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South African Call Centre Sector Committed to Providing Essential Services During Lockdown

10 April 2020

We welcome the explicit support we’ve received from the government for our industry’s provision of essential services during South Africa’s lockdown due to Covid-19.

On Friday, 9 April, Dr Zwelini Mkhize, Minister of Health, and Mr Ebrahim Patel, Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition published in the Government Gazette, a directive to clarify the extent, and conditions under which call centres may operate during the lockdown. This is welcome guidance in light of the extended lockdown to end-April.

Many of our call centres provide access for customers to essential services such as health, safety, social support, government, financial services, telecommunications and others in both foreign and domestic markets, were declared an essential service at the beginning of lockdown. The directive reinforces that the operators who have been working under the strict health, safety and operational regulations laid out at the beginning of lockdown, can and will continue to be deemed an essential service.

Our CEO, Andy Searle has told the media that BPESA supports the President’s extension to South Africa’s lockdown and welcomes government’s explicit support for the service our sector provides.

The industry has been proactive and wherever possible a work from home policy was implemented before lockdown, but for those call centres that deal in private and confidential matters, data security remains of the utmost importance which means that some call centre agents are required to work in offices that guarantee security and privacy of customer data.

Of the 260,000 young people employed in the call centre industry, 65,000 service foreign markets and of those that have been deemed as necessary personnel to provide these essential services many have been supported to work from home with approximately 12,000 entitled to work from the host operation.

To mitigate and eliminate exposure to Covid-19 by the call centre agents who provide ongoing essential support, BPESA, along with our industry stakeholders, established a set of health and safety guidelines in line with Department of Labour and WHO protocols that were implemented following President Ramaphosa’s first address on 15 March 2020. The directive, at the request of Minister Patel, supports BPESA as the monitoring and reporting body to ensure that these strict health, safety and operational measures are implemented and adhered to. It remains the responsibility of each operator to self-regulate within these strict guidelines.

We have always adopted a People First policy and will continue to ensure that our sector’s heroes who go to work every day receive the support they need to do their vital work. The full list of our sector’s health and safety measures can be viewed here.

South Africa’s global business services sector is a globally competitive one that in 2019 recorded 35% employment growth, generating 15,086 new jobs, 13,102 of which went to youth aged 18 – 35 and 1,353 of which were inclusively hired, and we thank everyone; operators, managers, agents and our government stakeholders, who has worked tirelessly to ensure that the sector remains as productive as possible during this time.

Click here to download a copy of the Press Release


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