Corporate stigmatisation looms over COVID-19 office closures

Alex Frimpong

As the country continues to battle against COVID-19 stigma of individuals, the Ghana Employers Association (GEA) fears the recent closure of corporate offices due to the virus could lead to increased stigma against these institutions, which would not auger well for the economy in general.

Chief Executive Officer of the Ghana Employers’ Association, Alex Frimpong, in an interview with the B&FT noted that the consequences of corporate stigmatisation would be quite huge.

“Stigma is a major issue; I think corporate reputation is going to suffer. People would think that the organization has not done well in protecting the employees so subsequently if somebody is going to transact business with the organization, they would be far more careful in all their dealings,” he added.

So far, the Ministry of Finance, Bulk Oil Storage and Transportation Company Limited (BOST), Ghana Grid Company Limited (GRIDCo) and the Ghana Cocoa Board (COCOBOD) are amongst the many institutions that have asked some of their staff to work from home as the company puts in measure to address the spread of COVID-19 amongst workers. It is believed that the fear of stigmatisation has pushed some businesses to be silent about measures they are taking to prevent the spread of the virus in their organizations.

A fish processing company, Pioneer Food Cannery was among the first companies to confirm a huge workplace infection. Over 500 workers in a factory at Tema were infected with COVID-19 after one worker contracted the disease. The early COVID-19 cases of 25 people in the Eastern Region were also people working on the Tema-Mpakadan railway -line project and camped at Kpong in the Lower Manya Krobo Municipality.

The GEA believes that organizations can do their best but the onus lies on the employees to be more careful outside the workplace and educated the public about the dangers of the virus.

“More education is needed at this point; the government has done well and continues to educate the public and update them on what is happening and also ways to protect one’s self. It is important that workers cooperate with their organizations in the fight of this pandemic and employees must serve as the education agents when they move out of the organization.

Employees must talk about the harmful effect of the virus and the consequences for employment, corporate reputation, communities and loss of income for many people. If the country’s citizens are not healthy, its economy would also not be healthy,” Mr. Frimpong said.

His views are not far from that of labour analyst Charles Agyeman, who wants management to be extremely strict and ensure the protocols are observed to the letter.

“It can be managed; people are just being difficult and if management is minded to observe the protocols, it has to be very strict and sanction staff that flouts the measures that have been put in place to ensure social distancing and other COVID-19 protocols.

When an employee becomes infected, it becomes a cost to the employer; you would have to go to the hospital and some companies pay for the bills. Even without that, there is loss of man hours that can not be replaced. To avoid this, strict compliance must be the way to go.”

Already, the Director-General of the Ghana Health Service, Dr. Patrick Aboagye has said that, majority of the new COVID-19 cases were recorded from workplaces. “Let’s create the necessary space at workplaces because they are becoming hotspots,” he said at the Information Ministry’s regular press briefings. With the recent development it is hoped that government would step up efforts and monitor organizations to ensure that the workplace would become safe.

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