Is it fair for employers not to pay staff over coronavirus?

Friday April 24 2020

Caroline Mboijana

Caroline Mboijana 

By Caroline Mboijana

We had to stay home because of the lockdown. We are worried we might not get paid, yet we have bills to clear. What does the law say on payments in cases of work affected by a global pandemic, is it fair not to pay employees yet they have financial obligations? Molly

Dear Molly,

This is a big concern for all employees, especially when the future is not so clear. You should also appreciate that businesses are equally concerned for their staff and their businesses; without staff, a business is of little value.

I’m sure you have read many governments are stepping in to support businesses, and industries to manage and keep their businesses afloat. Some governments have triggered packages to help both employers and employees.

At present, there is no binding law that forces employers to pay staff during this time, however, many will likely support staff as best they can during this period.

In supporting staff, this may include forcing staff to go on leave so they can get leave pay and or staff may receive less than 100 per cent of their salary so that money is made available to support the rest of the business.


If you work in a sector that has union and you are a union member, its highly probable your union may step in to negotiate and protect workers pay. It’s important for your mental well-being not to focus on the downside of the lock down but to think about the opportunities this lockdown has created.

I appreciate the anxiety of the current situation and while it’s out of your control, you may want to think about what is in your control in as far as what skills can you learn during this time that will make you relevant when you come out of the lock down.

How are you going to remain relevant to the market not only for your current employer, but also an alternative employer?