The devastating impact of COVID-19 and the already weak economy has seen massive shedding of jobs and in the process, this has led to long queues forming outside the Department of Employment and Labour centres.
The snaking queues have a potential of being super spreaders and this has forced the department to find new innovative ways to avoid this potential hazard but still deliver the services required by its clients.
Some of the added challenges have been the system buckling under this huge pressure but mostly, the closing of offices as a result of client service officers and other labour centre officials getting infected with Covid-19.
In the case of infections, the sad reality is that the department is forced to close offices because more than one officers may show positive symptoms and that officer may have interacted with a number of their colleagues.
"We owe it to our officials to ensure that they are healthy and safe to be able to service our citizens who need our services. The reality is that when we have infections, it affects the entire value chain of our offering.
"Offices have to be decontaminated and when more than one officials are affected, we need to ensure that we do not expose more people to the virus. At the same time, we take our service to clients seriously and we understand that we need to attend to their needs especially at this time," said the Director General Thobile Lamati.
The department also struggles to find service providers for the immediate decontamination of the affected offices which further exacerbates the situation.
Service delivery points have been affected by strict adherence to occupational health and safety guidelines, offices limiting the amount of clients allowed inside the building, clients submitting continuation forms, large numbers of Unemployment Insurance Fund enquiries, applications backlog, positive cases affecting the core staff and offices operating with 50% capacity as per Department of Public Service and Administration guidelines to avoid decongestion of workspaces.
Therefore, the department has, working with the provinces, developed plans that would assist in managing the long queues to avoid further spreading of the virus.
Some of the measures that have been implemented include, but not limited to: To deal with the risks posed by the long lines forming while ensuring unhindered service delivery the department has implemented some measures in provinces such as:
Lamati said the department would continuously strive for innovation to eliminate the need for clients to queue.
"It is our desire to deliver safety and client delight," he said.
The departmental services are rendered for free at nine provincial offices, 126 labour centres, 36 satellite offices and 490 visiting points across the country.
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"Please continue adhering to the lockdown regulations. Wash or sanitise your hands regularly and wear your mask at all times."
Issued by: Department of Employment and Labour
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