lifestyle, because now instead of having to choose foods at cafeterias and kiosks, or taking something to work that is just convenient to eat, they can make healthier foods at home and know their nutritional value.

‘For me – not only as a sports person but also as an older individual – health is most probably one of the biggest blessings in life. Health is not expensive, sick is. I would love employers to advise their employees to look at healthier options, and that is my passion – to create or develop foods that ensures every meal is balanced.’

Steyn is currently on the Health Squared Optimum plan. ‘If you invest in a retirement annuity, why not invest in a medical aid that can also take care of you? It is almost like a retirement annuity paying out when you need it,’ she added.

How can employers support employees during the Covid-19 pandemic?

‘We experience a lot of anxiety, and one of the anxieties among many staff members is job security,’ said Royffe, ‘so companies should be transparent about this. We always think we are trying to protect people by not telling them bad news, but even bad news is better than not knowing – not knowing creates more anxiety.’

‘So it is really important for companies to be transparent regarding, for example, sick leave: what is going to happen if an employee has Covid-19? Are they going to have a job when they come back and be able to extend their sick leave? How are they going to be accommodated etc.? Answering these questions will reduce so much stress, which of course will then allow staff members to function a lot better.’

Can you please expand on Agility Health’s offerings to promote health and wellness in the workplace?

‘With an employer wellness programme, you need to link that into your medical scheme, but you must also look at staff members that cannot afford those medical schemes. Therefore, you need to look at your primary healthcare for those as well,’ said Dr. Snyman.

‘The whole suite of Agility Health’s healthcare products are well integrated to support all the members or all the beneficiaries within the workplace environment. Not everyone earns the same amount, and therefore you need to cater for all the different levels of earning within that environment. If you leave out a portion of staff from health cover, then that is often the burden you bring back to your company. That is also the burden that has no access to support for psychosocial trauma, or physical diseases that could be contagious,’ added Dr. Snyman.

With that in mind, Dr. Snyman said that it is important that employers make sure that staff are looked after from the very lowest level. ‘Make sure that your wellness programmes integrate well into your staff care, and integrate well with your medical scheme in order to cater for all employees in any organisation.’

For further health and wellness tips, watch the full webinar below:

(+27 11) 287 1160

(+27 21) 918 6210 /